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Shanghai Modern

Shanghai Modern

The Flowering of a New Urban Culture in China, 1930–1945

Leo Ou-fan Lee

ISBN 9780674805514

Publication date: 09/01/1999

In the midst of China’s wild rush to modernize, a surprising note of reality arises: Shanghai, it seems, was once modern indeed, a pulsing center of commerce and art in the heart of the twentieth century. This book immerses us in the golden age of Shanghai urban culture, a modernity at once intrinsically Chinese and profoundly anomalous, blending new and indigenous ideas with those flooding into this “treaty port” from the Western world.

A preeminent specialist in Chinese studies, Leo Ou-fan Lee gives us a rare wide-angle view of Shanghai culture in the making. He shows us the architecture and urban spaces in which the new commercial culture flourished, then guides us through the publishing and filmmaking industries that nurtured a whole generation of artists and established a bold new style in urban life known as modeng. In the work of six writers of the time, particularly Shi Zhecun, Mu Shiying, and Eileen Chang, Lee discloses the reflection of Shanghai’s urban landscape—foreign and familiar, oppressive and seductive, traditional and innovative. This work acquires a broader historical and cosmopolitan context with a look at the cultural links between Shanghai and Hong Kong, a virtual genealogy of Chinese modernity from the 1930s to the present day.


  • Lee is at his strongest in discussing the inter-textuality of the various works he discusses in this section of the book, showing their relationship to both the European and Chinese literary traditions… Lee’s focus on republican-era Shanghai is a reminder of the renewed capacities of China’s largest city as a producer of the discourse of modernity in the post-Mao era.

    —Antonia Finnane, Left History


  • Leo Ou-fan Lee is Professor Emeritus of Chinese Literature at Harvard University and Professor of Humanities at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Book Details

  • 464 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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