Cross-cultural contact in Manchuria: approaches to lives in between, 1900s–1950s

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This article aims to uncover the lives of some of the individuals who, through the occupational and personal choices they made, moved between the Chinese and Russian societies of Manchuria (Northeast China) in the first half of the twentieth century. The Chinese Eastern Railway, which passed through the region and was central to its economy, provided the main framework for Chinese–Russian contact. Headquartered in Harbin, the Railway generated a need for interpreters and translators, while it also offered opportunities for commercial go-betweens. Russian schools employed Chinese teachers for language instruction. After a change in the balance of power, by the 1920s, Manchurian warlords hired former tsarist officers and soldiers into their armies. The article compares the functions of intermediaries in this region to the better-known examples of Shanghai, Canton and Hong Kong. Research on ‘compradors’ has been more often conducted in these geographical settings, whereas the roles of cross-cultural intermediaries in late imperial and republican China still remain relatively unexplored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)563-580
Number of pages18
JournalHistory and Anthropology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 20 Oct 2019


  • Chinese–Russian relations
  • Harbin
  • Intermediaries
  • Manchuria
  • cross-cultural contact
  • modern Chinese history


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