Shanghai Nights of Blues and Jazz

Shanghai has a reputation worldwide--or had one at least--as a Jazz Age metropolis.  Back in the 1920s and '30s, the city attracted great jazz musicians from all over China, Asia, Europe and the United States who played in dozens of ballrooms and nightclubs around the city.  Back in that age, jazz was an integral component of mainstream nightlife in the city, and it was meant for dancing.

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The Many Faces of Shanghai: Life in the Apocatropolis

Since spending the summer in Seoul, I've been back in Shanghai for nearly a week now.  While I was deeply impressed with the cleanliness and efficiency of Seoul, the politeness of the people, and the variety of life and nightlife in that city, it sure felt good to return to a city whose daily life and nightlife I know so well, and where everyone speaks my language:  Mandarin Chinese with a Shanghai twist.  Over the past week, I've been readjusting to life in China's great metropolis.  

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Shanghai's Dancing World favorably reviewed in the American Historical Review

I was very pleased to receive a message today from my publisher with a PDF file of a highly favorable and attentive review of Shanghai's Dancing World.  The review was published in the most recent issue of the American Historical Review.  Please click here to download the PDF file of the review.  The reviewer is Xiaoqun Xu of Christopher Newport University.  

有朋自遠方來 不亦樂乎: Receiving honored guests from Tokyo and Harvard, resurrecting the ghost of Zhang Ailing, and exploring rooftops on the Shanghai Bund

Confucius says, "Isn't it wonderful to receive old friends from afar?" The past few days have been filled with visits from old friends and colleagues from abroad.  First James Farrer, my colleague and dear friend, and my co-conspirator in the writing of our new book Shanghai Nightscapes, who teaches sociology at Sophia University, and his wife Gracia, who also teaches sociology at Waseda University, and their daughter Sage flew over here from Tokyo where they live and work.

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穆時英 上海的狐步舞, “Shanghai Fox-trot”

This story first appeared in the journal Xiandai (“Modern”) Vol. 4 no. 2 1934.  It has been reprinted many times, for example in Wu Huanzhang, ed. Haipai xiaoshuo jingpin (“The best of Shanghai-stylestories”)  (Shanghai:  Fudan Daxue chuban she, 1996) 525-535.  Translation from Chinese into English by Andrew Field—words in bold appear in English in the original text.

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Shanghai’s Nighttime Phantasmagoria: Haunting Nightlife Spaces Old and New

The other night (Thursday March 17) I took my Global Nightlife students and a few of their friends from the NYU Shanghai program on their second tour of Shanghai’s nightscapes.  This time we started at the famed Paramount Ballroom, the finest and most celebrated ballroom of the Golden Age of Shanghai nightlife, the 1930s.  The ballroom is the only one from the 1930s that today is still operating as a commercial dance establishment.

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Dancing at the Majestic Hotel to "Nightime in Old Shanghai" by Whitey Smith

Yesterday I noticed a blog that referenced my book Shanghai's Dancing World along with some other clips and images of 1920s-30s Shanghai (the blogger also had some nice things to say about an  interview podcast I participated in for the Shanghai Lit Fest in March 2010, which I greatly appreciated).  Among them was a British Movietone Newsreel from 1929 showing elegantly dressed Chinese couples in a garden cafe dancing to a Western jazz orchestra.  I immediately recognized it as the Majestic Hotel outdoor garden (I am not quite 100 percent sure of this, but sure enough to make that claim) and the orchestra would be Whitey Smith's, even though the conductor's head is cut off in the clip (you can see his body and up to his neck, but I couldn't identify him as Smith).  Whitey features prominently in my book, and most of the information I found about him comes from his own memoir, I Didn't Make a Million.  

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An A-Muse-ing Weekend in Shanghai or Sexing the Foreigner in the Nightlife Scene

Astute readers of my blog (if there are any) may recall an entry I posted a few years ago about a visit to the Muse Nightclub in Shanghai.  That was back in 2007.  Today there are three Muses operating in the city.  In our book Shanghai Nightscapes:  Nightlife, Globalization, and Sexuality in the Chinese Metropolis 1920-2010 (currently under review by a major university press) James Farrer and I write about the city's nightlife over the past century and how nightlife has come to play a central and defining role in the cosmopolitan identity of the city.  While we don't have time or space to cover all the multifarious twists and turns that nightlife has made over the past few years of explosive growth, nor all the clubs that have ebbed and flowed over the city's nighttime landscape, Muse is definitely central to our story of nightlife's revival since the 1990s.  In the book we discuss the Muse epic in some detail--I'll leave it at that for now, not wanting to spoil a good story.  

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Shanghai's Dancing World voted a "page turner" at HK Book Fest

Once in a while I scan the Net for news about my book, to see if anybody out there is actually reading it, and today I was happy to find it listed as a "page turner."  This isn't the first time I've heard such news.  In the past few months since the book came out, a few people have approached me to say that they'd read it cover to cover.  These people aren't academics.  Then again, academics never read anything cover to cover.  They only read the index and poach what they need to write their own pieces.  Mea Culpa.  Anyhow, it's good to know that all the work I put into the book over the years wasn't entirely in vain.  It's funny though, the woman who wrote this piece seems to think that I began my career as a bartender in the Far East and then decided to write a book about nightlife.  No mention of a PhD in Chinese history or anything like that.  Still, I'm not complaining, and she's not entirely off the mark.  I did do a lot of bartending early on in my life as a grad student, including a stint at a hostess bar in Sapporo.  Someday maybe I'll have time to write a memoir about that experience...

A review of _Shanghai's Dancing World_ in _China Quarterly_

The prestigious journal China Quarterly just published the first review of my new book _Shanghai's Dancing World:  Cabaret Culture and Urban Politics, 1919-1954_.  The reviewer, Kerry Brown, was kindly sympathetic to the arduous task involved in researching and writing this book, and he concentrates on describing the effort it took to assemble a picture of the ephemeral and fleeting cabaret industry from so many different sources.  I thank him from the bottom of my heart for his kind words, and above all, for getting the picture!


Nightlife in China: A Special Issue of _China An International Journal_

We are pleased to announce that our collective research project on nightlife in contemporary China, after some trials and tribulations, has finally been published. Below are the article titles. This issue of _China: An International Journal (CIJ)_ is now available online and may be accessed through university library websites. I uploaded my own essay onto this site and it may be downloaded by clicking on the link below.
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