An advertisement from the 20’s or 30’s, reprinted in上海广告. 上海：上海画报出版社, 1995.
This ad is for Golden Arrow cigarettes, and it announces a special contest. If you collect 72 of the trading cards in the packs you can trade them in for one of the cool modern commodities on the lower left: a cigarette case, a “stylish” raincoat, a watch, or a suitcase (perfect for your next train trip.) For 72 regular cards and one special card you can get a gold cigarette case, a radio, a pair of gold rings, or your own rickshaw. One assumes the smoker is going to hire someone to pull the thing for them, rather than going into business themselves.
The thing that really surprises me is that the cards all have pictures of Confucians. I realize that Confucius and co. had a much more varied history in the 20th century than one would think from reading May 4th polemics, but still the juxtaposition between the Big C and this cornucopia of commercial modernity is a little jarring for me. The students found it that way too, which is good, I guess, in that they have reached the point of not being able to explain the same things I can’t explain. Plus they are very forgiving of my being able to point things out but not explain them.
I seem to be blogging a lot about teaching of late, and this is something I used in class last night. Both I and the textbook (Schoppa) talk a lot about creating modernity and modern identities and such. Most of this focuses on state attempts to reform people, or at least the attempts of intellectuals. Like a lot of other people I also like to get away, when I can, from the political/revolutionary narrative, which is always hard to do in part because everything in 20th century China ends up getting reflected through the revolution. Unfortunately we (meaning I) are still at the stage of pointing at things that are outside the revolutionary narrative but not being able to name them.