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Struggling for Livelihood: Social Conflict through the Teahouse in Republican Chengdu

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This article reveals that teahouses were the scene of a variety of conflicts, from verbal disputes and petty thefts to violence and murder. The author argues that the teahouse, although mainly a place for leisure, business and public life, also became an arena for struggle for livelihood. The teahouse was a microcosm of Chengdu, and anything undertaken there reflected the larger society. Conflicts in the teahouse to a large extent reflected current social issues. Fights broke out when people found it difficult to solve their problems, to make a living and to survive, or when they were anxious or unhappy in the face of injustice, the deteriorating economy, hunger, insecurity and war. On the other hand, conflicts also arose from the abuse of power and privilege and the tyrannical response to social turmoil by thugs, soldiers and outlaws. We can see such unfortunate periods during the first half of the twentieth century. The author also tries to point out that the teahouse functioned as a stage where all kinds of people performed roles that were both good and evil, but all became part of teahouse culture and teahouse life.


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