Before Tatler’s and Time Out

Shanghai Guide Aug 1941
Shanghai Guide Aug 1941

Shanghai guides like today’s Urbanatomy already existed in Old Shanghai, such as “all about Shanghai” and “Tael Lights” that I wrote about in older posts. One of the document I recently found is much rarer as it is a magazine about Shanghai night life. Long before websites like SmartShanghai, magazines similar to That’s Shanghai and Time Out were informing the public about events and nightlife in Old Shanghai. Picture left is the August issue of “Shanghai Guide” in English or “上海生活” (Shanghai Sheng Huo or Shanghai Life in Chinese). The magazine was started in 1936, published on the 17th day of the month.

Shanghai Guide was focused on many topics that are still part of today’s magazines. The cover definitely has a Art Deco / Modernist feeling to it, (already) displaying skyscrapers that were supposed to come soon to Shanghai after the incredible height of the brand new Park Hotel. Too bad Shanghai had to wait 90 years for them to be actually built . The artist impression of a modern and wonderful shopping center towered by a sky scrapper is really not much different from the ones in today’s Shanghai.

Chinese stars in swimsuits
Chinese stars in swimsuits

The life of Chinese stars was also one of the main anchor including quite a few pictures concentrated at the beginning of the magazine. Since this is the August issue, the pictures of this month are Chinese stars in swimsuits lazying around a swimming pool. It’s actually not different from a That’s Shanghai featuring one of the summer’s pool party in town during the hot months. Although taken nearly 70 years ago, the pictures show that fashion then was also not so different from today’s. It showed a little less of skin, but was surely something new and hot for the time, clearly very different from fashion in the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s in China. Shanghai was already the capital of glamour in China, just like it is again.

The magazine also contains a list of the new movies with a summary. No Imax and 3D effects then, but most of these movies are Hollywood productions just released in Shanghai, including “The Maltese Falcon” with Humphrey Bogart later featured in Casablanca. This icon of “film noir” was released in 1941 in the USA, and soon after in Shanghai. Stories and articles are also a large part of the magazine, along with advertising. They display Chinese miraculous drugs curing everything, pharmacies all kind of remedies but also many foreign and Chinese luxury products including Tissot Watches, Wasson electric fans as well as many brands of British and American cigarettes. This ancestor of the current lifestyle magazines looks very much like today’s ones.

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