Korean J Med Hist.  2023 Aug;32(2):727-756. 10.13081/kjmh.2023.32.727.

Smallpox Prevention and Public Healthcare in China in the 1920s and 1930s: Focusing on the Cases of Shanghai and Beijing

  • 1Department of Medical Humanities & Institute for Women’s History of Medicine, Korea University College of Medicine


Beijing and Shanghai, representative modern cities in China, witnessed the development of various urban infrastructures and quarantine systems in the 1920s and 1930s. Both cities established Health Demonstration Stations in the 1930s, as part of their implementation of modern health administration. This foundation played a pivotal role for making health administration more practical. Huang Zi-fang (1899-1940) and Hu Hung-ji (1894-1932), the inaugural directors of the health bureau in the respective cities, were both graduates of the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health in the United States. They shared a similar view of public health. Active exchanges occurred between the heads of the health administration in the two cities who were the leading forces in the health reform, encompassing various health experiments including the Health Demonstration Station.
During the 1930s in China, state medicine gained prominence as the most ideal medical model for constructing a modern state. As such, the quarantine activities they promoted were also considered the most ideal model. The public health care centered on Health Demonstration Stations in the 1920s and 1930s that developed in large Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai pursued similar goals by strengthening quarantine administration through free medical treatment and modern spatial control. Nonetheless, each city exhibited differences in terms of the subjects and targets of quarantine, as well as the primary bases of quarantine, which were either Health Demonstration Stations or hospitals.
Both municipal governments and the civilian sector led the sanitary infrastructure development. While Shanghai showed stronger development in terms of the number of vaccinations, Shanghai’s dualized quarantine system did not necessarily create a better health environment than Beijing in terms of spatial control.
In the 1940s, the Japanese occupation government implemented measures to inherit and further develop existing health administrations in Beijing and Shanghai. Existing international settlements were incorporated into the Japanese occupation government, and the occupation government pursued homogenization of urban space and tried to maintain the existing urban policy as much as possible to preserve the status quo. However, the intensification of the Anti-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War brought an end to the health experiment centered around the Health Demonstration Station in China in the first half of the twentieth century.


smallpox; public healthcare; Health Demonstration Station; Shanghai; Beijing; state medicine; 두창; 공공의료; 상하이; 베이징; 위생구사무소; 국가의료
Full Text Links
  • KJMH
export Copy
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
Similar articles
Copyright © 2023 by Korean Association of Medical Journal Editors. All rights reserved.     E-mail: koreamed@kamje.or.kr