The Modern Elixir: Medicine as a Consumer Item in the Early Twentieth-Century Chinese Press

Lean, Eugenia Y.

From the late nineteenth century into the first half of the twentieth century, medicine was the consumer item par excellence on the pages of Shen bao and Dagong bao, two of China's first modern newspapers. Advertisements for nutrition-boosting remedies, miracle pills, medicinal syrups, and ointments were ubiquitous, surpassing in amount ads for all other consumer items and luxury goods. This burgeoning commercial site commanded the casting, shaping, and molding of a narrative on modern medicine for urban China. In this paper, I examine the rise of the medicinal commodity to learn about evolving cultural understandings of modern science from the last years of the Qing period until the Japanese invasion in 1937. I argue that this development in print marketing not only created cravings for the pills and tinctures featured, but also wove gendered and semicolonial narratives of desire for science, modernity, and nationalism.

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Also Published In

UCLA Historical Journal

More About This Work

Academic Units
East Asian Languages and Cultures
Published Here
June 29, 2015