In This Review

The Lius of Shanghai
The Lius of Shanghai
By Sherman Cochran, Andrew Hsieh
Harvard University Press, 2013, 472 pp

Liu Hongsheng (1888–1956) was a prosperous Shanghai industrialist whose household exemplified the traditional Confucian family’s transition into modernity. Cochran discovered a trove of letters that span the 1920s to the 1950s, as family members pursued education, marriage, and business prospects all over China and in Japan and the West. He and his co-author provide historical context and sensitive cultural and psychological interpretations but allow most of the story to come out in the family’s sometimes stilted but honest and moving words. Father guides the educations and careers of his nine sons to prepare them to oversee different parts of his expanding business empire. Mother stands guard over her children’s marital choices and worries about whether her husband has other women (he does). Eldest Daughter has an affair with a married man; her parents disown her, but they eventually reconcile. Sixth Son converts to Christianity and then joins the Communist Party. Once the Communists come to power, after much indecision, Father brings most of the children back to mainland China, and the keyhole on this fascinating saga regrettably closes.