Shanghai as a City of Juxtapositions

According to a variety of texts—from guidebooks and travel accounts to, at least by inference, novels and later films—what made a trip to Shanghai in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries special was the way one encountered there a jumble of people from, and physical elements linked to, various parts of the world. It was, as boosters and travelers both liked to stress, a place of great cultural diversity, where the East and West were juxtaposed in special ways. This sense of the city was conveyed by the images featured on postcards, guidebook covers, and movie posters. It was also communicated by the delicate and detailed line drawings of the local scenes that appeared in the pages of the Dianshizhai, a late nineteenth-century illustrated magazine that, as Rebecca Nedostup and I suggest in a forthcoming part of MIT’s Visualizing Cultures project, was for some Chinese what the Illustrated London News was for many contemporaneous Britons and National Geographic would later be for many Americans.1

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