Hygienic Modernity in Chinese East Asia
Charlotte Furth
The chapters in this volume are about the intersections of power, culture,
and science that have gone into the struggle to overcome disease and im-
prove people’s health in some Chinese regions of East Asia over the course
of the “long” twentieth century—since the late Qing reforms gathered mo-
mentum in the 1860s. Part of the volume adds to the story that has been
told of colonial medicine—but the geographical focus here shifts from the
British Empire to two East Asian empires, those of the waning Qing dy-
nasty in China (1644–1911) and the new empire of Japan (1895–1945), and
to the republican and communist regimes that followed these empires in
Taiwan and mainland China, respectively. The diverse and very specific geo-
graphical focuses of these chapters view China from the perspective of a
variety of regions far from the centers of Chinese state power. The chap-
ters by Sean Hsiang-lin Lei and Ruth Rogaski look primarily at Manchuria
under Qing and Japanese rule. Marta Hanson’s narrative moves to the far
southern Pearl River delta, while three others (by Yu Xinzhong, Shang-Jen
Li, and Li Yushang) that deal with mainland topics in fact are rooted in the
regionally specific experience of Jiangnan, in the lower Yangzi delta. Three
chapters (by Wu Chia-Ling, Lin Yi-ping and Liu Shiyung, and Tseng Yen-
fen and Wu Chia-Ling) deal with the island of Taiwan under Japanese rule
and under American patronage after the Second World War. Moreover, even
though in the West the history of sanitary science has mostly been written
around urban experience, none of these chapters tell the story of a major
modern city. Instead, they locate much of their action in the countryside,
along a continuum of medium to small towns and villages. The most impor-
tant metropole, offstage but influencing the action, is Tokyo, the capital of
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