Why towns lay claim to poets, philosophers, and emperors

Source: SCMP (7/12/17)
Why Chinese towns are so keen to lay claim to poets, philosophers and emperors
By Amy Yan

A temple honouring Liu Bang in Pei county. Photo: Handout

The case is the latest example of towns or counties on the mainland claiming links to famous ancient Chinese figures such as emperors, philosophers or poets as they try to lure investment and tourists.

Feng and Pei county administered by the city of Xuzhou in Jiangsu province have for years laid claim to the Emperor Gaozu, who was born as Liu Bang. He was the first emperor of the Han dynasty (206BC-AD220) and there are buildings and tourist spots linked to Liu in both counties.

Now the city government has ruled on the matter. Continue reading

Singapore dispute

Source: NYT (7/4/17)
Dispute Over Singapore Founder’s House Becomes a National Crisis

SINGAPORE — Two years after his death, no memorials, statues or streets in Singapore are named after Lee Kuan Yew, who established this city-state as a modern nation and built it into a prosperous showcase for his view that limited political freedoms best suit Asian values.

Now a bitter and public family dispute over the fate of his modest house has shattered Singapore’s image as an orderly authoritarian ideal and hinted at deeper divisions about its political future. Continue reading

Liang Sicheng, Lin Huiyin, part 2

Source: Sixth Tone (7/3/17)
The Ivy League Architects Who Revitalized Design in China
During their studies at Penn and Harvard, Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin acquired the knowledge that paved the way for China’s first Pritzker Architecture Prize.
By Gu Cun (Gu Cun is a registered architect and a volunteer advocate for the promotion and protection of traditional Chinese architecture.)

This article is the second in a series about Liang Sicheng, one of China’s best-known architects. The first article can be found here.

A bronze statue of Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin stands on the campus of Tsinghua University, Beijing, April 10, 2011. Gong Wenbao/VCG

In order to retrace the investigative path that Liang Sicheng and Lin Huiyin walked through China, one must begin at an American college.

The University of Pennsylvania (Penn) first began offering architecture courses in 1868, and the addition of French architect Paul Philippe Cret to the school’s faculty in 1903 turned the university’s architecture department into one of the United States’ most prominent destinations for architectural students. The department attracted a great deal of Chinese students during the first half of the 20th century. Among these students were the young Liang Sicheng and his wife-to-be, Lin Huiyin. Continue reading

HK is in trouble

Source: NYT (6/29/17)
Once a Model City, Hong Kong Is in Trouble
When the British left 20 years ago, Hong Kong was seen as a rare blend of East and West that China might seek to emulate. Now, increasingly, it’s a cautionary tale.
By Keith Bradsher, Photographs by Lam Yik Fei

HONG KONG — When Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule two decades ago, the city was seen as a model of what China might one day become: prosperous, modern, international, with the broad protections of the rule of law.

There was anxiety about how such a place could survive in authoritarian China. But even after Beijing began encroaching on this former British colony’s freedoms, its reputation as one of the best-managed cities in Asia endured.

The trains ran on time. Crime and taxes were low. The skyline dazzled with ever taller buildings. Continue reading

Shanghai protest over property rule change

Source: Reuters (6/11/17)
Rare public protest in China’s Shanghai over property rule change
By Andrew Galbraith and Yawen Chen | SHANGHAI/BEIJING

Hundreds of demonstrators have marched through a shopping district in the Chinese city of Shanghai to protest against changes to housing regulations, in a rare show of public dissent in the financial hub.

Footage of the late Saturday protests shared on social media showed hundreds of demonstrators holding placards and shouting slogans while marching along Nanjing Road, a glitzy shopping strip in the city center.

One video seen by Reuters showed police setting up blockades and dragging a demonstrator away. Media carried no reports of the demonstrations, while mentions of the protests on social media were scrubbed by internet censors. Continue reading

All-for-one tourism zone

Source: Sup China (6/6/17)
Can China relieve rural poverty with All-for-one Tourism Zones?
Struggling communities throughout China are hopeful that a new initiative will distribute the benefits of tourism. But when implementation means waiving ticket fees for attractions and evicting villagers, local governments and residents balk.
By Matt DeButts

Chikan is a historic — but aging — waterfront town in southern China / Photo by Matt DeButts

On the historic waterfront of Chikan (赤坎 chìkǎn), in southern Guangdong Province, multicolored umbrellas are displayed for sale outside an early 20th-century arcade. Shopkeepers sell home-cooked Chinese medicine and peanut brittle. In one display, a children’s toy piano has misarranged piano keys, but the shopkeeper doesn’t mind. “It’s a children’s toy,” he explains. Continue reading

The fall of Guangdong’s urban villages

Source: That’s Magazine (5/29/17)
The Fall of Guangdong’s Urban Villages, Migrants’ Last Refuge
By Bailey Hu

Imagine living in a maze of a neighborhood where apartment buildings 10 stories tall crowd so closely together that their residents dwell in perpetual shade.

Your apartment window, set with steel bars, is little more than a meter away from the building next door; if it weren’t for the frosted glass, you’d be able to see directly into the room across the alley.

Going outside and looking up, you’d glimpse the sky only in the narrow strips between buildings. But it’s better to keep your head down anyway – in the summer, air conditioners hung outside windows have a habit of dripping on unwary pedestrians. Continue reading

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