The Business of Culture

Cultural Entrepreneurs in China and Southeast Asia, 1900–65


Edited by Christopher Rea and Nicolai Volland

ISBN : 978-988-8208-49-4


February 2015

344 pages, 6″ x 9″, 31 b&w illus.; 5 tables

For sale in Asia, Australia, and New Zealand only

  • HK$280.00

The Business of Culture examines the rise of Chinese “cultural entrepreneurs,” businesspeople who risked financial well-being and reputation by investing in multiple cultural enterprises in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Rich in biographical detail, the interlinked case studies featured in this volume introduce three distinct archetypes: the cultural personality, the tycoon, and the collective enterprise. The studies include Law Bun, a Hong Kong pulp fiction and film magnate; Aw Boon Haw, the “tiger” behind the Tiger Brand pharmaceutical company; and the Shaw Brothers, filmmakers who drew thousands of people out each night to watch movies in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaya, and beyond. These portraits reveal how rapidly evolving technologies and growing transregional ties created fertile conditions for business success in the cultural sphere. They also highlight strategies used by cultural entrepreneurs around the world today.

Christopher Rea is an associate professor of Asian studies at the University of British Columbia. Nicolai Volland is an assistant professor of Asian studies and comparative literature at the Pennsylvania State University.

“The voices, lives, and enterprises that emerge from this delightful volume are vivid and illuminating—a captivating read.” —Thomas Mullaney, author of Coming to Terms with the Nation: Ethnic Classification in Modern China

The Business of Culture guides readers through the historical transition of the late imperial ‘man of letters,’ to the ‘cultural entrepreneur’ enabled by new technologies, followed by the PRC’s ‘worker in the arts,’ and concluding with the reemergence in China of the kinds of cultural entrepreneurship that had developed in other sinophone countries. Edited by two distinguished scholars, this volume will be essential to those studying the history of culture and commerce in China and Southeast Asia.” —Richard King, author of Milestones on a Golden Road: Writing for Chinese Socialism, 1945–80