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Marriage and Inequality in Chinese Society$
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Rubie Watson and Patricia Buckley Ebrey

Print publication date: 1991

Print ISBN-13: 9780520069305

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520069305.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 03 July 2022

Prostitution and the Market in Women in Early Twentieth-Century Shanghai

Prostitution and the Market in Women in Early Twentieth-Century Shanghai

(p.256) Eight Prostitution and the Market in Women in Early Twentieth-Century Shanghai
Marriage and Inequality in Chinese Society

Gail Hershatter

University of California Press

This chapter discusses the living and working conditions of prostitutes in early twentieth-century Shanghai. It begins with a description of the complex class structure of prostitution and a rough estimate of the numbers of women involved, and then explores common elements in the family background and personal history of prostitutes in addition to the financial arrangements by which a woman entered a brothel. The chapter examines the brothel as a social world with its own rules, codes, and risks, and also asks how a prostitute's working life mimicked the rituals of courtship and marriage (with respect to customers) and family life (with respect to madams). Finally, it considers the “career path” of prostitutes, particularly the exit into marriage or concubinage. How permeable was the boundary around prostitution, by whom could it be crossed, and under what circumstances? The chapter concludes with some observations about the Shanghai market in women.

Keywords:   China, prostitutes, prostitution, brothel, working life

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