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The public lavatory of Tianjin: A change of urban faeces disposal in the process of modernisation

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There is no question that public lavatories are an essential part of a modern city's sanitation facilities and a crucial part of urban faeces disposal. In traditional Chinese thought, faeces are associated with wealth, as they can be used as a natural fertiliser. As such, public lavatories are also considered a useful place to store human excrement for agricultural purposes. During the first half of the twentieth century, the city of Tianjin, China, was experiencing modernisation for the first time: new sanitary control systems were being built, water and sewage systems were gradually improving and modern concepts of sanitation, including public lavatories, assumed an increasingly important role in society. The public lavatory can be viewed as a sign of sanitation concepts and government control, as a place that reflects the technology and ideas of its time and as a crucial link between urban and rural areas within a Chinese city.
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Keywords: Republican China; Tianjin; faeces; fenfu; fertiliser; modernisation; public lavatory; sanitation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2016-04-01

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  • The half-yearly journal Global Environment: A Journal of History and Natural and Social Sciences acts as a forum and echo chamber for ongoing studies on the environment and world history, with special focus on modern and contemporary topics. Our intent is to gather and stimulate scholarship that, despite a diversity of approaches and themes, shares an environmental perspective on world history in its various facets, including economic development, social relations, production government, and international relations.
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