Cover image for Shanghai
Sergeant, Harriet.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London : John Murray, 1998.

Physical Description:
371 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps, portraits ; 24 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London : Cape, 1991.

Maps on lining papers.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS796.S257 S43 1991 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In the 1920s and 1930s Shanghai was called the whore of the Orient, home to gangsters and warlords, where nightclubs never closed and hotels supplied heroin on room service. It became the epitome of glamour, immortalized in books and films. With its bustling population of British, Chinese, Americans, French, Germans, Japanese and White Russians, its extremes of poverty and wealth, it appeared to straddle East and West. By the time the Chinese Communist takeover of 1949 had destroyed the illusion, Shanghai had passed into legend. This portrait of the city in its heyday combines first-hand accounts with extensive research and lively reconstruction.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a spellbinding portrait of Shanghai in the 1920s and '30s, English writer Sergeant (The Old Sow in the Back Room) digs past the familiar image of a vice-ridden Westernized enclave and uncovers a city of many identities. Her Shanghai is an oasis of native artistic experiment; an unregulated refuge for international business where children worked 14-hour days; the center of China's innovative film industry; and a cosmopolitan magnet that became home to White Russian merchants and aristocrats, Japanese jazz musicians, émigré Iraqi Jews and refugees from Nazi Germany. The sprawling narrative is structured around three traumatic historical episodes: the bloodbath of 1927, when Chiang Kai-shek's troops and his former Communist allies slaughtered each other; the Japanese invasion of Shanghai in 1932, which claimed 14,000 lives; and the 1937 outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War. Sergeant, who has made frequent trips to the city since the end of the Cultural Revolution, interviewed dozens of current and former residents, both foreign and Chinese, and she integrates their colorful stories into her exceptionally vivid, informal chronicle. Photos. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved