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Cinema in China prior to WWI

A Case Study of West-Eastern Culture Transfer

Meimei Xu

This book looks at the earliest history of exhibiting firms in China at the turn of the
century. The spread of cinema in China as a continuation of the lantern tradition is
contextualized and conventionalized in the late Qing sociopolitical milieu, featuring
a strong foreign monopoly and regional imbalance. However, the key element for
cinema’s development in China is Chinese audience per se.

“The book has produced something truly remarkable and tremendous.”
                                                                                                     —Frank Bren

“The work offers a lot of new insights into the history of the cinema in China. Though
the film business was brought from abroad to the mainland, the candidate was never
nationalistic in her approach to the phenomenon of foreign entertainment in China.”
                                                                                                     —Wolfgang Kubin

“The author painstakingly combed through a large number of historical newspapers,
especially English-language newspapers published both in and outside China, and
pieced together a convincing picture of the earliest history of Chinese cinema.”
                                                                                                       —Xuelei Huang 

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Words are inadequate to express my gratitude to many individuals who have helped, supported, and inspired me in the past four years and six months. My deepest appreciation goes to my advisor Prof. Wolfgang Kubin, a highly respected mentor, for his never failing support and encouragement. He read every line of my sample writings and marked every minor error, with admirable patience. I have benefited tremendously from his insightful comments, profound thoughts and straight-to-the-point suggestions. I am also indebted to Prof. Ralph Kauz, who had made a large number of source materials available to this study and provided many opportunities for training my academic writing skills.

My heartfelt thanks also go to Huang Xuelei and Shiro Yukawa. I have always enjoyed the conversations with Huang who has helped to draw the proposal from the very beginning and provided numerous constructive feedbacks, which I have highly appreciated. With his specialist expertise in media history, Yukawa raised many theoretical questions and generously shared with me collections from his “private library.”

As this historical study has relied largely upon primary sources materials scattered in a wide range of newspapers, periodicals, and archival documents at various libraries and archives, I am deeply indebted to the following teachers and friends who drew my attention to particular materials or helped to locate certain missing pieces: Li Daoxin, Phillipe Jaquier, Li Chunxiao, Jessica Topf, and Liu Yanyan.

I would like to thank my friends Tang Xiaoxiao, Tang Daishi, Zuo...

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