Jacqueline Tsai

China and Luxury Publication date : June 5, 2008

This is a history of China, from antiquity to modernity, viewed through Chinese representations and practices of luxury. Why is jade the incarnation of luxury, in China? What is revealed by the art of living and by the apparent idleness of traditional Chinese scholars? What did the custom of foot binding represent in the Chinese canon of beauty and refinement? What can we learn from the qipao, the figure-hugging dress, often slit to the hip, and worn with high heels, that was popular in Shanghai in the 1930s? How can we explain the success of shopping malls, first in Hong Kong, the consumers' paradise of the 1980s, and now in Shanghai? What can we read into such current tendencies as the revival of traditional teahouses, or the cult of Shanghai's “golden age”, or the popularity of Chinese antiques? By studying these and other illuminating examples, Jacqueline Tsai explores Chinese society, its evolution and trends.

After being represented the world over by pictures of blue-uniformed crowds waving copies of the Little Red Book, then, later, as the world's factory, China has become the El Dorado for luxury products. Today, global fads often originate in Shanghai and Beijing. The growing Orientalism of Western consumer trends and the current craze for Chinese films and contemporary art confirm the worldwide popularity of Chinese luxury goods.

• From traditional China to today's sprawling urban centres, the author offers her penetrating insight into Chinese history and into the many forms that luxury has taken.

• At a time when Western businesses are eagerly investing in China's booming economy, this thorough study of current trends examines such aspects as nostalgia for the age of the mandarins, or for the colonial China of the 1930s; the imitation of the West; the obsession with prestigious brand names. This is the China of today, combining fantasized traditions, assertive nationalism and uninhibited consumerism.

• A fascinating cultural history as well as a detailed portrayal of current fashions and trends, this book will delight lovers of ancient Imperial China, fans of such films as In the Mood for Love and the recent Lust, Caution, and anyone who is curious about tendencies originating in Beijing and Shanghai — the cities that succeeded the Hong Kong of before reunification as tend setters.

• A study of luxury reveals contemporary Chinese ambitions in its relations with the West. After dominating the market through hard work and high productivity, China may be about to become an economic leader in luxury goods — because luxury is so deeply rooted in Chinese history and society.

Jacqueline Tsai is a business analyst at Louis Vuitton, where she is in charge of studies and economic intelligence.