Perceptions of Change, Changes in Perception–
West Lake as Contested Site/Sight
in the Wake of the 1911 Revolution

By Eugene Y. Wang

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 12, no. 2, pp.73-122

The paper examines two sets of historical “documents.” First, it looks at two albums of photographs of West Lake published immediately preceding and following the 1911 Revolution. In particular, it focuses on the post-1911 album shot by Huang Yanpei, a notable activist of the Republican Revolution. Second, it sets these photographs against travelogues written by four tourists of various social backgrounds who visited, in the immediate wake of the 1911 Revolution, the same sites which were photographed by Huang. Matching these photographs of famous sites with visitors’ accounts, the author attempts to reconstruct how the 1911 Revolution changed both the physical landscape of West Lake and people’s perception of it. There was an inner tension among different perceptions. One notable change at the time was the shaping up–or revival–of a surging interest in the heroic sublimity that made the effeminate mood traditionally associated with West Lake increasingly passé.