Demon Capital Shanghai

The "Modern" Experience of Japanese Intellectuals

Liu Jianhui

Translated by Joshua A. Fogel


2011, 187 pages • photos • index

ISBN 978-0-9832991-0-3 Paper $35.00
ISBN 978-0-9832991-1-0 Cloth $65.00

"Shanghai's eventful treaty-port era has been the subject of so many popular and scholarly publications that it is hard to imagine coming across a new book that has a genuinely fresh approach to the place.  What a wonderful surprise, then, to read an advance copy of Demon Capital, which begins with Liu Jianhui reminiscing about the fascination the storied city held for him during his north China boyhood and then moves into a insightful exploration of the fantasies the metropolis inspired among Japanese intellectuals decades before that.  I have only one complaint about this publication, which is now the latest in a long line of graceful translations from Japanese into English by Joshua Fogel: that I didn't have it at hand to draw from and quote when I was writing my own book about Shanghai!"
—Jeffrey Wasserstrom, University of California, Irvine

Even before the Japanese first ventured abroad in the modern era, they came to understand that Shanghai was the closest and easiest way to learn about the wider world. They sent a series of missions abroad, most to Europe and several to Shanghai specifically. Virtually all of the European voyages called at Shanghai coming and going. Liu Jianhui shows what the Japanese saw in Shanghai and how they interacted with the Chinese.
    Liu then describes what he calls an informational network in East Asia whereby the latest scientific and political developments from the West were written up in Chinese-language journals published by Protestant missionaries (with its hub in Shanghai) and how those journals circulated among Japanese as well. Shanghai was also the place where Japanese elites first learned about the modern printing press. Indeed, as Liu puts it, they first experienced "modernity" in Shanghai. And, he looks at the role of Shanghai in the opening of Japan.
    He shows how Shanghai went from being a place onto which Japanese projected their hopes to a place deemed the center of modernity and ultimately to the height of decadence (not necessarily a bad thing for many of them). It came to be dubbed the "demon capital," and countless Japanese authors (from Meiji through WW II) set their fiction in it. Moviemakers, songwriters, and poets also saw fit to use Shanghai as a core theme.
    In sum, the modern development of Japan is effectively unthinkable without the intermediary role played by Shanghai. This is a whole new approach to this topic.

Liu Jianhui (b. 1961) was trained in Japanese and comparative literature at Liaoning and Kōbe Universities. He has taught at Beijing University and now is an associate professor at the Research Center for Japanese Literature (Nichibunken) in Kyoto.

Joshua A. Fogel is Canada Research Chair Professor, York University. He specializes in the history of relations between China and Japan and, more generally, the history of relations among the major states of East Asia, and has published many books on these subjects.



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