Fun Find | Vintage Chinese Fashion Magazine

Ling long Magazine Covers Issue 81, 1933 C.V.Starr East Asian Library at Columbia University

Remember about a year ago when I posted an overview of the exhibit The Evergreen Classic: Transformation of the Qipao that was showing at the Hong Kong Museum of History. This is somewhat of a follow-up to that post. Yesterday, while perusing my twitter friend feed I came across this:

Having lived in Shanghai for a long time, I couldn’t resist clicking on the link and up came the website for the online repository of Ling long Magazine at the C.V.Starr East Asian Library at Columbia University. On this site you can find every issue of Ling long Women’s Magazine from 1931-1937. You may already know that Shanghai, and other cities in the ‘Orient’ were pretty happening places in the 1920s and 30s [check out the video below for proof].

This magazine was the woman’s guide to it all! It “was popular during a time of dramatic material, social, and political change in China.” Specifically the era after the end of dynastic rule and into the upheaval of the Republican Era. This collection provides a glimpse into the then newly ‘modern’ China through the magazine’s discourse on the ‘modern’ Shanghai woman in this period of change. The magazine addressed  these changes with openness asking the reader to decide what is the definition of a ‘modern’ woman by providing them with contrasting points of view. As the website states:

Ling long Magazine Back Cover Issue 32, 1931 C.V.Starr East Asian Library at Columbia University

“In many ways, Shanghai’s New Woman was little different from her global counterparts; she bobbed her hair and challenged gender boundaries just like they did. Yet she was also born in a particular modern Chinese context full of contradictions. Reformers idealized the New Woman as free and liberated, an example of China’s break from her oppressive and conservative past. Critics of the New Woman, however, suggested that her excessive consumption and unrootedness represented the dangers of unbridled modernity and foreign influences. 

The Ling long woman epitomized the Shanghai New Woman. She lived in both the fantasy world of popular culture and on the streets of everyday Shanghai. Photographs in the magazine ranged from glamorous movie stars to the actual authors of articles, and from society ladies to students. Just as the Ling long woman had multiple identities, the magazine called her a variety of both Chinese and English names: xin nuxing xin nuxing and xin nuzi xin nuzi (new woman); xiandai nuzi xiandai nuzi (contemporary woman); modeng nuxing modeng nuxing (modern woman, modern girl, girl of this age, and girl of today).”

This is such a great resource for all sorts of fields from social science to design to advertising to linguistics. There are some English translations of articles on the website. But, it is a lot of fun to just peruse the magazines for the fashion trends and old ads. It’s interesting to notice some differences and similarities between the Eastern and Western models and movie stars. For example, I noticed that there’s a lot less smiling from the Chinese women than the Western women [at least in the magazines I looked at]. The website also provides a great list of resources for people interested in learning more about the Shanghainese woman in that era.

This is definitely a fun find!

Nadira Lamrad

Nadira is the co-founder of Social Alterations. She is currently completing her final year as a PhD Candidate at City University of Hong Kong.

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