The Lius of Shanghai

The Lius of Shanghai

eBook - 2013
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Harvard University Press

From the Sino-Japanese War to the Communist Revolution, the onrushing narrative of modern China can drown out the stories of the people who lived it. Yet a remarkable cache of letters from one of China’s most prominent and influential families, the Lius of Shanghai, sheds new light on this tumultuous era. Sherman Cochran and Andrew Hsieh take us inside the Lius’ world to explore how the family laid the foundation for a business dynasty before the war and then confronted the challenges of war, civil unrest, and social upheaval.

Cochran and Hsieh gained access to a rare collection containing a lifetime of letters exchanged by the patriarch, Liu Hongsheng, his wife, Ye Suzhen, and their twelve children. Their correspondence offers a fascinating look at how a powerful family navigated the treacherous politics of the period. They discuss sensitive issues—should the family collaborate with the Japanese occupiers? should it flee after the communist takeover?—as well as intimate domestic matters like marital infidelity. They also describe the agonies of wartime separation, protracted battles for control of the family firm, and the parents’ struggle to maintain authority in the face of swiftly changing values.

Through it all, the distinctive voices of the Lius shine through. Cochran and Hsieh’s engaging prose reveals how each member of the family felt the ties that bound them together. More than simply a portrait of a memorable family, The Lius of Shanghai tells the saga of modern China from the inside out.

From the Sino-Japanese War to the Communist Revolution, a cache of letters from one of China’s prominent families, the Lius of Shanghai, sheds light on a tumultuous era. Sherman Cochran and Andrew Hsieh show how the family confronted war, civil unrest, and social upheaval, and how—in the midst of it all—they built a vast business empire.

Book News
After studying an extraordinary collection of letters written by members of a prominent Chinese family over a span of 50 years, Cochran (Chinese history, Cornell U.) and Hsieh (Chinese history, Grinnell College) found an intriguing way to present them. Quoting heavily from the letters, they present a narrative, which is arranged in four chronological sections: 1907-1932--planning a business dynasty; 1932-1937--behaving contrary to the plan; 1938-1945--reacting to war; and 1946-1956--adapting to revolution. Within each section the narrative is composed around themes in some of the correspondence. For example under "behaving contrary to the plan," the four chapters focus on a son who wanted to drop out of Harvard, a son who was sick, a son who proposed marriage to a westernized woman, and a daughter who spoiled a marriage alliance. The concluding essay summarizes the inner history and legacy of the family. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Publisher: Cambridge, Mass. :, Harvard University Press,, 2013
ISBN: 9780674073845
Characteristics: 1 online resource (xiii, 431 pages) : illustrations, maps
Additional Contributors: Xie, Zhengguang


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