AES Week 6 Technologies of the Nineteenth Century Paper Please see attachments to read, and directions for the assignment. This is a running weekly assignm

AES Week 6 Technologies of the Nineteenth Century Paper Please see attachments to read, and directions for the assignment. This is a running weekly assignment that you have completed before! The objective for the assignment:
Summarize the main argument from each reading, then critically evaluate each reading. You
may raise questions that may be addressed collectively in the classroom. Weekly Response
should be between 300 and 400 words in length. Please see the attached folder with the texts
for each weekly assignment. Please write these in separate Word documents each week in and
save as Week 2, Week 3, etc…. There is no need for a title page or running head. I just need to
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Week 6
Topic: Technologies of the Nineteenth Century
Arnold Pacey, Technology in World Civilization, chapters 8 and 9 (pdf)
Crosbie Smith, Coal, Steam and Ships: Engineering, Enterprise and Empire on the Nineteenth
Century Seas, Intro and Chapters 1,2, and 3
The Chinese Railroad View: Transportation Themes in Popular Print, 1873-1915
Author(s): James A. Flath
Source: Cultural Critique, No. 58 (Autumn, 2004), pp. 168-190
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/4140777
Accessed: 17-09-2019 21:58 UTC
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THE CHINESE RAILROAD VIEW
TRANSPORTATION THEMES IN POPULAR PRINT, 1873-1915
JamsWAWFltWM
Historians have long been intrigued by the effects that imperialism and industrial technology had on traditional societies such as
China. The classical approach to this question, however, has been to
judge the “Third World” as technologically incompetent, and dependent on a Eurocentric path of international capitalism.’ Under the
influence of postcolonialism, historians have widely addressed these
distortions through methodologies such as the “China-centered”
approach.2 This latter development has immeasurably improved the
writing of Chinese social and cultural history, but it has also pro-
duced a tendency to neglect international influences upon China
and especially the role of introduced technology in China’s historical
development. In proposing a renewed emphasis on this problem,
however, the critical question emerges-can historically colonial and
semicolonial states such as China be viewed as being under the influence of imperialism and international capitalism without reinvoking Eurocentrism?
To suggest that they cannot is to insist that the only way to think
about imperialism and international capitalism is through the ideals
of rational-humanism that initially produced them. Although it is
true that the former could never have existed without the latter, it
may also be said that the comprehension of this particular ideological
configuration was not a prerequisite for perceiving and participating
in the manifestations of imperialism and capitalism. In fact, interna-
tional capitalism extended its physical productions well beyond the
reach of the specific cognitive orders that accompanied their inven-
tion and exposed its machinery to the differing cognitive orders
on which it intruded. At the same time, the local media carried the
Cultural Critique 58-Fall 2004-Copyright 2004 Regents of the University of Minnesota
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THE CHINESE RAILROAD VIEW 169
knowledge of industrial technology such as the railway beyond its
physical limits, so that the concept of a steam engine could circula
even where the machine did not. The consequence was neither
wholesale embrace nor a rejection of the introduced technology, bu
rather a new discourse over its meaning that may best be calle
colonial-modernism. Although there is no doubt that international
capitalism was driven by politics and economics, it was (and is) also
a thoroughly cultural phenomenon, and it is through cultural inter
pretation that the products of capitalism may be evaluated as some
thing other than the insidious agents of Western imperialism.
The media form that I will use to illustrate this problem is the
Chinese woodblock print form known as nianhua (New Year pic
tures). This genre had, throughout the nineteenth century, employe
the simple but effective technique of polychrome xylography to sup
ply the Chinese market with a wide range of festive, decorative, and
votive pictures. Despite the increasing availability of mechanize
printing technology, this “low tech” production continued unabated
into the twentieth century, when artists began to reproduce the im
agery of industrial technology, even while making no appreciab
changes to the state of their own technology. These images, emergin
in response to a parochial experience of technology but still independent of universal standards of technical realism, demonstrate how con
spicuous representations of international capitalism could be locally
appropriated, reproduced, and redefined as popular texts. Although
rural printing centers did not become a driving force behind social
and cultural change in the early twentieth century, their production
shows that rural China was not a blank slate to be inscribed by mo
highly organized cultural agents. To the contrary, rural China used it
own cultural resources to produce an interpretation of modernit
that hinged on the tensions presented by imperialism and industri
technology.
PRINT PRODUCTION IN RURAL CHINA
The prints that I consider in this essay can be attributed to two Nor
China printing centers. The first, Yangliuqing, controlled the larges
share of the North China market in popular print and consistently
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170 JAMES A. FLATH
produced the finest representations. At the turn of the century Y
gliuqing was a town of seven thousand households located in
vicinity of Tianjin, North China’s leading treaty port and commer
center. Yangliuqing itself was also the center of a more exten
printing operation that supported a cottage printing industry spr
out over local villages such as Chaomidian, where there were thir
printing workshops in 1900 and double that number by 1904 (A 19
27).3 Because of its proximity to the port city of Tianjin, Yangliu
had transportation and distribution advantages that gave local prin
ers access to markets throughout northern China. A second printi
center was located in the county of Weixian, in eastern Shand
province. Like Yangliuqing, this industry was distributed through
local towns and villages, as well as more distant locations aro
Shandong and even Manchuria, where entrepreneurs were inevita
forced to either compete or to cooperate with Yangliuqing (Yangf
cunzhi 1993, 25). While precise statistics do not exist, each of th
industries is believed to have produced annual print runs numbe
ing in the tens of millions, which were then shipped and marke
through wholesalers and retailers throughout northern China in
last quarter of the lunar year.4
By the end of the nineteenth century the popular print indus
thus operated as a network of competing and cooperative interes
that were open and responsive to changes in fashion and capable
extending those changes throughout expansive marketing region
The commercial popular-print network also allowed local artisans
get beyond the locality in both a physical and intellectual sense
to extend their knowledge networks to incorporate an ever-widen
field of reference. The content of the prints thus became extrem
varied and, at its height, the industry was able to provide a broa
selection of household icons, auspicious and decorative pictures, a
illustrations of myths, customs, and popular historical narratives
One form of knowledge that popular printers rarely incorpora
into their trade before the end of the nineteenth century was t
journalistic subject of current events. The appearance of train an
steamship imagery in the early twentieth century, therefore, pres
a significant contrast to the standards of the late nineteenth centu
Popular print was becoming a medium not only for spreadi
knowledge of ritual, status, and narrative, but also for spreading
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THE CHINESE RAILROAD VIEW 171
knowledge of events and places. The emergent visual culture, however, did not eliminate the older visual culture, as both modern
and traditional subjects would continue to circulate side by side for
decades to come. The traditional media and its distribution networks
thus carried the knowledge of technological change to the remotest
corners of North China and, in its own peculiar way, made the
knowledge of technology available well in advance of the actual technological experience.
THE IRON ROOSTER MEETS THE WOODBLOCK PRINT
Technology tends to be reproduced as text through media that refle
its own state of progress. Nowhere is this more apparent than in th
British example of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, who
management commissioned a set of prints from the lithographic pu
lisher Rudolph Ackerman in 1831 and timed their issue to coincide
with the opening of this early railway (Freeman 1999, 215-16). The
marriage of these two new forms of technology thereby produced th
lithographic poster series Railroad Views, complete with the novel li
ear and panoramic perspectives that the new technologies enable
As Michael Freeman demonstrates in Railways and the Victorian Ima
ination, the railway continued as a favored subject of representatio
throughout the nineteenth century, as graphic reproduction tech-
niques graduated through lithography, to halftone print, and final
photography. By 1895, the Lumiere brothers were causing audience
to literally jump out of their seats with their film Arrival of the Train
at la Ciolet Station. By graphically placing the railway within a spa
tial context, the media had progressively defined the relationsh
between people and this most patent representation of industri
technology.
In China there was no such neat correlation between the devel-
opment of transportation and graphics technology. Visual culture
arguably experienced a lag of up to twenty years between the arrival
of the first railways and the development of print technology and dis-
tribution networks able to carry the lithograph and photograph into
rural markets. Owing to the eagerness of commercial interests to
extract resources, the Chinese railway boom was well under way by
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172 JAMES A. FLATH
the first decade of the twentieth century. But at the same time, t
were few periodical and lithographic publishers operating or ma
keting merchandise outside the confines of large urban centers su
as Shanghai and Tianjin. The industrialized graphic printing sect
had not developed in step with the industrial transportation sec
as it had in the West. The producers of woodblock prints, howev
were well placed to chronicle the arrival of the railway, through
traditional media of xylography and to disseminate the knowled
of technology throughout their traditional distribution networks
a result, the knowledge of the new transportation was extended i
remote localities years before the arrival of the actual railways
their modern forms of printed representation. Between the ext
sion of transportation technology into regions still reliant on wo
block print and the extension of woodblock printed representat
of technology into regions still reliant on native forms of transpo
tion, there was considerable scope for disjunction between the tw
To establish how the cultural understanding of movement and tran
portation changed in respect to new technology, it will be necessa
Liverpool and Manchester Railway Traversing Chat Moss, T. T. Bury, Ackerman & Co., 1831, after
man, 1999.
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THE CHINESE RAILROAD VIEW 173
to consider how such impressions appeared before the age of steam
For this purpose, one print from Yangliuqing’s Dailianzeng pri
shop serves particularly well. Tianjin’s Northern Floating Bridge ca
be assigned a production date of ca. 1873-making it one of the few
prints for which a date earlier than the 1890s can be fixed. As such
the print includes a recessional perspective suggestive of outsi
influence (most likely Japan),5 yet its early date isolates it from t
full brunt of foreign influence that arrived during the “scramble f
concessions” sparked by the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 and th
Boxer Uprising of 1900. The bridge, as it is portrayed, crosses Tia
jin’s Ziya River and there forms the cross-roads of a busy commerc
district of teahouses and shops that exhibit native Chinese wares an
notably exclude the Western clocks and kerosene lamps that woul
appear in later representations. The bridge itself serves as a comme
cial space for peddlers and supports pedestrian traffic as well as tw
forms of transportation frequently associated with North China, o
being the “Beijing Cart” on the left-hand side of the bridge, the oth
being the sedan chair approaching from the right.
In direct contrast, and apparently designed as a sequel to Tianjin
Northern Floating Bridge, is a print titled Tianjin, Hebei: New Float
Bridge. Where the earlier version had contained exclusively Chine
modes of transportation, the new “floating bridge” (although clear
constructed on pilings) is the focal point of innovation with its ste
Tianjin’s Northern Floating Bridge, Yangliuqing, ca. 1873. Reproduced by permission of the Britis
Museum.
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174 JAMES A. FLATH
construction and gas lighting. The bridge traffic is now compo
entirely of imported forms of transportation; the traditional car
sedan chair are replaced by a carriage and rickshaw, and pedestr
traffic is partially crowded out by the bicycle. Significantly, the
forms of native transportation in view are the boats that pass ben
the bridge, unnoticed by commuters now preoccupied by the n
technology. Although women do not yet appear on foot or bicy
the new forms of transportation bring women into the open-m
obviously in the rickshaw, which appeared in China only in the 1
but quickly became the transportation of choice for men and wo
alike in the urban environment.6 Technology may thus appear as
centerpiece of change, but in its subtext, the image is also conce
with the changing social structures that are, quite literally, supp
by the new infrastructure.
The most popular technological representation in this print ge
however, is not the bridge, but the railway. The emergence of the ra
way as a source for graphic design may be traced back to Diansh
Pictorial (Dianshizhai huabao), a pictorial newspaper founded in
by a Shanghai-based British entrepreneur. As was the case with
British pictorial press, the Dianshizhai Pictorial seized on the spec
of steam in its early issues, although the overall absence of railw
in China at the time meant that steamships commanded a larger
ence in print. Nonetheless, the pictorial did include a noteworthy
erence to the abortive Wusong Railway, opened in 1876, but torn
Tianjin, Hebei: New Floating Bridge, Yangliuqing, ca. 1928, after Wang and Riftin, 1989.
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THE CHINESE RAILROAD VIEW 175
by conservative Chinese officials after less than a year of operation
Although this representation bears no likeness to either of the en
gines used on the line, it is nonetheless a technically accurate depi
tion of a locomotive of ca. 1860.7 More important is the conscious
treatment of the rising disparities between new forms of transport
tion and the old, apparent in the conspicuous placement of cool
laborers, carrying baskets and pushing wheelbarrows, alongside th
speeding train, with its Chinese passengers and foreign engineers.
Also not to be overlooked are the novel recessional perspectives pro-
vided by the disappearing rails, and the graphic contrasts evident in
the hard lines of the railway set against the impressionistic rural
scenery drawn from traditional Chinese landscape painting. Chang
is pictured as a literal contradiction in modes of transport and also i
the figurative contrast between linear and fluid graphic structures.
With its sensational content, the Dianshizhai Pictorial seems a
likely source of inspiration for the popular print industry, and indeed
a number of polychromatic prints originating in Shanghai do exhibit
such appropriations. Although such appropriation was less common
Wusong Railway, 1884. Dianshizhai huabao, no. 12, 1884.
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176 JAMES A. FLATH
in northern printing centers, several surviving examples demonstr
that some Yangliuqing printers observed what was happening
Shanghai and reproduced some Dianshizhai Pictorial subjects-i
cluding, not surprisingly, the Wusong Railway.8 Not withstandin
the fact that the subject of this print, titled simply Railway and Train
was already more than forty years out of date when it was foun
on the market in 1907-1908, the print is still interesting for the w
the artist incorporated the “modern” technological scene into the
world of popular print. The artist accurately reproduced the line
and technical elements of the machinery but disregarded much o
the perspective of the former representation, including the reced
tracks and the implication of distance provided in the Dianshizha
version. Whereas the original form is “journalistic” in its black a
white format, the Yangliuqing artist took pains to adapt the ima
to the popular print market by giving it the attributes that made
relevant as art. These include ornamental shrubbery, decorative cl
formations, and novel architecture, not to mention a rich palette
color.9
In North China, railways met with continuing opposition fro
the state throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century b
finally began to undergo rapid development toward the end of t
century. The first northern railway, and therefore the first act
model on which Yangliuqing printers could base their impression
Railway and Train, Yangliuqing, ca. 1907. After Wang and Riftin, 1989.
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THE CHINESE RAILROAD VIEW 177
began as a seven-mile tramway appended to the Kaiping coal mines
at Tangshan, to the northeast of Tianjin. This became a full-fledge
railway when a contraption christened Rocket of China began to ser
vice the line in 1881, and in 1888, …
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