Nudes in Early Republican China: Editorial Agency, Popular Press and Transcultural Production

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Lecture by Liying Sun, University of Heidelberg

In the past ten years, art historians have researched Chinese “tastes” surrounding luoti (literally: “unclothed bodies”) in Early Republican China, mainly focusing on the visual representations of nudes in fine art, as well as the related history of Western artistic education in the Shanghai area. Many scholars have noted that nudes, especially “Western” female nudes, appeared frequently in print media; however, existing studies have not yet provided satisfying answers to several fundamental questions. For example, how was the concept of luoti understood in the Republican Era? How was luoti represented in the popular press, particularly in pictorials? From where did these “Western” nudes “flow” to China, eventually appearing in Chinese media? Who produced the nudes? Who (re-)arranged the nudes in pictorials? How and why? This talk will explore these questions by showcasing examples from illustrated newspapers and magazines of the 1920s-30s, such as Beiyang huabao 北洋畫報 (“Pei-yang Pictorial News,” 1926-1937), Sheying huabao 攝影畫報 (“Pictorial Weekly,” 1925-1937) and Linglong 玲瓏 (“Linloon Magazine,” 1931-1937). These examples illustrate the (often Western) origins and trajectories of the dissemination of nude photographs, and the editorial strategies aimed at incorporating nudes into periodical publications. Ultimately, I argue, editing visual and textual representations of luoti into pictorials was part of transcultural production, and “editorial agency” played a pivotal role in selecting, framing, contextualizing, and interpreting nudes in the popular press.

LIYING SUN is currently an Assistant Professor at University of Heidelberg, Germany. She received her B.A. and M.A. from Nankai University, China, and her Ph.D. from the University of Heidelberg. Her dissertation is entitled “Body Un/Dis-covered: Luoti, Editorial Agency and Transcultural Production in Chinese Pictorials (1925-1933).” Her research interests cover print culture, visual culture, and body culture, and silent films in early Republican China. Sun also has been engaged in two digital humanities projects, conceptualizing, designing and conducting research for the databases: “Chinese Women’s Magazines in the Late Qing and Early Republican Period” ( , 2008-2011) and “Early Chinese Periodicals Online” (2012-2015).

Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies

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Published: Friday, October 2, 2015