Disappearing Shanghai

Photographs and Poems of an Intimate Way of Life

This book is a photographic exploration of life in the old and rapidly disappearing quarters of Shanghai, with accompanying poems and essays by the author of fiction and poetry, Qiu Xiaolong.

The photographs, all taken in a documentary style over a period of five years, represent an intimate and invaluable visual natural history of a way of life in the workers quarters and other central districts of the city that held sway throughout the 20th century and into the early years of the 21st century, before yielding to the ambitious ongoing efforts at urban reconstruction.

Mr. Qiu, whose best-known books are largely set in this old city, where his protagonist Inspector Chen walks around in investigations, is suited like few others to provide a lyrical accompanying text whose purpose is to celebrate the life, beauty and texture of this world before it has vanished altogether.

No photographer has pursued this subject with more dedication and persistence than Mr. French, whose photographs of Shanghai have been exhibited on four continents. Taken together, the work of these two contributors offers compelling esthetics and lasting historical value for lovers of Shanghai, past, present and future.

Homa & Sekey Books


Howard W. French, Qiu Xiaolong
Homa & Sekey Books
September 20, 2012

Howard French has taught at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism since 2008. For 23 years prior to joining the Columbia faculty, he was a reporter for The New York Times, where he worked as a foreign correspondent for two decades. During this time, French was the paper’s bureau chief in Shanghai, Tokyo, Abidjan and Miami. French’s documentary photography has featured in solo and group exhibitions on four continents, and collected by the Mildred Lane Kemper Museum in St. Louis.

Qiu Xiaolong is a writer who has published, among others, six novels featuring Inspector Chen, including Death of a Red Heroine, which won the Anthony Award for best first novel in 2001. His book Years of Red Dust, a collection of linked stories in Shanghai, was on the list of Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2010. Qiu was born and raised in Shanghai, where he was a renowned poet and translator.