This article explores the cultural imaginary of the “modern woman” in Shanghai, China through popular periodicals and films of the early twentieth century. It pays particular attention to the women figures in periodical press run by the Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies intellectuals, which played a central role in constructing a middle-class and urban cultural identity as opposed to the May Fourth writers. The article also examines various female characters in three silent films written and made by Chinese intellectuals in early Republican Shanghai. offering new sources for imagination and for the configuration of urban modernity. I argue that the popular imagination of the Chinese modern women in the fiction and films were designed to connect the “old” and “new”, the “traditional” and “modern”, the East and West. The modern woman carried the urban population’s wishful imagination for order, stability, and a “good life” in the chaotic time of transition. This imaginary of modern women was defined and supported by a broad range of cultural expressions in popular media. It revealed both the social anxiety and tensions brought about by the socioeconomic transformations in early twentieth-century China and the middle-class “cultural dreams” of Chinese society and modern life.


Ng, Margaret



Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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