Sorry, this item is not available in
Image not available for
Image not available

To view this video download Flash Player


Sign in to turn on 1-Click ordering
More Buying Choices
Have one to sell? Sell yours here

Shanghai : The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City 1842-1949 [Paperback]

Stella Dong
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

List Price: $15.99
Price: $11.63 & FREE Shipping on orders over $25. Details
You Save: $4.36 (27%)
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Only 8 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.
Want it Wednesday, July 24? Choose One-Day Shipping at checkout. Details
40 new from $5.59 61 used from $0.19 1 collectible from $27.50
Best Books of the Month
Best Books of the Month
Looking for something good to read? Browse our editors' picks for the Best Books of the Month in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, romance, and much more.

Book Description

May 22, 2001

Transformed from a swampland wilderness into a dazzling, modern-day Babylon, the Shanghai that predated Mao′s cultural revolution was a city like no other: redolent with opium and underworld crime, booming with foreign trade, blessed with untold wealth and marred by abject squalor.

Journalist Stella Dong captures all the exoticism, extremes, and excitement of this legendary city as if it were a larger-than-life character in a fantastic novel.

Customers Viewing This Page May Be Interested in These Sponsored Links

  (What's this?)
Bokus - Köp böckerna billigare! Låga priser & snabb leverans.

Frequently Bought Together

Shanghai : The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City 1842-1949 + Shanghai: China's Gateway to Modernity + Shanghai Splendor: A Cultrual History, 1843-1949 (Philip E. Lilienthal Books)
Price for all three: $61.09

Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews Review

For a good, spicy read about colonial Asia's most decadent city, this is the book. Stella Dong, a second-generation Chinese-American living in New York, tells the story of Old Shanghai in racy style: readers expecting tales of drugs, prostitution, and gang warfare will not be disappointed. Her scholarship is sound, however, and at the end of each chapter she provides bibliographies of drier, more academic studies for those wishing to delve deeper.

The Treaty of Nanking that ended the First Opium War between Britain and China in 1842 granted trading concessions in Shanghai to the European powers. The international currents shaping the city over the next hundred years were complex: British merchants, Chinese warlords, Russian emigrés, Sephardic Jews, and German spies exploited its extraterritorial status to make Shanghai a hotbed of greed, vice, and intrigue. Opium was crucial to the city's extraordinary wealth and lawlessness, though Dong also relates the rise of its criminal gangs to the development of coastal steamships and consequent loss of inland-transportation jobs. Foreign participation in the opium trade was not confined to the British: the role of the French Concession in Shanghai is described in well-researched detail. The flamboyant personalities that prospered in the city's unfettered environment come alive, characters like Pockmarked Huang, who combined the post of police chief in the French Concession with leadership of the Green Gang. Dong explores Shanghai's political significance both as the source of Chiang Kai-shek's fortunes and as a center of Communist revolutionary activity. As the city again becomes the leading commercial metropolis of a dynamic national economy, Shanghai 1842-1949 successfully documents its unique role in the development of modern China. --John Stevenson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In its heyday, Shanghai was known by many names--the emperor's ugly daughter, Sodom and Gomorrah of the Far East and whore of Asia. In her first book, Dong, a journalist and second-generation Chinese-American, has filled her often-absorbing history of the city with vivid details that leave little doubt as to how Shanghai earned its reputation. She also offers tidbits on colorful local personalities, such as the Chinese warlord who never left home without his enormous lacquered teak coffin, the radical American feminist who was indirectly responsible for the end of Mao Zedong's second marriage and the wealthy Chinese businessman whose two younger daughters married Chiang Kai-shek and Sun Yat-sen. Although the city was inhabited by 250,000 Chinese when the British invaded in 1842, it wasn't long before the nationals were serving the foreigners, who were making Shanghai one of the world's wealthiest business centers. Banking and manufacturing were the respectable professions, but it was opium--controlled largely by foreigners but used largely by Chinese--that built modern Shanghai. The arrogance and excess of foreigners, who set up their own courts, lived lavishly and excluded the Chinese from governing bodies and private clubs, created the uneven balance of power and economics that helped pave the way for Communism. Dong skillfully packs her narrative with all of the city's "sordid pleasures and exploitation," offering an account that is at once informative and entertaining. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (May 22, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060934816
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060934811
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.4 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #516,790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
56 of 61 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Myth as history February 27, 2001
Contrary to other reader's reviews, I found Shanghai to a disappointing book. The writing style is very florid, indeed verging on overblown. On page one Shanghai is described as "the most pleasure-mad, rapacious, corrupt, strife-ridden, licentious, squalid and decadent city in the world." Each fresh page relentlessly strives to better this excitable list of adjectives.

Although Stella Dong works hard to convey the atmosphere of old Shanghai, what her book does not do is provide a clear history of the city. Dates are very confused and the narrative thread lost in favour of colourful stories. This is not a book to read if you are looking for a coherent explanation of the Taiping rebellion the Opium wars or the rise of communism around Shanghai.

Several reviewers have commented on the book's exhaustive research. That may be correct but I note that Dong cites only secondary sources in English.

Overall, readers wanting a more nuanced appreciation of Shanghai would do well to look elsewhere. Those who want a racy read might be happier but it is difficult to escape the feeling that this book only adds to the myths about Shanghai rather than improving our understanding.

Was this review helpful to you?
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
A good read. Exciting, with colorful atmosphere and anecdotes.

The city of Shanghai, as described in this book, was an extraordinary mixture of extremes of conspicuous consumption and poverty, of etiquette and immorality, and of leisure and harsh working conditions. The book can be appreciated on different levels: as an adventure story, as a description of social conditions, or as a narrative of an amazing history. Although this is not a history monograph, it would be a good accompaniment to one as it gives the reader the feeling of witnessing events as they happen. And they happen! Many current international questions have to do with China: the developments described offer background on such matters as the status of Taiwan and trade ties with the mainland.

A note of warning: the reader should be well-armed with dictionaries because of the frequency of foreign (to Americans) words and phrases, many undefined in the text. Two examples are: nankeen (a kind of yellow cotton cloth) and ronin (here, outlaws). Also, the constant use of a British term (such as godown) when an equivalent term familiar to both British and American readers (warehouse) is available makes one suspect that the author enjoys offering what H. W. Fowler refers to as "puzzles for the common man".

Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid History of a Sinful City February 25, 2004
Stella Dong's "Shanghai 1842-1949: The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City" is a thorough overview of China's most notorious city during its most notorious era.

As Dong's text explains, Shanghai rose to prominence in the late 19th century as a treaty port. Several nations-Britain, US, and France- had gained special status through a series of treaties and thus were allowed to conduct business as if the city were their own. And there were plenty of businesses to conduct--from the importing of opium to the exporting of tea and other goods. Each colonial group lived in its own area complete with its own customs and social hierarchies.

Likewise, with the increased affluence of the city, a wealthy Chinese class also emerged, though once again it tended to live and socialize only within its own boundaries.

With so many people making so much money and so few (legal) rules to follow, Shanghai eventually became a swinging city of sin. By the 1920's, the city became synonmous with sex, opium, jazz, brothels, and pleasure in just about any form. As Dong notes, while the sinners broke all legal rules, they still followed the social stratification of the city: the british patronized British brothels, the Chinese went to Chinese brothels and so on.

Of course, with the invasion by Japan and then the fall to the Communists, the good times ended in Shanghai and most of the colonials left. I felt that Dong could have kept the reader more abreast of Chinese history in the earlier parts of the book to make the latter events (e.g., why the country was so open to communism when a city like Shanghai was not) more understandable. In addition, she introduces certain colorful Shanghai characaters-the writer Emily Hahn for instance-and then loses them.
However, this book is a good, workmanlike introduction to a very interesting city in a very interesting time. I would recommend it to those readers looking for a general overview of the history of the city. If you want more depth, you may want to read this book in conjunction with more rigorous studies or simply look elsewhere.

Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lao Hao a (Shanghainese for 'very good') October 17, 2000
To put it mildly, Shanghai has a checkered past. As a notorious bastion of rouges, thieves, soldiers of fortune, drug smugglers, prostitutes, pleasure seekers, speculators and industrial tycoons- it is second to none. From being a sleepy little fishing and trading village on the Huangpu river in the early 1800's to becoming one of the worlds largest ports and a city of over 14 million people- Shanghai has had more than it's fair share of growing pains. Not very many cities on the globe can match it in having gone through so much political and financial turmoil in the last 150 years.

When I first picked up this book I was a little skeptical. The title, `Rise and Fall of a Decadent City' seemed a bit over the top and I was afraid it was going to end up being three hundred pages of vice soaked sensationalism. As a resident of Shanghai I have discovered that the myth of old Shanghai often looms larger than the truth.

I was pleasantly surprised. The book was meticulously researched, well written and most important- interesting. Since this book is a history of Shanghai, China's most populous and prosperous city, you also inadvertently get a short course in modern Chinese history while your reading it. From the Taiping rebellion to the opium war and the Boxer rebellion- many of the great historical events in Chinese history are clearly laid out and explained in the context of how they influenced and helped to form Shanghai.

`Shanghai, The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City' is a very good piece of popular history and I highly recommend it.

Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Skip it
I rarely encounter books that are so overblown it feels like running up-hill trying to get through them, but this book certainly made me feel this way. Read more
Published 6 months ago by jindo
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book!
Absolutely fascinating book on Shanghai's history. Lots of background of the historical events. Love the author's style of prose and vocabulary. Read more
Published 7 months ago by K. Louthan
3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Introduction To An Extraordinary Subject
Stella Dong's "Shanghai," is a good introduction to a fascinating subject and provides a tremendous amount of material in a coherent and interesting fashion. Read more
Published 18 months ago by BWL
1.0 out of 5 stars Unreadable
I agree with other one star reviewers. I purchased this book after reading the riveting sample chapter. However, the book is poorly organized and unfocused. Read more
Published on June 8, 2010 by Amazon Lady
4.0 out of 5 stars History of Shanghai from 1842 to 1949
This book would be interesting for a reader looking for a rollicking and layman history of Shanghai from 1842 (the year when Shanghai was forced by the British Empire to be opened... Read more
Published on May 30, 2010 by Mr. Leong Wai Hong
1.0 out of 5 stars Amateurish and immoral
My main issue with this book is that it was very poorly written. It was unable to connect a series of anecdotes into any kind of loose narrative, and in the end just felt like a... Read more
Published on March 27, 2010 by Jeff Rutsch
1.0 out of 5 stars A Little Professionalism, Please!
I've never thought of myself as a stickler for the formalities of scholarly writing, so if I'm complaining about their absence you know this book has crossed a line. Read more
Published on February 10, 2010 by John Jorgensen
3.0 out of 5 stars Historically Thorough but Doesn't Convey the City's Outrageous...
Anyone remotely familiar with Chinese history, or with even modest knowledge of world history, knows Shanghai's pre-World War II reputation as both the "Paris of the East" and the... Read more
Published on December 31, 2008 by Steve Koss
4.0 out of 5 stars Good historical assessment
on the rise and fall of Shanghai from 1842 to 1949. Starting out with warlords, three separate entities (International Settlement, French Concession, Chinese Territory), gambling,... Read more
Published on July 6, 2008 by Donald Hsu
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining History of Shanghai
I read this shortly after my return from a trip to Shanghai and found it to be an engrossing, fast read. Read more
Published on July 9, 2007 by Ikat
Search Customer Reviews
Only search this product's reviews

Customers Also Bought These Items in Other Departments

Sell a Digital Version of This Book in the Kindle Store

If you are a publisher or author and hold the digital rights to a book, you can sell a digital version of it in our Kindle Store. Learn more


There are no discussions about this product yet.
Be the first to discuss this product with the community.
Start a new discussion
First post:
Prompts for sign-in

Look for Similar Items by Category



If you need help or have a question for Customer Service, contact us.
 Would you like to update product info or give feedback on images?
If you are a seller for this product and want to change product data, click here (you may have to sign in with your seller id).

Your Recent History (What's this?)

After viewing product detail pages, look here to find an easy way to navigate back to pages you are interested in.