The Rise of Cultural Entrepreneurship in Twentieth-Century China and Southeast-Asia

Speakers: Prof. Christopher Rea, Prof. Nicolai Volland and Prof. Kai Ostwald

Drawing on their recent book, The Business of Culture: Cultural Entrepreneurs in China and Southeast Asia, 1900-65, Rea and Volland will trace the emergence of three distinct archetypes of cultural entrepreneur: the cultural personality, the tycoon, and collective enterprises. These include the likes of Lü Bicheng, a famous classical poet, who parlayed her literary prestige into a career as the principal of a Beijing girls’ school and then used her business fortune to build a high-profile persona as a glamorous foreign correspondent; Aw Boon Haw, the “tiger” behind the Tiger Brand of pharmaceuticals; and the Shaw Brothers, ethnic Chinese filmmakers and exhibitors who drew thousands of people out each night to watch movies in Singapore and British Malaya. Their conversation with Dr Kai Ostwald will delve into the conditions that lead to the rise of modern Chinese cultural entrepreneurship, and consider its resurgence in recent decades.