City Life in Nineteenth Century Beijing

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: City Life in Nineteenth Century Beijing
Stream: History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Emily Mokros, University of Kentucky, United States (presenter)
Daniel Barish, Baylor University, United States (presenter)
Bingyu Zheng, Bridgewater State University, United States (presenter)
Xi Ju, Beijing Normal University, China (presenter)
Zhenzhen Lu, University of Pennsylvania, United States (organizer, presenter)
Luca Gabbiani, École française d’Extrême-Orient, France (chair, discussant)


The nineteenth century was a time of tremendous change throughout the Qing empire. The local history of its capital city, Beijing, can be read as an assortment of stories – from crime and surveillance to spectacle and sensation, from imperial presence and absence to evolving forms of popular worship and entertainment. Utilizing sources ranging from court records to anecdotal sources and local inscriptions, this panel explores the diverse facets of life in the late Qing capital. With view to its broad range of inhabitants, from human folk to animal spirits, the papers together portray a changing city distinctly different from our known images of High Qing and Republican-era Beijing.

Emily Mokros takes the fore by examining crime and defense in the city under the backdrop of the Taiping Rebellion, studying the symptoms of and responses to urban disorder while shedding light on the lives of ordinary denizens. Next, Daniel Barish explores the changing meaning of imperial processions in a time of waning imperial authority, where weddings and funerals of young monarchs created new opportunities for engagement between the court and city residents. Bingyu Zheng examines the daily lives of Beijing bannermen and their image in public discourse and the popular imagination during the Daoguang era. Ju Xi follows with a study on the evolving animal cults of Beijing in the nineteenth century. Finally, Zhenzhen Lu explores the city’s flourishing scenes of scribal publishing and storytelling entertainment. Luca Gabbiani, who has written extensively on Qing Beijing, serves as chair and discussant.