Public Passions

The Trial of Shi Jianqiao and the Rise of Popular Sympathy in Republican China

In 1935, a Chinese woman by the name of Shi Jianqiao murdered the notorious warlord Sun Chuanfang as he prayed in a Buddhist temple. This riveting work of history examines this well-publicized crime and the highly sensationalized trial of the killer. In a fascinating investigation of the media, political, and judicial records surrounding this cause célèbre, Eugenia Lean shows how Shi Jianqiao planned not only to avenge the death of her father, but also to attract media attention and galvanize public support.

Lean traces the rise of a new sentiment—”popular sympathy”—in early twentieth-century China, a sentiment that ultimately served to exonerate the assassin. The book sheds new light on the political significance of emotions, the powerful influence of sensational media, modern law in China, and the gendered nature of modernity.  —University of California Press


Eugenia Lean
University of California Press
April 2007

Eugenia Lean is Associate Professor in East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University. She is interested in a broad range of topics in late imperial and modern Chinese history with a particular focus on the history of science and industry, mass media, consumer culture, emotions and gender, as well as law and urban society. She is also interested in issues of historiography and critical theory in the study of East Asia.

Her current project is a cultural history of industrialization in late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century China that focuses on polymath Chen Diexian, a professional writer/editor, science enthusiast, and pharmaceutical industrialist, to explore the intersection among the popularization of science, commerce, and ways of authenticating knowledge in an era of mass communication. She received her BA from Stanford University, and her MA and PhD from UCLA.