Forbidden City opens wide

Source: NYT (8/3/19)
The Forbidden City Opens Wide as China Projects New Pride in Its Past
President Xi Jinping has pushed “cultural self-confidence” as a signature policy, and one of the beneficiaries has been the former home of emperors, neglected no longer.
By Ian Johnson

Visitors now throng the Forbidden City in Beijing. Credit: Yan Cong for The New York Times

BEIJING — For much of the past century, the Forbidden City has been an imposing void in the otherwise bustling heart of Beijing.

The 180-acre compound, where emperors and their advisers plotted China’s course for centuries, was stripped of its purpose when the last emperor abdicated in 1912. Since then, the palace grounds have at times lain empty or been treated as a perfunctory museum, with most of the halls closed to the public and the few that were open crammed with tourists on package tours.

But as the Forbidden City approaches its 600th birthday next year, a dramatic change has been taking place, with even dark and dusty corners of the palace restored to their former glories for all to see. Continue reading

I. M Pei dead at 102

Source: NYT (5/16/19)
I.M. Pei, World-Renowned Architect, Is Dead at 102
By Paul Goldberger

I.M. Pei in 1989 outside the glass pyramid he designed at the Louvre in Paris, one of his most famous commissions. “If there’s one thing I know I didn’t do wrong, it’s the Louvre,” he said. Credit Marc Riboud/Magnum Photos

I. M. Pei, who began his long career designing buildings for a New York real estate developer and ended it as one of the most revered architects in the world, died early Thursday at his home in Manhattan. He was 102.

His death was confirmed by his son Li Chung Pei, who is also an architect and known as Sandi. He said his father had recently celebrated his birthday with a family dinner.

Best known for designing the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the glass pyramid at the entrance to the Louvre in Paris, Mr. Pei was one of the few architects who were equally attractive to real estate developers, corporate chieftains and art museum boards (the third group, of course, often made up of members of the first two). And all of his work — from his commercial skyscrapers to his art museums — represented a careful balance of the cutting edge and the conservative. Continue reading

Penalty for maligning a building’s fengshui

Source: NYT (4/11/19)
In China, a $30,000 Penalty for Maligning a Building’s Feng Shui
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
By Javier C. Hernández and Albee Zhang

The Wangjing SOHO developed by SOHO China in Beijing. CreditImaginechina, via Associated Press

BEIJING — A Chinese court has ordered a media company to pay nearly $30,000 to a real estate developer after it published an article that suggested a flashy building in Beijing violated the ancient laws of feng shui and would bring misfortune to its occupants.

The Chaoyang District People’s Court in Beijing ruled on Wednesday that the media company, Zhuhai Shengun Internet Technology, had damaged the reputation of the building’s developers, SOHO China, one of the largest real estate companies in China. Continue reading

Replica of Peony Pavilion to appear in Stratford

Source: Global Times (3/14/19)
Replica of Chinese Peony Pavilion to appear in Shakespeare’s hometown
By Xinhua

The Peony Pavilion is a masterpiece by Chinese playwright Tang Xianzu (1550-1616) from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). A replica of the pavilion, based on pictures recorded in ancient books of the play, will appear in Shakespeare’s hometown.

Four hundred years ago, when William Shakespeare was writing his sonnets with a quill, Tang Xianzu was recording verses with a brush nearly 6,000 kilometers away.

China and Britain have hosted a series of events to commemorate Shakespeare and Tang. Among the cultural exchange contracts signed, a replica of British playwright William Shakespeare’s family house will be built in Tang’s hometown in Fuzhou, East China’s Jiangxi Province, while Fuzhou will help build the replica of the Peony Pavilion, the historical site where Tang’s story took place, in Shakespeare’s hometown. Continue reading

Horizontal skyscraper

Source: CNN (2/27/19)
China’s ‘horizontal skyscraper’ attraction nears completion
By Tamara Hardingham-Gill, CNN

Raffles City Chongqing

Raffles City Chongqing

(CNN) — Dubbed an engineering marvel, the highly anticipated Raffles City Chongqing project in China is nearly complete.

Devised by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, it measures a staggering 1.12-million-square-meters and consists of a collection of eight towers and a gigantic connecting skybridge, which is being called a “horizontal skyscraper.”

The 250-meter-long skybridge, named Crystal, is said to be one of the world’s highest.

When open, it will have a viewing gallery, sky gardens, an infinity pool and various restaurants.

If that wasn’t enough, the skybridge also transforms into a giant light beam at night time, illuminating the sky with a rousing light show. Continue reading

Greater Bay Area plan

Source: SCMP (2/18/19)
China’s State Council reveals details of ‘Greater Bay Area’ plan to turn Hong Kong and 10 neighbouring cities into economic hub
Years in the making, scheme embodies President Xi Jinping’s ambition to build innovation and finance powerhouse to rival Silicon Valley and Tokyo Bay Area
By Tony Cheung and He Huifeng

Hong Kong is positioned as the international finance, shipping and trade centre under the bay area plan. Photo: EPA-EFE

Hong Kong is positioned as the international finance, shipping and trade centre under the bay area plan. Photo: EPA-EFE

A cluster of world-class cities for work, life and leisure forms the central vision of the “Greater Bay Area” finally unveiled by the Chinese government late on Monday, laying out a road map to what it hailed as the new era of opening up.

Coming 40 years after the 1978 opening up of China, the State Council published a document setting out an ambitious plan to transform 11 cities around the Pearl River Delta into a thriving global centre of technology, innovation and economic vibrancy

The blueprint identified five “strategic orientations” that include closer integration between the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau while upholding the governing principle of “one country, two systems”. Continue reading

Urban Decay conference

Utopian Decay: Cybernetic Systems in China and the Sinophone Worlds
Friday, February 15, 2019
New York University
239 Greene Street, Floor 8, New York, NY
http://events.nyu.edu/#!view/event/event_id/224036

“The expansion of Chinese cities manifesting utopian modernity through architecture, technology and infrastructure (high-speed trains, subway systems, ever-higher buildings) coincides with re-ruralization campaigns urging return to the countryside, forced removals of migrant populations from Beijing, and “anti-poverty” campaigns consolidating rural populations into organized villages.

At the same time, ubiquitous computing has led to the rise of quantitative governance through tracking systems including social media with location services, social credit lists, app-based financial technologies, and nascent facial recognition. The boundaries of these systems are not limited by the contested borders of China: from the intensifying war on Uighurs in Xinjiang to the contested limits of offshore islands, reefs, and banks in the South China Sea; from the increasing consolidation of PRC governance in Hong Kong to the fragile independence of Taiwan; and in transnational investment, infrastructure, and peacekeeping projects in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia.

This conference brings together scholars researching the conditions of transformation in China and Sinophone worlds.”

Cutting edge Chinese architecture

Source: Dwell (2/5/19)
12 Projects Perched at the Cutting Edge of Chinese Architecture
Celebrate the Lunar New Year with these forward-thinking designs by Chinese firms.
By Michele Koh Morollo

12 Projects Perched at the Cutting Edge of Chinese Architecture

Chinese New Year, which falls on February 5 this year, marks the year of the pig. The twelfth animal in the Chinese zodiac, the pig symbolizes wealth, success, creativity, hard work, and growth—all in all, an auspicious set of attributes that echoes the groundbreaking work demonstrated by Chinese architecture and design at the moment. To welcome the Lunar New Year, we’ve gathered 12 incredible projects by Chinese firms that are raising the bar for adaptive reuse and new builds alike.

1. Baitasi House of the Future by Dot Architects

Located in Beijing’s Baitasi hutong—a historic neighborhood known for its narrow alleys and traditional courtyard houses—this house designed by Beijing–based Dot Architects has movable furniture and storage modules at almost every turn, enabling four different layouts.

Outdoor and Small Patio, Porch, Deck Commissioned by a tech company, Dot Architects rehabbed a historic residence, outfitting it with moveable modules controlled by a smart TV and a new extension downloaded from the WikiHouse open-source system.

Commissioned by a tech company, Dot Architects rehabbed a historic residence, outfitting it with moveable modules controlled by a smart TV and a new extension downloaded from the WikiHouse open-source system. Photo by Wu Qingshan

Continue reading

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 <bms@uci.edu>

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. Continue reading

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