A “Canonical” Discourse on Shanghai Culture —Focus on Gai Qi and Wang Tao(2/2)

Project Details


This project intends to conduct a study on classical and canonized literary and cultural texts originated in the 19th century Song-Jiang and Shanghai area. The publishing of important literary, historic, and fictional texts such as The Illustrated Dream of the Red Chambers, Ying Ruan Za Zhi (The Seashore Magazine) between 1860s and 1890s not only embodied the transformation of epistemic subjectivity that turned Jiang-Nan (South of Yanzi River) literati into Shanghai literati, projected the cultural context of late Qing Dynasty Shanghai, but also reflected upon the evolution of the structure of the epistemic community in this geographic area as well as represented the internationalized transformation of a modern society. Amid the passing on of the tradition of Song-Jiang, Hwa-Ting scholarship families, the changing of paradigm after incidents such as the opening of Qing Dynasty’s sea borders, Small Sword Society, and Taipin Heavenly Kingdom, and the exchanges between Chinese and the Western cultures, scholars and literati—with their creativity in writings and other artistic works that were considered classical and canonical— together created the renovation and regeneration of their own generation. The discussion begins and ends with the most important novels in 18th and 19th century China, The Dream of Red Chambers (1792), and The Sing-song Girls of Shanghai (1892) respectively. The former served as the pivot for literary activities for scholars and literati alike during Jia-Dao Years of Qing Dynasty. An extraordinary phenomenon originated from the scene was the so-called “modern classic of literary work,” The Illustrated Dream of the Red Chambers. The latter served as a metaphor for the fin de siècle Shanghai bay area multicultural scene, with Han Bang-Qing criticizing and adapting the century-long history of the talented literati on the critical basis of human interaction and the way things work. Han continued writing of an alternative version of “Portraits of The State’s Talented of Song River (Song-Jiang Bong Yen Tu) in Yi-Li Garden.” Han’s uncle Han Ying-Sheng wrote a series of articles and books on the comprehensive knowledge of things. Wang Tao, a talented literati based in Shanghai who traveled extensively to the West and Far East, had corresponsive discourses on the comparison before and after the opening of Qing Dynasty’s sea borders. Wang became the director of Shanghai Polytechnic Institution after returning from Hong Kong. The evolution and transformation of the talented literati phenomenon is a metaphor of a great history of Shanghai literary and artistic scene that was left out by the standard of “political affair and canonical history.”
Effective start/end date1/08/2031/01/22


  • Gai Qi
  • Wang Tao
  • Talented Scholar
  • Cultural canon
  • Shanghai literary context


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