Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The historicization of Chinese architecture: The making of architectural historiography in China, from the late nineteenth century to 1953
by Wang, Min-Ying, Ph.D., Columbia University, 2010, 429; 3400630
Abstract (Summary)

The Confucian metaphysical philosophy devalued material artifacts. As a result, architecture was not traditionally seen as a scholarly field. Architectural study as a formal academic discipline began only in the last decades of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) when it was introduced as a field of study by Westerners. Since then, Chinese scholars have produced a significant body of architectural history that has helped shape the way that Chinese people think of architecture. The objective of this analytical study is to provide a history of the writings of the most important architectural historians who worked during the first stage of the discipline's development in China from both within China and abroad.

Noting that the belated modernization was an unspoken factor that influenced all of these architectural histories, this dissertation examines the existing architectural texts with a specific interest in the nationalistic ideology underpinning their interpretations of architectural images both traditional and modern. Five groups of architectural historians who were involved in the formation of this discipline are examined. They are (1) Western Sinologists, including John Calvin Ferguson (1866–1945), Walter Perceval Yetts (1878–1957), Osvald Sirén (1879–1966), Carroll Brown Malone (1886–1973), Paul Demiéville (1894–1979), and Gustav Ecke (1896–1971), among others; (2) progressive Chinese intellectuals such as Yue Jiazao (1868–1944), Zhu Qiqian (1872–1964) and the fellows of the Society for Research in Chinese Architecture (1930–1945); (3) culturally conservative architectural professionals trained abroad, represented by Liang Sicheng (1901–1972) and Lin Huiyin (1904–1955); (4) architectural modernists, of whom, the most insightful was probably Tong Jun (1900–1983); and (5) socialist writers Hu Man (1904–1986) and Feng Zikai (1898–1975).

The Chinese historians listed above exemplified a confident local response to foreign input. They interwove Confucian collectivism with Western architectural history to fulfill the need for a national identity caused by the asynchronous modernization. This is particularly embodied in the methodologies and historical styles that they remodeled. By scrutinizing these historical texts, this dissertation provides another perspective on the history of global architecture.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Frampton, Kenneth
School: Columbia University
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 71/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: History, Art history, Modern history, Architecture
Keywords: 20th century, Architectural historiography, China, Historicization, Modern architecture, Nationalism
Publication Number: 3400630
ISBN: 978-1-109-67316-6
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