Playing with “Alien Fire” (Yanghuo): Matches in Late Nineteenth-and Early Twentieth-Century China

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Matches were imported into China beginning in the second half of the nineteenth century, and by the late 1870s “copies” started to appear, side-by-side with other foreign investment in the treaty ports. Combining modern technology of the chemical industry and mechanization, matches went deeply into daily life, used in cooking, keeping warm, lighting, and to light cigarettes throughout the twentieth century. This Chinese “copying” of the “match culture ” in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries shows that the process of proliferation in manufacturing and distribution involved technology transfer, as well as international and inter-regional competition and cooperation. It also encountered state intervention and corporate manipulation. This chapter suggests that the “copying issue,” which allowed newcomers to enter the industry relatively easily, turned into the major obstacle to corporate growth.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStudies in Economic History
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameStudies in Economic History
ISSN (Print)2364-1797
ISSN (Electronic)2364-1800

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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