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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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For articles from contemporary source materials, see “List of Primary Source Materials” (279 ff). Monographs and articles cited as secondary materials are listed in this bibliography.


Abel, Richard. Encyclopedia of Early Cinema. London: Routledge, 2005.

Abel, Richard. The Ciné Goes to Town: French Cinema 1896–1914. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

Adams, Katherine H., et al. Seeing the American Women, 1880–1920. McFarland: McFarland, 2011.

Allen, Robert C. and Douglas Gomery. Film History: Theory and Practice. New York: Knopf, 1985.

Astor House Hotel. Guide to Tientsin. Tianjin: Astor House Hotel Press, 1907.

Baker, Barbara and Yvette Paris, eds. Shanghai: Electric and Lurid City: an Anthology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Bao, Tianxiao 包天笑. Chuanyinglou huiyilu 钏影楼回忆录 (Reminiscences from the Studio of Bracelet Shadow). Shanxi: Shanxi Guji Press, 1999.

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