Take the 2-minute tour ×
History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I've been doing research on Old Shanghai, during the 19th Century and early 20th Century. I know all about the Opium Wars and the Opium trade and their effect on the country. But I'm still not sure why one would call it "Whore of the Orient." Was it because of the country's addiction to opium during the time, the flood of European refugees, or just the city's popularity?

The easiest answer would be that the city was called a "whore" because of it's opium addiction, as though it's a "whore" for opium. But I want to make sure that this is the reason, and the term doesn't come from something unrelated.

share|improve this question
    
My guess would be that was because the city accepted pretty much anybody who wanted to go live there, and was kind of decadent and corrupt. However, this acceptance was based on treaties forced upon China at gunpoint, so perhaps this wasn't the most accurate female metaphor that could have been used... –  T.E.D. Sep 13 '12 at 13:10

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It tended to be more than just that, opium dens were prevalent there but so was gambling and the Self-Strengthening movement and the Kuomintang repression of the Communists. Shanghai was also considered the "Pearl of the Orient" as well as the "Paris of the East" because of its artistic and intellectual community. The names were used depending on whether or not you had a fondness for the city or not. I'd say that the use of the term you are looking at comes from people who had an issue with the Chinese or Shanghai itself, sure there was an underbelly there but I think you could find that in any well developed city in the world at the time.

Rather than the new LA Noir game I did find one College Course that gives some high level overview, I might have more at home but will need to look later.

share|improve this answer
    
Yeah, that damn game completely poisoned my google results. :-) –  T.E.D. Sep 13 '12 at 13:15

Shanghai was a center of "good living," hence the good nicknames, Pearl of the Orient and Paris of the East. But it was also a center of vices. These included opium, gambling, and "trafficking" in women.

For a woman to be "shanghaied" (in the slang of the day) was to be kidnapped into "white slavery" (prostitution).

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.