Chapter

‘Oh, my God … can this be England?’ (Sax Rohmer, <i>The Mystery of Dr Fu-Manchu</i>, 1913)

Anne Witchard

in Lao She in London

Published by Hong Kong University Press

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9789888139606
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9789882208643 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5790/hongkong/9789888139606.003.0005
‘Oh, my God … can this be England?’ (Sax Rohmer, The Mystery of Dr Fu-Manchu, 1913)

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The period of China's utmost vulnerability, from the Boxer uprising of 1900 until the rise of the Nationalist Party in the mid-1920s, coincided with the mass-marketing of Chinese stereotypes and the ‘discovery’ of London's Chinatown. The ways in which London's Chinese community came to represent national threat found its consummate expression in Sax Rohmer's tales of Dr Fu Manchu. After the war, things Chinese, Futurists, and louche West End nightclubs alike, were the target of hack writers and the popular press. Typical is a Daily Express article, headlined: ‘Nights in the Dancing Dens-When the Chinaman Takes The Floor’, describing a nightclub ‘decorated in the incoherent Futurist lines usual in such places’. London's fashionable cognoscenti enjoyed a renewed vogue for chinoiserie style. Paul Poiret's career took off when celebrity actresses and dancers adopted his controversial design for a loose-fitting Chinese-style coat while a studio shot in Chinese pyjamas was ubiquitous for every film starlet. Er Ma responds to the British fear and fascination for Chineseness, fanned by reports of Boxer ‘atrocities’ at the outposts of Britain's Empire, and the thrilling notion of a Yellow Peril at its very heart.

Keywords: Sax Rohmer; Futurism; Brilliant Chang; Billie Carleton; The Cave of the Golden Calf; Fu Manchu; T. P. O'Connor; Piccadilly (1929); Arnold Bennett; Anna May Wong

Chapter.  7435 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Society and Culture

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