Scents of China: A Modern History of Smell

Research output: Book/ReportBook


In this vivid and highly original reading of recent Chinese history, Xuelei Huang documents the eclectic array of smells that permeated Chinese life from the High Qing through to the Mao period. Utilising interdisciplinary methodology and critically engaging with scholarship in the expanding fields of sensory and smell studies, she shows how this period of tumultuous change in China was experienced through the body and the senses. Drawing on unexplored archival materials, readers are introduced to the 'smellscapes' of China from the eighteenth to mid-twentieth century via perfumes, food, body odours, public health projects, consumerism and cosmetics, travel literature, fiction and political language. This pioneering and evocative study takes the reader on a sensory journey through modern Chinese history, examining the ways in which the experience of scent and modernity have intertwined.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages309
ISBN (Electronic)9781009207065
ISBN (Print)9781009207041
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Oct 2021


  • smell
  • sensory history
  • China


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