The Shinto past of a Buddhist shrine (1)

It might interest list members to know that the Grand Hotel in Taipei now stands on the grounds of what was once the Taiwan shintō shrine (台灣神社). I’ve never heard of the 1974 edict, if anything I would have expected such an order to come down decades earlier, maybe the 1950s? At any rate, those interested in stories like this should check out Joe Allen’s book Taipei: City of Displacements. The story of the horse in a park resonates in particular with the incomplete erasure of Japanese flags.

Bert Scruggs <>

Visual Arts, Representations and Interventions in Contemporary China

Visual Arts, Representations and Interventions in Contemporary China: Urbanized Interface
Edited by Minna Valjakka and Meiqin Wang

ToC + Introduction

This edited volume provides a multifaceted investigation of the dynamic interrelations between visual arts and urbanization in contemporary Mainland China with a focus on unseen representations and urban interventions brought about by the transformations of the urban space and the various problems associated with it. Through a wide range of illuminating case studies, the authors demonstrate how innovative artistic and creative practices initiated by various stakeholders not only raise critical awareness on socio-political issues of Chinese urbanization but also actively reshape the urban living spaces. The formation of new collaborations, agencies, aesthetics and cultural production sites facilitate diverse forms of cultural activism as they challenge the dominant ways of interpreting social changes and encourage civic participation in the production of alternative meanings in and of the city. Their significance lies in their potential to question current values and power structures as well as to foster new subjectivities for disparate individuals and social groups. Continue reading

Sichuan’s Catholic past

Source: Sixth Tone (11/7/18)
On the Trail of Sichuan’s Catholic Past
The remote southwestern province is home to some of China’s oldest and most well-preserved Catholic churches.
By Ma Te

Sacred Heart Cathedral in Dechang County, Sichuan province, Feb. 9, 2018. Courtesy of Ma Te.

The southwestern province of Sichuan is situated in one of China’s most culturally, ethnically, and religiously diverse regions. Home to members of the Han, Tibetan, Hui, and Yi ethnic groups, among others, travelers to the area can find centuries-old Tibetan and Taoist temples standing alongside mosques and churches.

Of the various faiths practiced in Sichuan, Christianity stands out as a relative latecomer. The first Catholic missionary known to have reached the province was an Italian Jesuit named Lodovico Buglio, who spent much of the 1640s proselytizing there. Eventually, in 1753, the Paris Foreign Missions Society, a Catholic lay organization, took over responsibility for the Catholic missionary presence in Sichuan. By 1804, there was a small but growing community of Sichuanese Catholics, including 18 Chinese priests and four French missionaries. Continue reading

HK, Zhuhai, Macao bridge opens

Source: NYT (10/23/18)
China Opens Giant Sea Bridge Linking Hong Kong, Macau and Mainland
By Austin Ramzy

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge on Monday. The project includes a four-mile tunnel west of Hong Kong’s airport.CreditCreditKin Cheung/Associated Press

HONG KONG — China officially opened the world’s longest sea bridge on Tuesday after China’s leader, Xi Jinping, and local officials inaugurated the 34-mile structure, which crosses the Pearl River Delta to link Hong Kong with Macau and the mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai.

The project, which includes sections of bridge and artificial islands linked by a four-mile tunnel west of Hong Kong’s airport, went billions of dollars over budget and was delayed by two years. Chinese officials expect the bridge to significantly cut driving time between the two sides of the Pearl River, helping to achieve their vision of a Greater Bay Area, as China calls the effort to knit the region’s cities more closely.

Plans for the opening ceremony were announced just days beforehand, apparently timed to coincide with Mr. Xi’s first trip to the southern province of Guangdong in nearly six years. Mr. Xi’s contribution to the opening event, on an artificial island holding Zhuhai’s port facilities, was modest.

[Go deeper: China has built hundreds of dazzling new bridges, including the longest and highest, but many have fostered debt and corruption.]

President Xi Jinping of China at the opening of the bridge in Zhuhai, China, on Tuesday.CreditAly Song/Reuters

“I declare the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge is formally open,” he said, after comments by Vice Premier Han Zheng and local officials, including the leaders of Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong Province. Then digital fireworks exploded on a screen behind him.

Why was the bridge built?

The Pearl River Delta — which includes the financial center of semiautonomous Hong Kong, the tech hub of Shenzhen and manufacturing areas in several other mainland cities, including Dongguan — is a powerful economic engine for China. That status was bolstered by transportation projects like a highway linking the eastern cities in the 1990s.

The western side of the river, which includes the former Portuguese colony and gambling hub of Macau, is comparatively less developed. Local leaders hope the bridge will expand the potential for growth in the area, by easing access to cheaper land on the western side and ports and other infrastructure to the east.

Critics of the project say its goals are more political than economic, aiding efforts by China’s central government to bind the former colonies of Hong Kong and Macau more tightly with the rest of the country.

How much did it cost?

The 14-mile main span cost $7 billion. The Hong Kong government spent $13.7 billion more on tunnels and border-crossing facilities on an artificial island near the city’s airport.

At least 10 workers were killed during the nine years of construction, and environmentalists have raised concerns about potential harm to endangered Chinese white dolphins.

Members of a marine mammal research group looking for Chinese white dolphins near the bridge off Lantau Island in Hong Kong in May. Concerns have been raised about the bridge’s potential harm to the dolphins.CreditBobby Yip/Reuters

The construction was also dogged by corruption, with 19 people facing criminal charges over faked concrete tests.

The kickoff of the bridge comes one month after the opening of a high-speed-rail station in Hong Kong, which was controversial because it allows mainland police officers to operate in the heart of the former British colony for the first time.

What is special about it?

The structure required more than 400,000 tons of steel. It is raised to allow for ships to pass underneath. But because the bridge enters Hong Kong next to the city’s airport, the eastern sections were built according to strict height limits, and a four-mile undersea tunnel links the Hong Kong side to the main bridge span.

Since vehicles are driven on the right side of the road in mainland China and the left side in Hong Kong and Macau, the bridge includes a couple of points where drivers change sides.

Shuttle bus attendants on Friday in Hong Kong at a port building leading to the new bridge.CreditAlex Hofford/EPA, via Shutterstock

Who will use it?

Private cars will have limited access to the bridge, with special permits required to drive the entire distance. The Hong Kong government produced an animated video listing the requirements. “It is simple and convenient,” the narrator says unconvincingly.

Most travelers will cross on shuttle bus lines. Large parking lots have been built on either end for private cars. Government estimates for traffic by the year 2030 have been scaled back to 126,000 passengers daily from about 172,000.

The mainland city of Shenzhen, just north of Hong Kong, is building its own competitor bridge across the Pearl River that is expected to open in 2023.

New train blurs line btw China and HK

Source: The Guardian (10/4/18)
‘This is part of the plan’: new train blurs line between China and Hong Kong
The $11bn high-speed Vibrant Express connects Hong Kong with mainland China in 20 minutes for the first time – and the city’s residents are nervous
By Lily Kuo

The Hong Kong and China flags outside the West Kowloon station in Hong Kong.

‘They want us to go to China and work’ … The Hong Kong and China flags outside the newly built West Kowloon station in Hong Kong. Photograph: Jerome Favre/EPA

Inside the newly built West Kowloon terminus, it’s hard to know where Hong Kong stops and China begins.

A restaurant on one floor is technically on Hong Kong soil. Just below it, a duty-free shopping area belongs to neither government. Meanwhile, the VIP lounge one level down from that is Chinese territory.

In the open space of this cavernous train station, you can stand on Hong Kong territory (the ticketing floor) and look down into Chinese territory (the departure hall). Outside the station, the Chinese and Hong Kong flags fly side by side – with the red-and-white Hong Kong flag set slightly lower. Continue reading

Graduate Workshop on China in the Urban Age–cfp reminder

Reminder: Applications for the 2019 Graduate Workshop on China in the Urban Age close on Monday 8 October

This is a friendly reminder that the China Studies Centre’s 2019 Graduate Workshop on China in the Urban Age will close for applications on Monday 8 October 2018. The workshop will be devoted to “China’s Environmental Challenge and Eco-civilisation: a multidisciplinary approach to the Anthropocene”.

There is no enrollment fee for the graduate workshop. Participants will receive free accommodation. A number of scholarships will be available to help cover the cost of transport to Sydney (up to AUD 1500), relative to country of residence.

Please share this opportunity across your networks

Wen Chen <>

Call for Applications: 2019 Graduate Workshop on China in the Urban Age

The University of Sydney is organising the inaugural graduate workshop of the China Studies Centre’s recently launched multidisciplinary research program on China in the Urban Age. It will be devoted to “China’s Environmental Challenge and Eco-civilisation: a multidisciplinary approach to the Anthropocene”. The deadline for applications is 8 October. Continue reading

World Architecture Festival shortlist

Source: Radii (8/21/18)
Here are the Chinese Projects That Made the World Architecture Festival 2018 Shortlist
By Jake Newby
Here are the Chinese Projects That Made the World Architecture Festival 2018 Shortlist

With a main event taking place at the end of November in Amsterdam, the World Architecture Festival bills itself as “the world’s largest, live, inclusive and interactive global architectural awards programme and festival”. So how big is it? Well, their shortlist features 536 projects from 81 different countries. They’re nothing if not comprehensive.

There are over 35 categories of award, with most prizes broken down into recently completed and “coming soon” buildings and projects. That’s a lot to wade through, but there are some truly stunning creations to click around on on their website. Continue reading

Historic Shanghai theater makes a comeback

Source: China Daily (5/26/18)
Historical theater makes a comeback
By Zhang Kun in Shanghai

The facade of the Great Theater of China in Shanghai. Provided to China Daily

The 88-year-old Great Theater of China in Shanghai was reopened on May 16 after two years of renovations.

Located near People’s Square at 704 Niuzhuang Road in downtown Shanghai, the facility was built in 1930 as a prime venue for Peking Opera performance. Famous artists such as Mei Lanfang, Ma Lianliang and Meng Xiaodong used to sing in the theater, which was known as one of the “Top Four Stages” of Peking Opera.

The building was listed as a protected historical structure by the municipality in 2005. Huangpu district authorities later made the decision to renovate the building in 2012. The Ever Shining Cultural Group, the operator of the theater, invited RHWL Architects from Britain to work alongside a Chinese team for the renovation. Continue reading

Chinese architecture struggles to find its identity

Source: LARB China Channel (4/16/18)
Essence and Form: Chinese Architecture Struggles to Find its Identity
By Matt Turner

When Xi Jinping called for an end to “weird buildings” in a 2014 speech, journalists raced to point out their favorite offenders, from showpieces of contemporary architecture like Beijing’s massive CCTV tower or the Olympic “Bird’s Nest” Stadium, to less known (but no less striking) examples: buildings shaped like coins, sages, various teapots, and even the USS Enterprise. In comparison to these architectural oddities, Xi praised traditional Chinese architecture and the values it inspires (primarily loyalty to the state). Continue reading

Cross-Currents 26

New China-Related Content: Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review (March 2018 online issue): March 2018 e-Journal (No. 26)

Co-editors’ Note to Readers


Imagining China’s Children: Lower-Elementary Reading Primers and the Reconstruction of Chinese Childhood, 1945–1951
Carl Kubler, University of Chicago

Japanese Modernism at a “Branch Point”: On the Museum of Modern Art, Hayama’s 1937 Exhibition
Kevin Michael Smith, University of California, Davis

Review Essays

Transcultural, Resistant, Everyday: New Photographic Histories of China and Japan
Shana J. Brown, University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa
Luke Gartlan and Roberta Wue, eds. Portraiture and Early Studio Photography in China and Japan. New York: Routledge, 2017.
David Odo. The Journey of “A Good Type”: From Artistry to Ethnography in Early Japanese Studies. Cambridge, MA: Peabody Museum Press, Harvard University, 2015.
Kerry Ross. Photography for Everyone: The Cultural Lives of Cameras and Consumers in Early Twentieth-Century Japan. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015. Continue reading

Chroniclers of Chinese architecture

Source: NYT (4/12/18)
Overlooked No More: Lin Huiyin and Liang Sicheng, Chroniclers of Chinese Architecture
查看简体中文版 | 查看繁體中文版
In the 1930s, the couple began surveying and recording the country’s overlooked ancient buildings, in an effort to begin preserving them.
By Daniel E. Slotnik

Lin Huiyin and Liang Sicheng on their honeymoon in Europe in 1928.CreditCPA/Picture Alliance

Since 1851, obituaries in The New York Times have been dominated by white men. We launched Overlooked to tell the stories of women who left indelible marks on society, but whose deaths went unremarked by our newspaper. Now we’re expanding our lens to include other notable people — many of them marginalized — who were omitted.

Many of China’s ancient architectural treasures crumbled to dust before Lin Huiyin and Liang Sicheng began documenting them in the 1930s. In China, ancient structures were usually treated like any other buildings rather than being protected and studied, as they were in many Western countries. The husband and wife team were among the first preservationists to operate in China, and by far the best known. Their efforts have since inspired generations of people to speak out for architecture threatened by the rush toward development. Continue reading

Hangzhou museum memorializes Xu Zhimo

Source: China Daily (4/9/18)
Hangzhou museum memorializes poet Xu Zhimo

The main gate of the new Xu Zhimo Memorial Museum, in a photo taken on April 8, 2018. [Photo/VCG]

The Xu Zhimo Memorial Museum in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou has reopened to the public after being relocated to Lane 600 in the city’s Xicheng district.

With this upgrade to the old museum site, a new area has been set up to narrate the late Chinese poet’s bond to Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province.

Born in Zhejiang, Xu Zhimo (1987-1931) is one of China’s best-loved poets. In the 1920s, Xu studied at King’s College in Cambridge University. His poem, Farewell to Cambridge, written in 1928 when he made a later visit, is one of his most widely known pieces, learned by millions of schoolchildren across China. Continue reading

Urban diseases

Source: Sup China (3/26/18)
Shanghai and Beijing: China’s incredible shrinking megacities
What ailes China’s big cities, and what can be done to cure them?
By Lucas Niewenhuis

It’s a question that’s on a lot of policy makers’ minds in China, and one with incredible consequences depending on how it’s answered. The ailments of the cities — what are known as “urban diseases” (城市病 chéngshì bìng; also known as “big city disease”) in China — are familiar to major metropolises around the world, but there is substantial disagreement about how to treat them:

  • Traffic jams
  • Environmental degradation
  • Water scarcity
  • Housing scarcity
  • Employment scarcity
  • Social services scarcity

Continue reading

Quarry hotel

Source: The Guardian (3/22/18)
Views are the pits: welcome to China’s quarry hotel
Sixteen of Shanghai hotel’s 18 floors are technically underground, and the bottom two will be underwater
By Benjamin Haas, China correspondent

The Shanghai quarry hotel will feature two storeys that are underwater.

The Shanghai quarry hotel will feature two storeys that are underwater. Photograph: Atkins/REX/Shutterstock

A hotel built in an abandoned quarry that plunges 80 metres below ground level is nearing completion in China, part of a wave of ambitious architectural projects spurred by rapid economic growth.

The majority of the hotel on the outskirts of Shanghai hugs the wall of a deep pit, and 16 of the 18 floors are technically below ground, with two floors slated to sit underwater in a lake at the bottom of the quarry. There will be 336 rooms and an underwater restaurant when the Sheshan Shimao quarry hotel opens in late May. Continue reading