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Britain's Chinese EyeLiterature, Empire, and Aesthetics in Nineteenth-Century Britain$
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Elizabeth Hope Chang

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780804759458

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804759458.001.0001

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Britain's Chinese Eye
Stanford University Press

The chapter shows how the urban spaces of the Chinese museum and the Chinese opium den became important locations for metonymic visions of China itself, and also demonstrates the problems incurred by narratives seeking to reterritorialize the Chinese commodities comprising these spaces into a British urban landscape. It argues that the opium den gained representation greatly disproportionate to its physical presence in Britain's urban environment by virtue of its connection to less sinister exhibitions of Chinese things. Yet the den's imagined existence as an intrusive kind of social space made useful counterpoint to the evolution of the urban geography more general. As changing demographics of immigration and internal relocation vastly increased city populations and so pressured the legibility of the urban environment, Chinese opium dens stood in for the most foreign and degenerate extremes of the urban slum's general obscurity.

Keywords:   urban spaces, Chinese museum, opium dens, British urban landscape, Chinese commodities

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