By Yingying Huang
Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 30, no.2 (Fall 2018), pp. 173-216
This essay investigates the fantasy of a world expo held in the future Shanghai that appears in three late Qing fictional narratives: Liang Qichao’s The Future of New China (1902-1903), Wu Jianren’s New Story of the Stone (1908), and Lu Shi’e’s New China (1910), to understand their time-space construction in fuller dimensions. Contentious popular and scholarly discussions position time as deficient, but this essay asserts that these futurist narratives are not just about time, but about space—in particular, the visual representation of issues regarding the Chinese territory and the international power distribution therein. It argues that territorial deprivation and shame fueled the desire to be strong in the foreigner’s eye, i.e. a transnational vision, which compels the expo fantasies to unfold in an expositional space. This vision inspires images of expansion, power relocation, and exhibition before an international audience, despite or because of the dilemma of time.