International History of Magazines 4: China and Japan

JAPAN AND CHINA

As one of the most literate countries in the world, Japan has a rich magazine history even if relatively short. That the newspaper and magazine are Western formats is well known, and yet as in other, mainly non-Anglophone, countries the distinction between the two is not always clear. Just two years after Japan was opened to the west in 1859, the Englishman Albert William Hansard began the Nagasaki Shipping List and Advertiser: this became the model for Japanese-language newspapers. The first magazine, which appeared in 1867, was the Seiyo-Zasshi, (“Western Magazine”) featuring articles translated from Dutch. Only six issues were published before it folded in 1869, but its influence is generally considered enormous, not least because it introduced the term “zasshi” into Japanese to mean  “magazine”.

The women’s magazine, initially targeting the wealthy (cf. the history of the women’s magazine in the west), arose in the early years of the twentieth century with Katei-no-Tomo (“The Family Companion”) in 1903. The Fujin Gahō, (“Ladies Pictorial”), first published in 1905 and still published (as of 2015), is significant not only for its aesthetic illustrations but also for its early use of photographs. The women’s magazine market proved lucrative: the Shufu-no-Tomo (“The Housewives’ Companion”), begun in 1916, enabled the founding of a publishing empire named after it (now a subsidiary of Dai Nippon Printing Co. Ltd). In the 1922 two newspapers, the Asahi Shimbun and the Mainichi Shimbun, began to publish weekly news magazines, the Shukan Asahi and the Sunday Mainichi, anticipating the miscellaneous news format of Time Magazine by a year. Despite these innovations, circulations were limited until the 1950s and the growth of consumerism. Women’s magazines were now launched into the mass rather than just restricted market, as did, a decade later, men’s magazines such as Shukan Playboy (1966 – ; not a regional version of the American Playboy). Since then, there has been a proliferation of magazines catering to a very wide range of target readerships. These are almost all produced by large media conglomerates.

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Although China had for centuries published a serial state organ (known in English as the Imperial Gazette), magazine publishing was introduced into China in the early nineteenth century by Christian missionaries. One of the earliest was the Chinese-language Chashisu Meiyue Tongjizhuan (“China Monthly Magazine”) started in 1815 by Robert Morrison and William Milne of the London Missionary Society. Around the same time, Anglophone and Portuguese missionary magazines appeared in South China and Southeast Asia. In the 1860s foreign-owned commercial newspapers in treaty ports such as Hong Kong and Shanghai joined the missionary periodicals and provided the models for Chinese-owned publications. After Japan’s defeat of China in 1895, the government stepped up its internal print propaganda and restricted (when not stopped) circulation of papers critical of its policies. As a result many journalists turned away from politics and newspapers to mass entertainment and to magazines and hybrid magazine-newspapers called xiaobao (often defined as similar to Western “tabloids” mixing literary genres, news and fiction).

After the Communist Revolution of 1949 very few periodicals were allowed: the most important was Renmin Huabao (“The People’s Pictorial” 1950-), whose title characters were written by Mao Zedong himself, Jīn Zhōngguó (“China Today” 1949-), Dazhong dianying (“Popular Film” 1950-). In the late 1980s, magazine markets were opened and Chinese-language versions of Western women’s and men’s magazines, such as Elle, Cosmopolitan and Men’s Health, as well as versions of Japanese magazines, competed with local products. Currently (2015) magazines are again the site of a commercial battle for readers and advertising between foreign and domestic media conglomerates.

OVERVIEWS

Bennett, Adrian A. 1983 Missionary Journalist in China: Young J. Allen and his Magazines. Athens, Ga: University of Georgia Press

An early study of Chinese missionary magazines, this focuses on the figure of an American missionary. It offers a comprehensive description of his two Chinese-language magazines, the Chiao-hui hsin-pao (“Church Times” 1868-1874) and the Wan-kuo king-pao (“Chinese Globe Magazine”, 1874-1883), which the author claims to be the most important intellectual periodicals before the Sino-Japanese war.

Frederick Sarah. 2006 Turning Pages: Reading and Writing Women’s Magazines in Interwar Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press

Originating in a PhD dissertation at the University of Chicago, this is an accessible yet ground-breaking study of three mass-market Japanese women’s magazines between 1918 and 1940 that convincingly asks us to place these publications far closer to the centre of our understanding of Japanese modernity and literature than hitherto.

Minobu Shiozawa. 1994. Zasshi 100-nen no ayumi, 1874-1990 : jidai to tomoni tanjōshi seisuisuru nagare o yomu (“A Century of Magazines, 1874-1990: its birth, successes and failures”). Tōkyō: Gurīn Arō Shuppansha.

The standard history of Japanese magazines unfortunately not yet translated.

Mittler, Barbara. 2004. A Newspaper for China? Power, Identity and Change in Shanghai’s News Media, 1872-1924. Cambridge, Mass and London: Harvard University Asia Center

An outstanding study of a single publication which, even though it is of a newspaper, is very useful for the study of magazines in China as it devotes attention to the wider publishing context, including, in chapter 4, women’s magazines.

Reed, Christopher A. 2004. Gutenberg in Shanghai: Chinese Print Capitalism, 1876-1937. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press

Although magazines are incidental to this richly-researched volume — it focuses on commercial book production rather than the periodical press — Reed’s work provides illuminating background information on how the Chinese print industry was a battleground for foreign and domestic ownership and thereby control of information dissemination and propaganda.

Shen, Shuang. 2009. Cosmopolitan Publics: Anglophone Print Culture in Semi-Colonial Shanghai. New Brunswick, New Jersey and London: Rutgers University Press

An intriguing study of “a culture of circulation” of English in China and also of the Chinese diaspora, this has a lot of interesting material on nineteenth- and twentieth-century Chinese and English-language magazines, though the focus is on the twentieth century. Two chapters focus on the China Critic (founded 1928) and on the T’ien Hsia (an English-language Shanghai monthly published 1935-1941), and two more on various international Anglophone magazines about China and on magazines related to the Chinese diaspora.

Wagner, Rudolph G. Ed. 2007 Joining the Global Public: Word, Image and City in Early Chinese Newspapers, 1870-1910. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press

Despite the title of this fascinating and well-researched volume , two chapters of the six (including the introduction) are devoted to magazines, one to the Dianshizhai huabao (Illustrated News from Dianshizhai, 1884-1898) and another to xiaobao (translated as “tabloids” but which recall general interest entertainment magazines).

Zhang, Xiantao. 2007. The Origins of the Modern Chinese Press. The Influence of the Protestant Missionary Press in late Qing China. Oxford: Routledge.

A readable and theoretically informed account of Chinese-language missionary journals with careful attention to their dialogue with local productions consisting of both their contemporaries in the nineteenth century and today’s journalistic practices. Not only concerned with discourse, one chapter describes the interesting impact of missionaries on Chinese print technology.

DATABASES

Magazineplus http://www.nichigai.co.jp/database/mag-plus.html

This vast database, the largest Japanese magazine database,  includes, unusually, trade and professional magazines as well as an ever expanding list of general interest, local and specialist magazines. Well over 27,000 titles have been indexed as of writing (2015).

Meiji Shinbun Zasshi Bunko http://www.meiji.j.u-tokyo.ac.jp/

A major database of newspapers and magazines at the University of Tokyo that is particularly useful. The library collections include 2,030 newspapers and 7,550 periodicals, in addition to original prints and earlier editions from the Meiji era.

Scholarly and Academic Information Navigator (CiNii)  http://ci.nii.ac.jp/info/en/cinii_outline.html

This database includes Japanese articles, books and periodicals, mostly but not exclusively from the natural sciences. Many articles are publicly available.

Shenbao database:   http://shenbao.uni-hd.de/Lasso/Shenbao/searchSimple.lasso

A rather clunky database of the contents of one of the longest lived and most successful of early Chinese newspapers, the Shenbao founded in 1871 by a British merchant, Ernest Major (1841-1908).

Chinese Women’s Magazines in the Late Qing and Early Republican Period: http://womag.uni-hd.de/index.php

An excellent database comprising fully searchable (in Roman characters) copies of four key women’s magazines published between 1904 and 1937: Nïzi shijie (Women’s World, 1904-7), Funü shibao (The Women’s Eastern Times 1911-17), Funü zashi (The Ladies Journal, 1915-1831) and Linglong (Elegance, 1931-1937)

Zasshi kiji sakuin shusei detabesu

Available through some institutions, this database indexes periodical articles published in Japanese from 1868 onwards, including those in former Japanese colonies and local periodicals. It also provides the capability to simultaneously search CiNii (q.v.). It is especially valuable for the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Andrew King

Andrew King is Professor of English Literature and Literary Studies at the University of Greenwich. He has always been interested in how and why certain texts are kept for posterity and others disappear. His first degree was in classical and medieval Latin, and he has MAs in Medieval Studies and English. He completed his PhD in English at Birkbeck, supervised by Laurel Brake. He taught for many years at Universities overseas, though immediately before he came to Greenwich in May 2012, taught at Canterbury Christ Church University. His official profile can be found at http://www2.gre.ac.uk/about/schools/humanities/about/departments/cca/staff/andrew-king.

4 thoughts on “International History of Magazines 4: China and Japan”

  1. This is a fascinating post about an area with which I am not familiar, but which I look forward to exploring further. Thank you for posting these resources.

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