Hygienic Modernity And China 's Semicolonialism

Decent Essays
443126 Jing Wang
L03 551 Urban Culture in Modern China
Hygienic Modernity and China’s Semicolonialism In China today, slogans on public hygiene are everywhere, restaurants, subways, road sides, to name just a few. Literally, it is one of the priorities of the Chinese government to promote public hygiene and to encourage people to behave civilized in public. Yet here comes the question: why is personal hygiene associated with public in China, and why does it have to do with being civilized? Ruth Rogaski’s Hygienic Modernity provides perceptive answers to these questions. It traces the history of the word weisheng, hygiene in Chinese, through the late-Qing Tianjin, its Republican period, Japanese occupation, and until the first few years of New China. Rogaski argues that the changing meaning of weisheng in Tianjin provides a window to China’s conception of modernity and its emphasis of modernization projects; it is the implication of hygienic modernity in weisheng that marks China’s deficiency, internalized by the intellectuals in the pre-war era and used against imperialism after the establishment of the PRC. In other words, weisheng itself embodies China’s complex modern history represented in the semi-colonial condition of Tianjin as a treaty port. This paper aims to discuss China’s semicoloniality through Rogaski’s concept of hygienic modernity, or weisheng and compare it with the previous week’s reading, i.e. Rhoads Murphey’s and Bryna Goodman’s notions of Chinese
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