Vice, Brothels & Prostitution

Shanghai, with its youth and lack of clear administrative and social controls, was a natural environment for vice of all kinds to flourish. The constraints of traditional Chinese were largely absent. In 1920, the Shanghai Municipal Council made a futile attempt to stamp out prostitution in the International Settlement. The council adopted a resolution under which the number of licensed brothels in the Settlement was to be diminished gradually, until they were completely abolished.

But by the 1930s, greater Shanghai is said to have had a hundred thousand prostitutes. The French Concession, once a quiet residential area, became a haven for all sorts of illegal activities, and in the Chinese areas of the city controls were notoriously lax.