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Mu Shiying

China’s Lost Modernist

Andrew David Field

Publication Year: 2014

When the avant-garde writer Mu Shiying was assassinated in 1940, China lost one of its greatest modernist writers while Shanghai lost its most detailed chronicler of its demi-monde nightlife. As Andrew David Field argues, Mu Shiying advanced modern Chinese writing beyond the vernacular expression of May 4th giants Lu Xun and Lao She to even more starkly reveal the alienation of the cosmopolitan-capitalist city of Shanghai, trapped between the forces of civilization and barbarism. Each of these five short stories focuses on the author’s key obsessions: the pleasurable yet anxiety-ridden social and sexual relationships of the modern city and the decadent maelstrom of consumption and leisure in Shanghai epitomized by the dance hall and the nightclub. This study places his writings squarely within the framework of Shanghai’s social and cultural nightscapes.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

I would like to begin by thanking David Der-wei Wang for introducing me to the enigmatic figure of Mu Shiying. During a graduate seminar on modern Chinese literature, held at Columbia University in 1994, Professor Wang exposed us to the stories of...

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Mu Shiying: An Appreciation of His Life, Times and Works

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pp. xv-liv

During the 1930s, Shanghai was infamous for its outrageous blend of Chinese and Western modernities. Tall buildings such as the famed Park Hotel stuck out against a low-lying backdrop of lilong neighbourhoods composed of neat rows of identical...

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1. The Man Who Was Treated as a Plaything

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pp. 1-34

Written while Mu was attending the prestigious Aurora College, this story appears to be a semi-autobiographical account of the author’s first foray into the treacherous world of modern romantic love. The story follows the troublesome courtship of a female college classmate named Rongzi...

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2. Five in a Nightclub

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pp. 35-64

‘Five in a Nightclub’ takes place on one specific day and night: Saturday, 6 April 1932. This story, which complements Mu’s more famous ‘Shanghai Fox-trot’, is both a paean to the glamorous and energetic environment of the modern metropolis and a trenchant critique of modern urban life. Mu begins the story with five brief vignettes of seemingly...

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3. Craven ‘A’

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pp. 65-88

‘Craven “A”’ is the name of a popular cigarette brand from the 1930s. It is also the nickname that the narrator of this story gives to a dance hall girl, whose name is Yu Huixian. The story focuses on the brief romantic affair between the male narrator—a lawyer and an upstanding member of the...

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4. Night

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pp. 89-102

‘Night’, the briefest in this selection of Mu’s short stories, begins with the universal figure of a sailor arriving in Shanghai on the Huangpu River, majestically painted in brief strokes by the synaesthetic vision of Mu. The sights, sounds and smells of a hazy evening on the river swirl around us...

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5. Shanghai Fox-trot

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pp. 103-118

‘Shanghai Fox-trot’ is Mu’s best-known story and, in some ways, his most accomplished one. This story brings together many of the writer’s stylistic qualities to produce a panoramic moving picture of Shanghai during its heyday as the Paris of the Orient. The story moves along at a frantic clip...

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6. Black Peony

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pp. 119-132

‘Black Peony’ is another of Mu’s many studies of the figure of a dance hostess in Shanghai’s cabaret scene, but with a twist. In this story, the narrator, a man who is ‘pressed down by life’ in the modern city, meets a female dancer in a cabaret who shares his fatigue. In one memorable line, she claims, ‘I’m living in the lap of luxury, if you take away jazz, fox-trot, mixed drinks, the fashionable colours of autumn...


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pp. 133-134

E-ISBN-13: 9789888268344
Print-ISBN-13: 9789888208142

Page Count: 204
Illustrations: 16 b/w illus
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: 1