Future of Shanghai – Collective Imagination during the late Qing Dynasty and early Republican Period

Zhang Wei Researcher at the Shanghai Library

May 12, 7:00pm-9:00pm

RSVP: Here


As the name suggests, the topic of this lecture is about the imaginations of people that lived in Shanghai one hundred years ago. In accordance with the timeline, the lecture will be divided into four sections:

1. In the 1910s, Shie Lu, the novelist, published a science fiction work that imagines Shanghai as thehost of the World Expo—specifically in the Pudong area in one hundred years time. In preparation of the expo, there were many changes happening in Shanghai, such as building up a bridge to cross the river above Pujiang, and constructing underground lines everywhere. At that time, it was quite hard for people to think about these changes, but there was a reason for them. Since London held the 1st World Expo in 1851, more big cities were willing to hold the expo each year, including Pairs, New York, Chicago, and Milan. As the biggest city in China, Shanghai attended not only the London World Expo, but also almost all the following The media industry in Shanghai gave tremendous coverage of these events. As a result, Lu’s fantasy was born. Coincidentally, after 100 years, Shanghai successfully held the World Expo in 2010. It is interesting to see these once fictional dreams come true a century later.

2. After the successof the northern expedition in 1927, Shanghai became a direct-controlled municipality. As a result its status was hugely improve The Shanghai government began to put forward the idea of self-development, excluding the concession area, to the central regime. They proposed the “Great Shanghai Plan,” which showed that people from higher government to the local citizens, had a beautiful impression about the future of this cosmopolitan city. The government even presented the “Great Shanghai Plan” at the world expo—to illustrate their belief in the proposal. However, due to the launch of the War of Resistance, the Great Shanghai Plan was only partially achievable. But those achievements left clear signs of Shanghai’s “Golden Decades” from 1927-1937.

3. Bythe 1930s, Shanghai had already become the biggest city in the Far East. Then, people had different ideas about the future and urban development, which can be seen from various articles of the time. The public’s interest also caught two of the biggest publishing houses’ attention: the Commercial Press and Zhonghua Book Company. At nearly the same time, they independently called for papers and articles about the future as core works of their journals – The Eastern Miscellany and New China. The topics of these two journals were similar: the former one expressed “The Dreams of China,” while the later one was about “The Future of Shanghai.” Since the public paid great attention to the discussion of metropolitan development, these competitions attracted lots of applicants including well-known people, as well as ordinary citizens. Therefore, by studying these two platforms, we can have a better understanding about the social psychology and divergence that existed during that period.

4. In 1938, Xinhua Film Company produced a science fiction movie called “Visiting Shanghai After Sixty Years,” which was directed by Xiaozhong Yang with leading starsLangen Han and Jiqun Liu. The film presented novel ideas, such as cryonics, climate-control, robot, and video conversation; since these concepts were beyond people’s imaginations at that time, for a long time the film was seen as ridiculous. However, “Visiting Shanghai After Sixty Years” is a rare work within the area of Chinese science fiction, which had been seen as a weak genre within the industry.

Zhang Wei, born in Zhejiang Province, Zhenhai Area. He is both a researcher at the Shanghai Library and a adjunct professor in the School of Media and Design (SMD), Shanghai Jiao Tong University. Zhang has studied and organized the data of modern China for more than 30 years, and published over 10 academic works, such as Misty Paper, City. Film. Media – Notes of films in the Republican Period, Look into the distance of TUJIA Bay – Trace back to the losing culture, Western culture in Chinese-Art and culture in Shanghai in the late Qing Dynasty and the early Republican period, City’s culture in modern China, and Rolling picture of cities in late Qing Dynasty – From the rise to the decline of New Year Painting in Shanghai Xiaojiaochang. Zhang has also been an editor of papers including, Historical Records: China and World Expo (1851-1940), Photo recordings of drama in modern China, The historical photos of collections in Shanghai Library (1 & 2), The bibliography of magazines of Chinese modern film, The collection of Chinese New Year Painting in woody style-the volume of Shanghai Xiaojiaochang, The collection of film magazines in the Republican period (Vol. 167), and Great wall in painting-Chinese Resistance War in posters (Three volumes). Besides books and papers, Zhang also hosts several television shows, like Memories of Films, Old films and old Shanghai, and City culture in modern Shanghai. Now, Zhang is not only a member in the Society of Chinese Historical Literature, but also the secretary-general of the Society of History and Culture of Sujiahui, as well as the second director in the Special Literature Department of Shanghai Society for Library Science.






Envision Pavilion