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Mahjong, Rickshaw, and Confucius: Central-European Jewish Refugees’ Encounter with Chinese Culture in Wartime Shanghai 1938-1950

Date(s) - Thursday, June 23rd
7:00 pm CDT - 8:30 pm CDT

Jewish Museum Milwaukee

In this engaging lecture UW-Madison Associate Professor of German, Weijia Li, will examine the transnational cultural encounters between the Jewish refugees and their Chinese neighbors and illustrate how the Shanghai exile inspired a search for Chinese-Jewish resemblance.

As Shanghai tumbled into the Sino-Japanese War in the late 1930s, between 17,000 and 20,000 European Jewish refugees fled from the Nazi terror to the Chinese harbor city, the only place that did not enforce requirements of travel or immigration documents due to the so-called International Settlement established by the British and French colonial powers. The refugees’ hope to use Shanghai as a temporary waiting room for their transfer to North America or elsewhere was soon wrecked by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the breakout of the Pacific War. As a result, they ended up spending a decade in China. While the Jewish refugee community in Shanghai thrived despite the harshness of life in the exile and during the war, the Jewish survival in the Chinese city promoted the interaction between the European refugees and the Chinese locals.

About the Speaker

Weijia Li is Assistant Professor of German at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was born and raised in China, and his parents are still living in Shanghai. He received his Ph.D. in Germanic Languages and Literatures from The Ohio State University in 2009. His research and teaching interests include Chinese-German-cultural encounters reflected in German literature, press, and art history. In 2010, he published a book on German Jewish writer Anna Seghers’s encounter with China in her life and works. He’s currently working on a new book project on German and Yiddish writings on China by European Jewish refugees in Shanghai during WWII.

This event is free for members, $5 for non-members.

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