Popular culture and the political mobilization of Guangdong elites in modern China and the Chinese diaspora, 1839-1911




Huang, Hairong

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



From 1839 to 1911, Guangdong elites, including Qing officials in the province, local gentry, native intellectuals, and so on, made full use of popular culture for political mobilization of the populace. This study examines the relationships of these Guangdong elites with both the Qing state and the common folks in China and the Chinese diaspora from the new perspective of popular culture. To be specific, Guangdong elites of different backgrounds mobilized the populace in the province to resist the British invasion of Qing China during the Opium War, to revolt against the Qing court during the Taiping Rebellion across southern China, and to push for the pro-Qing reforms or anti-Qing revolutionary movements among domestic and overseas Chinese. In this process, popular culture materials like ballads, operas, and comics provided a critical propaganda tool for Guangdong elites to cooperate with, compete with, or confront the Qing government while influencing the common folks. Meanwhile, the populace also expressed their assent, dissent, and adaptation to the elite political mobilization, by creating eulogistic or satiric ballads and tales, or by selecting, adapting, and transmitting certain popular culture materials politicized by Guangdong elites.



Popular Culture, Political Mobilization, Guangdong Elites, Modern China, Chinese Diaspora