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Beyond the Neon Lights: Everyday Shanghai in the Early Twentieth Century Paperback – September 30, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0520243781 ISBN-10: 0520243781 Edition: New Ed

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 473 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; New Ed edition (September 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520243781
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520243781
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #853,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"China's long record of written history and literature is often noted and rightly treasured, but in fact tells us very little about the daily lives of most people at the time. Hanchao Lu's book fills part of this large gap. From Lu's clear and lively descriptions of Shanghai in the early twentieth century, we learn about the patterns of alleyways, design of row houses, rules for subletting, shapes of door-knockers, springs in rickshaw cushions, calls of hawkers, sidewalk haircuts, factory work, how nightsoil pots were emptied and cleaned, and the responsibility of neighbors to keep their noses in one another's affairs. We understand, in short, the base from which everything else about Shanghai at the time should be understood. A delightful and edifying book." - Perry Link, author of Evening Chats in Beijing"

From the Inside Flap

"From Hanchao Lu's clear and lively descriptions of Shanghai in the early twentieth century, we learn about the patterns of alleyways, design of row houses, rules for subletting, shapes of door-knockers, springs in rickshaw cushions, calls of hawkers, sidewalk haircuts, factory work, how nightsoil pots were emptied and cleaned, and the responsibility of neighbors to keep their noses in one another's affairs. We understand, in short, the base from which everything else about Shanghai at the time should be understood. A delightful and edifying book."—Perry Link, author of Evening Chats in Beijing

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Elisabeth W. Movius on November 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
If you are looking to understand the enigma that is Shanghai, then look no further than Mr. Lu's incredibly insightful "Beyond the Neon Lights". It could be subtitled: "Beyond the hype, the myths, the stereotypes and the cliches," but Mr. Lu is an academic, and uses sound research to sell his books rather than sensationalism. Bravo for him, I say.
Shanghai history books - the sensationalist, badly researched ones, at least - tend to present an Old Shanghai of Gangsters, Bankers, Hookers, and Foreigners...oh my! Even the more thorough ones present mostly the wild advantures of those wacky expatriates, ignoring or neglecting the role and the life of the "laobaixing", the ordinary people of Shanghai.
"Beyond the Neon Lights" fills this very large gap amazingly well. It is dedicated to life in the lanes that were and are the arteries of the city, the source of its lifeblood, the petty urbanites. Lu explores the architecture of the Shikumen, the typical pre-1920s Shanghai lane dwelling, and explains how its system of sub-sub- and sub-letting fomented the complicated communities that emerged there. He also conveys how the social structures and cultural habits changed with the introduction of more modern lanes (with indoor plumbing, fewer households, etc) and the Art Deco highrises.
Every aspect of life in Shanghai was and often still is structured around the lane neighborhood. Although the new-style lanes are less contained, more open, and thus less of a microcosm, both vintages boast their own economy of scale. There is the old-style convenience store, the "tobacco and paper shop", at the entrance, plus a tailor, produce dealer, shoe-repairman, locksmith, pharacist...and more in the larger lanes.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Peter Huston on February 11, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is one of those rare books that if you push ahead and force yourself to slog through the entire thing you will feel like an expert on the subject it covers.
This is an academic study of what everyday life was like for ordinary, Chinese citizens in Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s with some coverage of things before and after that period. It is heavily footnoted and uses both and English language sources, both secondary and primary. The depth and detail of what it covers is astonishing. i.e. it contains forty pages, a full chapter, on the rickshaw industry in Shanghai from the time it began to the time it disappeared. Wages, licensing, enforcement of licensing, weekly work hours of typical rickshaw drivers, ages, places of origin, even the colors of rickshaws, its all here in great detail and sources of facts, figures and other information are carefully noted. And not only that, I found the details fascinating. (Then again I hold a master's degree in Chinese history and suspect many people would not find this level of detail to be their cup of tea.)
If you are wondering on how a city this size disposed of human waste there are nine pages on that. And again, it's all carefully footnoted and fascinating.
Restaurants for the working classes, and their menus, rates (i.e. a meal in a low class restaurant generally cost 13% of a Shanghai laborers daily wage) and more, it's here. Rent and living quarters as well as the use of space and relations among neighbors, it's here.
Again, a densely written academic study that is not for everyone, but for someone who really wants to know this subject in depth, I imagine this book will be the text to go to for a long time. In short, an amazing piece of work.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Saldinger on July 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is a welcome escape from the usual exotic kaleidoscope of old Shanghai descriptions of the city as the Paris of Asia, with its underworld, foreign expatriates, princely buildings and so on. On the contrary it documents Shanghai at street level and portrays the every day life of the man in the street. Obviously the work of an academic, it details immigration patterns, the intricacies of byzantine rental agreements, rickshaw fare structures, shikumen house floor plans in a scientific way. A long but fascinating reading, it will only appeal to people who already know the city well and want to go one step further in their understanding of Shanghai - and are not put off by the astronomic quantity of Chinese words contained in its pages.
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Beyond the Neon Lights: Everyday Shanghai in the Early Twentieth Century
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