Shanghai's Lens on the New(s) Image Gallery

Illustrations from the 1898 edition of the Dianshizhai huabao

Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University

MIT Visualizing CulturesThe images in this gallery cover the entire range of Shanghai’s global economic and cultural network. They include many stories of Shanghai urban life, in which foreigners and Chinese mixed together in courts, criminal activity, local commerce, and sexual affairs. They also provide readers with stories from many other cities in China, which were less exposed to Western contact, but which provided exotic tales and moral lessons for the urban readers. The images include many “tales of the strange (qi),” featuring monsters, marvels, and bizarre human beings both in China and abroad. The artists were skilled at sketching Chinese and foreign landscapes in a few strokes, and they could define the characters of actors in the pictures deftly. There are crowded urban scenes and desolate landscapes, elegant brothels and poor country hovels. The sheer variety and imagination of the imagery is astounding. Where a Western photographer like John Thomson* focused his gaze on static human types and monuments of ancient civilization, these images give us the vibrant activity of a huge society in the midst of tumultuous change.

Peter C. Perdue


*See Visualizing Cultures units “John Thomson's China l, ll, & lll” by Allen Hockley)

      Warning: On viewing images of a potentially disturbing nature.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology © 2015 Visualizing Cultures