The images in this unit unless otherwise noted are illustrations from the 1898 edition of the Dianshizhai huabao, generously provided by the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University. We are grateful to Ellen Hammond and the Yale Visual Resources Collection for digitization of the text.



Chapter 1: Picture Windows

This and much of the information that follows is drawn from Rudolf G. Wagner, “Joining The Global Imaginaire: the Shanghai Illustrated Newspaper Dianshizhai huabao” in Joining the Global Public: Word, Image, and City in Early Chinese Newspapers, 1870–1910, ed. by Wagner (Albany: SUNY Press, 2007), pp. 105-174; and Ye Xiaoqing, The Dianshizhai Pictorial: Shanghai Urban Life, 1884–1898 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003).

Cynthia Brokaw, “Commercial Woodblock Printing in the Qing (16441911) and the Transition to Modern Print Technology” in From Woodblocks to the Internet: Chinese Publishing and Print Culture in Transition, Circa 1800 to 2008, ed. by Brokaw and Christopher A. Reed (Leiden: Brill, 2010), pp. 39-58.

Translation adapted from Wagner, p. 134.

The edition we reproduce here is not the original run, but a later reprint that excises the supplementary material described here, as well as the dates (see Wagner, p. 131.) The Introduction to Part II of this unit gives the background of our version of the Dianshizhai.

Chapter 2: Shanghai Myths

Michael Sorkin, “See You in Disneyland” in idem., ed., Variations on a Theme Park: The New American City and the End of Public Space (New York: Hill and Wang, 1992), pp. 205-232.

Mike Davis, City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (New York: Vintage, 1990). For more on Shanghai-L.A. parallels, see my "Comparing 'Incomparable' Cities: Postmodern Los Angeles and Old Shanghai," Contention: Debates in Culture, Society and Science, Spring 1996, pp. 69-90.

See Wasserstrom, Global Shanghai, 1850-2010 (Routledge, 2009), pp. 4-6 and passim, for a fuller explanation of this version of the city’s past and relevant citations. For a recent reiteration of the “fishing village” idea, see the following statement in “A Short History of Shanghai” (2006, attributed to Fodor’s Travel) that appears in the New York Times: “Until 1842 Shanghai's location made it merely a small fishing village.”

For the history of the Bund, as evidenced through images, see “The Shanghai Bund: A History through Visual Sources”; on Fonteyn quote, see Barbara Baker, ed., Shanghai: Electric and Lurid City: An Anthology (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1998).

For examples, see the illustrations scattered through Ye Xiaoqing, The Dianshizhai Pictorial: Shanghai Urban Life 1884-1898 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies, 2003), such as the images of Chinese convict laborers laying down a macadamized road (p. 43), Chinese using Western-style horse-drawn coaches (p. 45), Chinese standing before the Big Ben-style Customs House clock installed in 1893 (p. 74), and a Western customer being waited on by Chinese shop workers in a store selling imported goods (p. 75).

A postcard showing a Sikh policeman in the Public Garden. There were also police from Indochina in the French Concession police force, two of whom are portrayed in this photograph, but they are not as iconical as the Sikh, who were frequently featured in International Settlement postcards.

Ye, p. 72, shows Sikh and Chinese police, rather than Sikh and Western ones who maintain order; in that Dianshizhai image, the China-meets-the-West dimensions of the visual comes from the main object shown: a roller coaster.

For more on the concept of “reglobalization,” see my Global Shanghai.

Chapter 3: Machines in the City

LI Gui, A Journey to the East: Li Gui's A New Account of a Trip Around the Globe, translated by Charles A. Desnoyers (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004)

Chapter 4: Drama and the City

Rania Huntington, “The Weird in the Newspaper” in Writing and Materiality in China: Essays in Honor of Patrick Hanan, ed. by Judith T.Zeitlin and Lydia He Liu with Ellen Widmer (Harvard University Asia Center for Harvard-Yenching Institute, 2003), p. 369.

See also Catherine Yeh, Shanghai Love: Courtesans, Intellectuals, and Entertainment Culture, 1850–1910 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2006), p. 76.

Rania Huntington, “The Weird in the Newspaper,” pp. 348-9, pp. 355-60, p. 372.

The term “intercalary fish” (runyu 閏魚) comes from Kongtongzi (空同子), a work by the Ming poet Li Mengyang (1472-1529), in which he describes hearing of an odd kind of fish that can only be seen in the East China Sea during an intercalary year (a year in which an extra month is inserted in the calendar to compensate for the gradual deviation of calendrical time from astronomical time).

The headline puns on a well-known phrase, pengtuan, meaning “a great beginning” but literally deriving from the words “the Peng takes off.”

Such issues are explored in, for example, Larissa (Ari) Heinrich, The Afterlife of Images: Translating the Pathological Body between China and the West (Duke University Press, 2008); Dorothy Ko, Cinderella's Sisters: A Revisionist History of Footbinding (Berkely, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 2005); Timothy Brook, Jérôme Bourgon, and Gregory Blue, Death by a Thousand Cuts Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008); and Michael Berry, A History of Pain: Trauma in Modern Chinese Literature and Film (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011).

For more on this forensic method and its significance, see Daniel Asen, Dead Bodies and Forensic Science: Cultures of Expertise in China, 1800–1949 (PhD dissertation, Columbia University, 2012) pp. 89-104.

The article is translated and quoted at length in Xiaoqing Ye, p. 135.


Huntington, p. 373. See also Ye, p. 171.

The headline plays on a number of similar expressions such as “not the least bit (a hair’s breadth) of difference” (haofa wucha 毫髮無差). As early as 1875 the British periodical All the Year Round had taken note of the presence of hair of Chinese origin (or “Asiatic hair,” in the term of trade that came to be) for sale in great amounts in London, though it earned less than European blonde locks by a factor of at least ten to one—a story the New York Times thought colorful enough to reprint (“The London Human Hair Market,” New York Times, Sept. 12, 1875, p. 3). Much thanks to Jason Petrulis for providing the American and British sources and background on the human hair trade.

See, for example, Susan Mann, Precious Records: Women in China's Long Eighteenth Century (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997); William Rowe, Saving the World: Chen Hongmou and Elite Consciousness in Eighteenth-Century China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002); Erik Zürcher, “Middle-Class Ambivalence: Religious Attitudes in the Dianshizhai huabao,” Études chinoises 13:1-2 (spring 1994), pp. 109-143. Vincent Goossaert, “Anatomie d’un discours anticlérical: le Shenbao, 1872–1878,” Extrême-Orient Extrême-Occident, 24, 2002, pp. 113-131. Vincent Goossaert and David Palmer, The Religious Question in Modern China (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), pp. 34-36, has a particularly good analysis of the differences between the emerging anti-religious discourses of the very late Qing (postdating the Dianshizhai’s run) and the “Confucian fundamentalist” and anti-clerical critiques of someone like Rowe’s subject, Chen Hongmou.

Wagner provides overall counts for illustrators in “Joining the Global Imaginaire,” p. 142.

The joke references a tale of the Western Jin (265-313 CE), in which Lu Zhu, a concubine of the general Shi Jilun (Shi Chong), committed suicide by leaping from a high floor rather than be seized by his rival.

Zürcher; Goossaert; Goossaert and Palmer. See also Rebecca Nedostup, “The Temple Bell that Wouldn’t Ring,” in “Envisioning Chinese Society in the Late Nineteenth Century: Words and Images from the Dianshizhai Pictorial,” The China Gateway (Boston College), from which this text is partly adapted.

Kathryn Edgerton-Tarpley, Tears from Iron: Cultural Responses to Famine in Nineteenth-Century China (Berkely, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 2008), and “Pictures to Draw Tears from Iron,” published in Visualizing Cultures; Tobie Meyer-Fong, What Remains: Coming to Terms with Civil War in 19th Century China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013); Goossaert and Palmer chapters 1 and 4.

Stephen F. Teiser, The Ghost Festival in Medieval China (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996); Robert P. Weller, Unities and Diversities in Chinese Religion (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1987); Qitao Guo, Ritual Opera and Mercantile Lineage: The Confucian Transformation of Popular Culture in Late Imperial Huizhou (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005)

One wonders if this is an early version of the 20th-century funeral stripper phenomenon in Taiwan, documented by Marc L. Moscowitz in “Dancing for the Dead.”

Translation from Ye, pp. 199-200.


“Shanghai’s Lens on the New(s)” was developed by
Visualizing Cultures at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
and presented on MIT OpenCourseWare.

MIT Visualizing Cultures:

John W. Dower
Project Director
Emeritus Professor of History

Shigeru Miyagawa
Project Director
Professor of Linguistics
Kochi Prefecture-John Manjiro Professor of Japanese Language and Culture

Ellen Sebring
Creative Director

Scott Shunk
Program Director

Andrew Burstein
Media Designer

In collaboration with:

Rebecca Nedostup
Associate Professor of History
Brown University

Author, essay

Jeffrey Wasserstrom
Chancellor's Professor of History
University of California Irvine

Author, essay

Peter C. Perdue
Department of History
Yale University


MIT Visualizing Cultures received generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation, the Getty Foundation, Japan Foundation's Council for Global Partnership, National Endowment for the Humanities, and MIT's d'Arbeloff Fund for Innovation in Undergraduate Education and MIT Microsoft-funded iCampus project.



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