Graduate Spring 2023: Yilan Luo

Gambling History in Twentieth Century Shanghai, 1911-1965

Department of History 

My dissertation explores the history of gambling in twentieth-century Shanghai using games of chance as a lens into the history of play and argues that gameplay gives us a window onto a wide range of social, economic, and political relationships. Throughout much of Chinese history, authorities and intellectuals viewed gambling as a social vice to regulate if not entirely eradicate because it was often closely associated with crime and disorder. Despite gambling’s negative connotations, this “pathological culture” persists in China today—even after serious efforts by the state to eliminate gambling during the high socialist years from the 1950s through the 1970s—not merely as a form of entertainment but as a critical mode of building social networks.