Shanghai Nightscapes: A Nocturnal Biography of a Global City (University of Chicago Press, 2015). 


The pulsing beat of its nightlife has long drawn travelers to the streets of Shanghai, where the night scene is a crucial component of the city’s image as a global metropolis. Sociologist James Farrer and historian Andrew David Field examine the cosmopolitan nightlife culture that first arose in Shanghai in the 1920s and that has been experiencing a revival since the 1980s. Drawing on over twenty years of fieldwork and hundreds of interviews, the authors spotlight a largely hidden world of nighttime pleasures—the dancing, drinking, and socializing going on in dance clubs and bars that have flourished in Shanghai over the last century. 



For a radio interview with the authors and a tour of Shanghai nightscapes with Frank Langfitt of NPR, click here.


“In Shanghai Nightscapes, Farrer and Field use historical and ethnographic methods to shed new light on a question that has intrigued many scholars, novelists, journalists, and travel writers. Namely, to what extent have patterns from Shanghai’s celebrated and notorious jazz age past reemerged in the contemporary era, as the protean city has become once again a hub for flows into China of foreign ideas, fashions, and lifestyles. Drawing on fiction, archival documents, interviews, and personal observations, they provide a vivid account of nocturnal life in two eras. They also demonstrate how much can be learned about continuity and change in a cosmopolitan metropolis by zeroing in on how residents of different nationalities disport themselves in dance halls, discos, clubs, and bars.” (Jeffrey Wasserstrom, author of Global Shanghai and China in the 21st Century)

“Farrer and Field, two long-time observers of Shanghai’s cultural scene, have written a compelling new book on the history of the nightlife in Shanghai from the Jazz Age to the market reform. With intimate knowledge on Shanghai’s clubbing scenes, the book tells a story of both continuity and change in the sexual culture and nightlife of China’s most cosmopolitan city. Shanghai emerges in the book as a nodal ‘global city’ at the crossroad of the transnational nightclub cultures. It’s a must-read for students interested in urban China, cultural studies, sexuality, and globalization.” (Xuefei Ren, author of Building Globalization and Urban China)

“A unique exploration of Shanghai’s clubs, bars, and dance halls that explains how and why Shanghai has once again become an epicenter of cosmopolitan nightlife. Drawing on a rich array of magazines, films, and many nights interviewing Shanghai entrepreneurs, performers, and club hoppers , Farrer and Field expertly ground their brilliant introduction to contemporary night life in a superb social history of Shanghai in the Jazz Age.” (Deborah Davis, Yale University, coeditor, Wives, Husbands, and Lovers: Marriage and Sexuality in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Urban China)

“Coauthored by sociologist Farrer and independent historian Field, who have decades of experience observing and writing in and about the metropolis, this book traces the vicissitudes of Shanghai’s nightlife industry from the early 1920s to the 2010s and provides an in-depth tour of the city’s night scenes. The authors focus on the city’s dance halls, bars, and clubs—urban spaces that speak a global language and facilitate exchanges between Chinese and non-Chinese men and women in artistic tastes, sexual and gender norms, and a sense of cosmopolitanism beyond one’s local identity. Through the dialogue between interwar Shanghai and its contemporary night self, the authors convincingly demonstrate the resilience of cultural and spatial memories that overcome setbacks and renew the character of the city at play. The authors recognize that nightlife in Shanghai, as elsewhere, did not and does not serve as a haven immune to the power politics of day life. Nuanced discussions on the hierarchies and norms that nightlife challenges, perpetuates, and produces will interest students of urban China, sexuality, cultural studies, and globalization. Recommended.” (Choice)

"After reading Shanghai Nightscapes , written by an ideal combination of an historian and sociologist, I understand why Shanghai’s nightlife is now so accessible and familiar to newcomers such as my students. Bars and especially nightclubs, which cost much more to operate than bars, have evolved in ways similar to so many other industries in urban China. Mom-and-pop shops that sprang up in the 1980s have given way to multinational corporate chains and investors who know exactly how to market to specific segments of the population, including tourists from wealthy countries. Along the way, the authors reveal, vestiges of socialist equality have given way to status that is more closely linked to class and wealth. And the delight in elevating one’s self-perception through the consumption of expensive alcohol and a reserved table at the right club transcends nationality." (Karl Gerth, University of California, San Diego, in Frontiers of History in China, 2016, 11 (4): 628-630)


Mu Shiying: China's Lost Modernist: New Translations and an Appreciation (RAS China in Shanghai) (University of Hong Kong Press, 2014). 

When the avant-garde writer Mu Shiying was assassinated in 1940, China lost one of its greatest modernist writers while Shanghai lost its most detailed chronicler of its demi-monde nightlife. As Andrew David Field argues, Mu Shiying advanced modern Chinese writing beyond the vernacular expression of May 4 giants Lu Xun and Lao She to even more starkly reveal the alienation of the cosmopolitan-capitalist city of Shanghai, trapped between the forces of civilization and barbarism. Each of these five short stories focuses on the author's key obsessions: the pleasurable yet anxiety-ridden social and sexual relationships of the modern city and the decadent maelstrom of consumption and leisure in Shanghai epitomized by the dance hall and the nightclub. This study places his writings squarely within the framework of Shanghai's social and cultural nightscapes.



"Better than that of any other writer, Mu Shiying's fiction encapsulates the cosmopolitan life of 1930s Shanghai (with its foreign concessions, cinemas, cafés and cabarets) that underlay modernist Chinese writing. Andrew Field's book is exciting not only because it is a new appreciation of this writer but because, through its translations of Mu's stories, it reveals the extent to which Shanghai-based writing was inspired by the styles of international modernism." (Lynn Pan, author of Shanghai Style and Old Shanghai: Gangsters in Paradise)

"A much-needed volume that will help considerably in making Mu's writing more widely accessible." (Christopher Rosenmeier H-Asia)

"Andrew David Field's Mu Shiying: China's Lost Modernist is an excellent book for a first-time encounter with this often ignored yet extremely talented Chinese modernist. The book offers translations of six of Mu's most representative stories from his artistic peak (1932–1934), and provides a spectrum of his versions of metropolitan love. Field's concise translations are accompanied by a substantial introduction and appreciation of Mu's life and works, as well as of the inter-war social and intellectual climate. An historian of Shanghai culture, Field delivers an astute and discerning investigation into Mu which will further the discourse on Shanghai modernism established by scholars such as Leo Ou-fan Lee and Shu-mei Shih." (Huiwen Shi,

"Field’s volume is a most welcome contribution to the canon of Republican-era literature in translation. It will not only heighten our appreciation of Mu Shiying, but add new layers of complexity to this intriguing literary figure of Shanghai’s golden age..." (Frederic Green, MCLC)


Shanghai's Dancing World: Cabaret Culture and Urban Politics, 1919–1954 (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2010). 

Drawing upon a unique and untapped reservoir of sources, this study traces the origin, pinnacle, and ultimate demise of a commercial dance industry in Shanghai between the end of the First World War and the early years of the People's Republic of China. Delving deep into the world of cabarets, nightclubs, and elite ballrooms that arose in the 1920s, the book assesses how and why Chinese society incorporated and transformed this westernized world of leisure and entertainment. Focusing on the jazz-age nightlife of the city in its "golden age," the work examines issues of colonialism and modernity, jazz and African-American culture, urban space, sociability and sexuality, and latter-day Chinese national identity formation in a tumultuous era of war and revolution.




"This is a refreshingly well-written and richly detailed account of the world of cabarets, nightclubs and elite ballrooms in Shanghai during its jazz-inspired "golden age" from 1919 to 1954, as well as a wider social history of this important city during an extraordinary period of political upheaval in China. It intertwines its stories about nightlife adeptly with critical episodes in modern Chinese history, and is therefore also a story about China itself, as well as about its most hedonist city. Others have described Shanghai's famous nightlife too, but this book is based on previously untapped government documents, newspapers, magazines, novels, photo archives and other materials, and stands out as the most comprehensive and most detailed source on the subject. The book is a must for any library about modern China. I recommend it too for non-China readers who are interested in urban social history, as well as for readers in general who simply want something interesting, fun and intelligent to read. The book is that good; Andrew David Field, an independent scholar-historian, is to be congratulated and deserves to be recognized for his accomplishment." (Roman Cybriwsky, Temple University, Philadelphia, USA, Pacific Affairs, Volume 84, Number 3, September 2011, pp. 562-564(3))

"Andrew David Field has done a fine job in assembling a large body of Chinese and Western sources (including novels, news media reports, magazine articles, memoirs, police records, interviews) and deploying such sources effectively within an engag- ing analytical framework...In sum, this book adds fine-grained social, cultural, and material texture to the history of modern Shanghai and helps broaden our inquiry into what constituted modernity and what it meant in early twentieth-century China." (Xiaoqun Xu, Christopher Newport University, in American Historical Review, Feb. 2011, p. 156)

"Overall, this book is an impressive and stimulating historical work that successfully recreates for the reader a sense of what life was like in the cabarets and dance halls of Shanghai in the early to mid-20th century. The book effectively links the intimate details of the era to broader social and political events that shook China at the time. Moreover, it provides an important historical backdrop to the ongoing mystique of Shanghai as China’s most modern and cosmopolitan city today. There is enough in this book to titillate readers with a historical interest in a wide range of fields, including Chinese state–society relations, gender, class, architecture, city identities, nightlife, dance, music, and the media." (Lauren Gorfinkel, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia, China Information, March 20, 2012)