In the past 100 years, China has marginalised its own intellectual and institutional frameworks developed over 2,000 years. It happened through the successive revolutions and reforms in the 20th century, sometimes for good reason, sometimes as acts of defiance.Legitimate or not, it happened amid tremendous pressure to acquire the technological, scientific and institutional efficacy that the West had demonstrated. The sweeping changes included the ways in which Chinese cities were designed and constructed, thus defining in many important ways our daily lives.Today, one question lingers: have we overdone it? One thing is clear: in marginalising Chinese tradition and falling short of wholesale importation of Western cultural and political ideals and institutions, Chinese cities have become, in one sense, the scrapyard of half-hearted emulations and acts of resistance, appearing to be neither here nor there.In the meantime, traditional cultural and political ideals havent just gone away; in their marginalised position, they reappear quietly and persistently in modified forms. For instance, traditional courtyard houses and gardens, so exquisitely described in literary works such as the Dream of the Red Chamber, returned in the forms of the work unit danwei and the residential compound xiaoqu. The act of circling and walling spaces in cities corresponded to the ward system that had been central to the traditional Chinese image of cities, at least since the Tang dynasty.
How Chinese cities lost their elegance | South China Morning Post