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Shanghai’s Dancing World

Cabaret Culture and Urban Politics, 1919–1954

By Andrew David Field

Publication Year: 2010

Drawing upon a unique and untapped reservoir of newspapers, magazines, novels, government documents, photographs and illustrations, this book traces the origin, pinnacle, and ultimate demise of a commercial dance industry in Shanghai between the end of the First World War and the early years of the People's Republic of China. Delving deep into the world of cabarets, nightclubs, and elite ballrooms that arose in the city in the 1920s and peaked in the 1930s, the book assesses how and why Chinese society incorporated and transformed this westernized world of leisure and entertainment to suit its own tastes and interests. Focusing on the jazz-age nightlife of the city in its "golden age," the book examines issues of colonialism and modernity, urban space, sociability and sexuality, and modern Chinese national identity formation in a tumultuous era of war and revolution.

Published by: Chinese University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 1-6


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Preface and Acknowledgements

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pp. xi-xvi

This book tells a story that is in some ways universal to the modern urban experience, and in some ways very particular and unique to Shanghai. It focuses on a very glamorous yet poorly understood aspect of the city’s history. Many people are aware that during the “Jazz Age” (1918–1929), ...


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pp. xvii-xviii

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pp. 1-18

“To think of Shanghai is to think of its night-life. The two are synonymous.” Thus writes Tasman Ile, in a dime-store novel self-published in Shanghai in 1929, appropriately entitled Shanghai Nights.1 In the 1920s, the nightlife culture of the Euro-American Jazz Age hit Shanghai like a typhoon. ...

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1. From Grand Balls to Jazz Cabarets: Westerners and Jazz-Age Culture in Shanghai, 1919–1926

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pp. 19-52

The Western world often calls the years following the end of World War I in 1918 and the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 the Jazz Age. For America, an era of hedonism and wild abandon as the country celebrated the end of the Great War and the emerging global dominance of its power, industry, and culture characterized it.1 ...

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2. Turning Lazy Old Opium Smokers into Spry Jazz Maniacs: The Rise of Chinese Dance Madness and the First Chinese Cabarets, 1927–1931

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pp. 53-82

The year 1927 signified a revolutionary watershed period for China and for the city of Shanghai, marking the end of one era and the beginning of another.1 In 1926, the National Revolutionary Army headquartered in Canton under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek marched to reclaim the country and wrest it from warlords and foreign imperialists. ...

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3. Towers and Palaces: Ballroom Architecture and Interior Design, 1929–1936

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pp. 83-118

By 1935, Shanghai boasted many high-class cabarets in the city’s two foreign settlements, as well as dozens of lower-class dancing and drinking establishments outside of settlement boundaries, particularly in the Hongkou (Hongkew) district, but also in the western district eventually known as the “badlands.” ...

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4. Important Attractions: Cabaret Hostesses and the Popularization of Cabaret Culture in Chinese Society, 1932–1937

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pp. 119-152

During the 1930s, the Shanghai cabaret hostess came into her own as an urban professional, and media icon, as well as a symbol of Chinese modernity.1 As seen in the previous chapter, for a ballroom to distinguish itself in Shanghai, it had to provide exceptional service, outstanding design-work, lavish décor, and other amenities that set it apart from the ordinary cabarets. ...

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5. Improper Amusement: Chinese Patrons, Chinese Nationalist Politics, and Cabaret Culture, 1932–1937

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pp. 153-176

During the 1930s, the sight of Chinese people dancing in a nightclub or dance hall in Shanghai emerged as an iconic image of changing China. Discussions of ballroom culture became the vogue in most travel articles written about the city for an international audience. ...

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6. Ballrooms and Bombs: Cabarets, Underground Intrigue, and Occupation Politics, 1937–1941

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pp. 177-206

On the night of September 18, 1937, at the Shanghai cabaret on the corner of Guangdong and Fujian Roads in the International Settlement, a large crowd was reveling on the dance floor when all of a sudden a missile burst through the ceiling and penetrated the hall. The merrymakers immediately panicked and rushed for the exits. ...

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7. Regulations and Interventions: Cabarets under Japanese and Nationalist Occupation, 1942–1947

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pp. 207-232

Jose Contreras, one of many Filipino musicians who traveled to Shanghai during the 1930s to find work in the burgeoning musical entertainment industry there, had achieved fame as a bandleader by the occupation era. He emerged as a forceful leader and representative of the city’s music industry. ...

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8. Resist to the End! The Nationalist Government’s Ban on Cabarets and the Dancers’ Uprising of 1948

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pp. 233-262

Following the surrender of Japan to the Allied Powers in August 1945, the people of China continually struggled during the four year period lasting until 1949.1 While Chinese could celebrate the end of an often brutal Japanese occupation, and the last of the treaty ports returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1943, the grim business of civil war quickly reemerged. ...

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9. Building a New Society: The Demise of Cabarets under the CCP, 1949–1954

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pp. 263-284

The Dancers’ Uprising of January 31, 1948 demonstrated the collective power of cabaret workers and highlighted the difficulties surrounding the Nationalist government’s crusade to ban cabarets in Shanghai. Nevertheless, they did not give up the goal and continued to act on the principle of ridding the city of its notorious vice industries, including nightclubs. ...

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pp. 285-292

To write or read a history of nightlife in a metropolis and a time caught up in a violent and tumultuous whirlwind of war, revolution, and nation-building seems in some respects as frivolous today as cabaret-going did to those Chinese nationalists of the age who were engaged in a life-or-death struggle over the fate of their country. ...

Appendix 1-4

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pp. 293-308


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pp. 309-334


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pp. 335-342


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pp. 343-364

E-ISBN-13: 9789629969233
Print-ISBN-13: 9789629963736

Page Count: 384
Illustrations: Y
Publication Year: 2010