Shanghai and Modernity

I am currently working on a paper about Shanghai and modernity – obviously a lot of work has been done on that from the perspective of Chinese modernity but I am trying to understand the ways in which to Westerners it was perceived (in the interwar period) as a ‘modern’ city (or not). Noel Coward wrote Private Lives while staying at the Cathay Hotel, for instance, and I am intrigued by the sudden rush of interest in Shanghai of that period in Western culture (cf.The White Countess, Lust Caution, etc). Anyone here have any opinions/suggestions?

On a side note, I just defended my PhD thesis on Thursday so am finally done!! Apologies for my absence from the site while I was finishing.


  1. Wakeman is good on Shanghai historically.

    Vanya Oakes’ White Man’s Folly isn’t very good, but it is very much an interesting read for the American romanticist view of republican China.

    Vincent Sheean’s Personal History is very good, particularly for his take on Chinese communists and all sorts of nice things to say about Borodin.

  2. Congratulations Dr. Gulliver!

    Not only did you pass, a mere three days later you are back at work. You seem to have the right aptitude for this sort of work

  3. As for your serious question have you looked at Taylor Atkins’ Blue Nippon? He has some stuff on how Shanghai was seen as a place for Japanese to go learn to play jazz and in general become modern

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