How Did Courtesan Society Affect Shanghai Society?

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After the First Opium War and the Treaty of Nanjing, China had to open Shanghai, and four other cities, as a trade port to the Western powers. The British and Americans created a single International Settlement by 1863, leaving the French to maintain their own separate settlement. These settlements operated with “their own police force, justice system, and social customs” that resulted in an increasingly Westernized Shanghai. Additionally, the Chinese had a municipal government put in over Shanghai, the Chinese city. It became a major tourist attraction with its “Western-style buildings, the streets, shops, and public parks,” and influx of Shanghai courtesans. This rise in courtesans and prostitution was a reflection of “the city’s elaborate social structure” in the factors that were taken account, such as class background and native birth place. Furthermore, the emerging middle class and elite discussed current events, business deals, fears, and issues in the presence of prostitutes and courtesans, making them part of the inner workings of society despite being on the fringes. Courtesans were considered “skilled entertainers” either as musicians or as storytellers. Through an analysis of the role and social status of Chinese courtesans in the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century, this paper argues that courtesan society reflected and affected Shanghai society. Courtesans became a large part of Shanghai’s entertainment industry because of the attention they received in
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