Treasures for the masses

Source: SCMP (5/7/17)
The Forbidden City’s treasures for the masses, at their finger tips
The Palace Museum wants not only to sell cultural heritage, but also merchandise inspired by the imperial past that Chinese consumers have a thirst for 
By Celine Ge

At China’s five century old Forbidden City in the heart of Beijing, 16 million visitors a year navigate through its numerous halls and pavilions with red walls and yellow-glazed roof tiles perched on white marble terraces.

Museum officials are hopeful that the visitors take away with them a grasp of the aesthetics of Chinese ancient architecture and the brilliance of the artisans, as well as be persuaded by the “soft power” of a country with 5,000 years of civilization. Continue reading

My Beijing: The Sacred City

Source: NYT (5/1/17)
My Beijing: The Sacred City
This metropolis was once a total work of art, epitomizing the religious and political system that ran China for millennia. The remnants of that time are being restored anew.

A view of Ritan Park in Beijing, which houses the Temple of the Sun. It was built in 1530, one of four shrines where the emperor worshiped key heavenly bodies. Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times

When I first came to Beijing in 1984, the city felt dusty and forgotten, a onetime capital of temples and palaces that Mao had vowed — successfully, it seemed — to transform into a landscape of factories and chimneys. Soot penetrated every windowsill and every layer of clothing, while people rode simple steel bicycles or diesel-belching buses through the windy old streets.

Then, as now, it was hard to imagine this sprawling city as the sacred center of China’s spiritual universe. But for most of its history, it was exactly that. Continue reading

China funds new garden in Washington

Source: Washington Post (4/27/17)
China wants a bold presence in Washington — so it’s building a $100 million garden
By Adrian Higgins

The Ge Garden in Yangzhou, which will be replicated in the National China Garden at the National Arboretum. (Courtesy of the National China Garden)

This summer, a construction team is expected to begin transforming a 12-acre field at the U.S. National Arboretum into one of the most ambitious Chinese gardens ever built in the West.

By the time Chinese artisans finish their work some 30 months later, visitors will encounter a garden containing all the elements of a classical Chinese landscape: enticing moongate entrances, swooping and soaring roof lines, grand pavilions with carved wooden screens and groves of golden bamboo. The grounds will boast two dozen handcrafted pavilions, temples and other ornate structures around a large central lake. Continue reading

Xiong’an New Area

Source: China Daily (4/3/17)
New area to be ‘historic’ development
By China Daily

New area to be 'historic' development 

Xiongan will spur economic growth, take over Beijing’s noncapital roles

China will develop a new area in the northern region parallel to the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone in the south and the Shanghai Pudong New Area in the east to serve as another economic engine and advance the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.

The establishment of the Xiongan New Area in Hebei province is a “major historic and strategic choice made by the Communist Party of China Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core,” said a circular issued by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on Saturday. Continue reading

Demolishing Dalian

Source: SCMP (3/23/17)
Demolishing Dalian: China’s ‘Russian’ city is erasing its heritage – in pictures
Founded by the Russians, Dalian boasts a wealth of architectural history. But now its treasured buildings are marked for demolition – and the government is being sued. One student went to capture the area before it disappear.
By Francesca Perry


‘I thought these old houses were something special in this city, but they were dying.’ Photograph: @greeninglew/Instagram

Sitting on the Liaodong Peninsula in north-east China, the second-tier city of Dalian has a complex history. Transformed in 1898 from a small fishing village into a major port city under Russian rule, Dalian passed into Japanese hands in the 1930s before falling under Soviet control after the second world war. In 1950, the USSR handed the city over to the Chinese government.

Dalian’s cityscape reflects this history, with Japanese and Russian architecture surrounded by gleaming new commercial skyscrapers. One of the most famous examples is Russian Street, originally called Engineer Street. Continue reading

More 100 cities above 1 million

Source: The Guardian (3/20/17)
More than 100 Chinese cities now above 1 million people
Government policy and a shift westward have fed the staggering scale of China’s urban ambitions – 119 cities as big as Liverpool, and likely double that by 2025

By Benjamin Haas in Hong Kong

China now has more than 100 cities of over 1 million residents, a number that is likely to double in the next decade.

According to the Demographia research group, the world’s most populous country boasts 102 cities bigger than 1 million people, many of which are little known outside the country – or even within its borders.

Quanzhou, for example, on the south-east coast of China, was one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world a millennium ago, when it served as a hub for traders from across Asia and the Middle East. It is now home to more than 7 million people, nearly 800,000 more than Madrid. Continue reading

Beijing rooftoppers

Source: That’s Beijing (3/11/17)
The Beijing Rooftoppers Who’ll Do (Almost) Anything for the Shot
By Dominique Wong

They hang off cranes hundreds of meters above the ground, balance on the edge of skyscrapers and do backflips against the CCTV cityscape. And they capture it all to post on Instagram afterwards.

For Beijing’s urban wanderers, the city is their playground and urban exploration – the discovery of abandoned and inhabited man-made structures – gets them high. Literally. The ‘money shot’ of urban exploration photography is the rooftop shot – a photo captured from the top of buildings or other high vantage points of metropolises, an image inspiring awe, terror and, at times, criticism. Continue reading

Moving historic monuments

Source: CNN (3/12/17)
Should China move its historic monuments?
By Andrea Lo, CNN

The British Embassy in Beijing, China, is in the middle of a relocation that shifted the entire building.

The British Embassy in Beijing, China, is in the middle of a relocation that shifted the entire building.

(CNN) The imposing Zhangfei Temple in China today overlooks a beautiful section of the Yangtze River.

But when this elaborate building was first built during the Song dynasty (960 to 1279) — it was rebuilt in the same place in 1870 after a major flood — it had a different view completely.

Commemorating legendary military leader Zhang Fei, who lived during the tumultuous Three Kingdoms period, the temple was originally erected in Yunyang, Chongqing province, on a steep hillside facing the river — its design intended to integrate with the dramatic landscape. Continue reading

Meng Jinghui anthology

Hi colleagues,

I hope to see some of you at AAS in Toronto next week!

John Weinstein, Zhang Fang, and I will be offering one of the new experimental format sessions. It will be about translation and will include collaboratively adapting a short play with the audience during the session, and a sing-along!  please come join us if you can.

Some of the material for our session comes from the new anthology of Meng Jinghui’s plays (five plays translated into english) that was just published. I would be most grateful if you could send the link below to your librarian and request that a copy be ordered for your library (the book includes five plays, many production photos, and a DVD with excerpts from each of the plays and english subtitles).

Also, if anyone happens to be traveling to Beijing after AAS and might be able to bring 1-3 copies of the book to Meng for me, please email me directly.

Warmest, Claire Conceison <>

China’s Tower Bridge attracts scorn

Source: Sinosphere, NYT (3/2/17)
10 White Houses, 4 Arcs de Triomphe, 2 Sphinxes … Now China’s Tower Bridge Attracts Scorn
By Owen Guo

A bridge in the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou was modeled on London’s Tower Bridge — but with four towers instead of two. CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images

BEIJING — China has at least 10 White Houses, four Arcs de Triomphe, a couple of Great Sphinxes and at least one Eiffel Tower.

Now a version of London’s Tower Bridge in the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou has rekindled a debate over China’s rush to copy foreign landmarks, as the country rethinks decades of urban experimentation that has produced an extraordinary number of knockoffs of world-renowned structures.

This week, photographs of the bridge were posted online by various news outlets. One headline proclaimed: “Suzhou’s Amazing ‘London Tower Bridge’: Even More Magnificent Than the Real One.”

Indeed. Suzhou’s urban planners had clearly stepped up their game. The bridge, completed in 2012, has four towers — compared with the two spanning the Thames in London — making room for a multilane road.

Continue reading

Obsession with skyscrapers reaches new heights

Source: SCMP (2/14/17)
China’s obsession with skyscrapers reaches new heights
By Summer Zhen

It seems that nothing can curb China’s obsession with skyscrapers.

Fifteen years ago, there were barely any high-rises in China. Now, seven of the 20 tallest buildings in the world are on mainland Chinese soil. With the rapid development of the economy, high-rises have shot up on land once occupied by bungalows and a so-called International Financial Centre or World Trade Centre can be found in every corner of the country.

The construction boom shows no sign of slowing down. Analysts cite two main reasons behind the trend; the acceleration of China’s urbanisation and a desire to improve the national image with modern construction. Continue reading

Urban Ethnography Summer School in HK

List members might be interested in this summer study opportunity in Hong Kong

Monique Rimkus <>

Urban Ethnography Summer School

Join us in August 2017 in Hong Kong for an Urban Ethnography Summer School. Together, we will explore new ways to analyze the city, make sense of the urban experience and communicate our research. The program will include training, workshops, fieldwork and public presentations. A unique time and space to discover Hong Kong and to carve a new lens for your research! Continue reading

Dynastic succession?

Dear MCLC LIST members,

I remember reading a while back that it was common for new conquest dynasties in China to destroy the capital of the previous dynasty. Hence there was little interest in preserving old buildings as ‘heritage’. Am I remembering correctly? If so, could you suggest a source that discusses this?


William A. Callahan <>
London School of Economics

Couple who saved China’s architectural treasures

Source: Smithsonian Magazine (Jan. 2017)
The Couple Who Saved China’s Ancient Architectural Treasures Before They Were Lost Forever
As the nation teetered on the brink of war in the 1930s, two Western-educated thinkers struck out for the hinterlands to save their country’s riches
By Tony Perrottet; Photographs by Stefen Chow

Lin Huiyin and Liang Sicheng

Lin Huiyin and Liang Sicheng on honeymoon in Europe (Pictures From History / The Image Works)

Architectural preservation is rarely so thrilling as it was in 1930s China. As the country teetered on the edge of war and revolution, a handful of obsessive scholars were making adventurous expeditions into the country’s vast rural hinterland, searching for the forgotten treasures of ancient Chinese architecture. At the time, there were no official records of historic structures that survived in the provinces. The semi-feudal countryside had become a dangerous and unpredictable place: Travelers venturing only a few miles from major cities had to brave muddy roads, lice-infested inns, dubious food and the risk of meeting bandits, rebels and warlord armies. But although these intellectuals traveled by mule cart, rickshaw or even on foot, their rewards were great. Within the remotest valleys of China lay exquisitely carved temples staffed by shaven-headed monks much as they had been for centuries, their roofs filled with bats, their candlelit corridors lined with dust-covered masterpieces. Continue reading

Poly Culture Group (4)

I first heard of Poly when looking into the ugly demolition situation in Xian Village in Guangzhou’s Pearl River New City in 2010 and 2011. The “respect” shown to cultural items / relics unfortunately does not translate into respect for fellow human beings.

David Bandurski’s recent book “Dragons in Diamond Village” is a great read and a detailed study of the Xian Village situation, opening the discussion of this particular case involving Poly into the broader issue of urbanisation in china today (

Kevin Carrico <>