Chapter

The Material Turn

Wen-hsin Yeh

in Shanghai Splendor

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2007 | ISBN: 9780520249714
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520933422 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520249714.003.0002
The Material Turn

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In hindsight, it seems obvious that a salient feature of China's twentieth-century concerns was the rise of economism and the challenge it presented to morality. Under Chinese Communism, economic issues not only defined the Party line and dominated the state agenda, but also functioned as the most important set of constitutive factors in the determination of individual social identity. This chapter examines the maritime merchants who appeared along the China coast in the decades after the Opium War (1839–42). These merchants, many of them comprador agents for foreign firms in Shanghai, evolved from the culturally compromised to the officially honored by the late nineteenth century. Late imperial China had developed one of the world's most sophisticated mercantile economies, in which commercial wealth and official honor coexisted.

Keywords: capitalism; maritime merchants; economism; Opium war; commercial wealth; imperial China

Chapter.  8297 words. 

Subjects: Asian History

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