Introduction to the Archive:
An emerging visual culture is transforming China's urban landscapes: the advertising of products and businesses both domestic and foreign. These new visual media disseminate economic information for a distinctly commercial purpose, but in doing so they may also -- directly, indirectly and even unintentionally -- create a means of rhetoric involving new sets and combinations of values, ideals and norms.
Scholars of contemporary Chinese culture often refer to this rhetoric -- particularly its transnational and transcultural aspects -- and these transformations in identifying the communication mechanisms of social change in China. But examples are not always easy to come by, and both selection and identification are persistent problems in empirical work.
Students and those who have not yet had the opportunity to stroll through China's changing urban vistas may find it particularly difficult to visualize these transformations and the play between images and messages.
To facilitate the visualization and discussion of these changes the Transnational China Project presents here hundreds of digital images systematically taken from an informal survey of Shanghai streets in December 1997 and January 1998. The survey comprised walking up and down Shanghai's major commercial thoroughfares -- Nanjing Road, Beijing Road, Huaihai Road -- and a few side streets -- Yuyuan Road, Changle Road, Xinyi Road -- and taking pictures of as many outdoor advertisements for goods and businesses as possible (the only selection criterion being that a clear picture of the advertisement could be taken).
We hope to provide more images from other cities in China and from Shanghai across different periods of time.