Sunday, July 29, 2012

Essay: Beijing - Ancient to Modern Metropolis

This post contains an essay submitted as part of student course work for the Planning 100 "Introduction to Planning" course taught by me this year at Planning School, University of Auckland. The topic for the essay is: Comment on the influence of culture on the way urban settlement develops. Choose a city and describe how specific cultural ideas shape settlement patterns within the urban environment. The essay is about Beijing and is by Jianin Wu, who has kindly given permission for it to be published here.


Beijing’s Urban Development: From the Ancient Capital to the Modern Metropolis The influence of culture on the way urban settlement develops

Introduction

From paleolithic nomadism to nowadays metropolises, urban settlement development is a complex and dynamic process which shaped by many factors. Among all, cultural influence stands out its self and shows that it is the social-cultural values of past historical experience, rather than our technological achievements, that will guide us in solving contemporary problems and establishing the ethics of future urban design (Golany, 1995). Unlike other ancient civilizations, such as Greek and Romans, the Chinese never had a break in its continuity based on its comprehensive traditional culture. Thus, the cultural influence on Chinese urban settlement development would offer an excellent cultivation mode of such an understanding. Beijing, the Capital city for 800 years under five dynasties and now the most dynamic modern metropolis would guide us explore the uniqueness of Chinese culture and its influence on urban settlement development.

The Ancient Capital

Beijing is such a famous historic and cultural city that has 3,000 years of history as a city, and was for 800 years the capital under the Liao, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, which is the most representative model of how traditional culture shape the urban development patterns .

Through Chinese history, its urban design principle is mainly based on harmonizing the relationship among humankind, heaven and earth, which is the triumvirate of elements related to the philosophies of Confucianism and Daoism that both arose in 16th century BC. The one was concerned principally with social behavior; the other, with the relationship between humanity and natural world. As Wallach(2005) summarized that Confucian, father of Confucianism ,advocated good behavior that was not only outwardly correct but inwardly true to one’s nature and emphasized on order and hierarchy in both social and political aspects. Unlike Confucianism, Golany pointed out that Daoism was a philosophy of non-interference which deeply appreciates and emphasizes nature and cosmos. Lao-zi offered the idea of Dao which is characterized by Wu-Wei (Literally “no action”) and called for no unnatural action or interference with a given situation, advocated freedom of thought, individuality and naturalness. As a result, Chinese houses tend to be followed the dictates of Confucius which is symmetrical and strictly ordered with straight lines, while Chinese gardens were more Daoist-asymmetrical, providing at least the illusion of wildness, and with curving lines.

Looking at the Beijing during Yuan dynasty which was named Da Du constructed adhered to the rules from ‘ The Artificers’ Record’ in ‘ The Ritual of Zhou’ ( Zhou Li-Kao Gong Ji) , a guideline for city building dating to Zhou Dynasty and a classic work of Confucianism. Referred to Golany ‘s research (2001) the ideal city described in ‘The Ritual of Zhou’ contained nine equal units, which consisted of nine latitudinal and nine meridianal avenues measuring 9 Li ( 1Li=0.5 kilometer) on each side.

Kublai Khan, the Mongolian emperor successfully put up Beijing as the grandest and the most faithful manifestation of ‘The Artificers’ Record’. Moreover, as Wang noted (2011): “builders of Dadu were bold enough to divert water of a natural lake- the lake of Shichahai as it is known today-into the city through a man-made channel that crossed with the city’s axis, thus completing the master plan on the basis of which old Beijing was developed.” While following the teachings of Confucianism the city of Dadu featured an architectural style and also showed understanding of basic teaching of Daoism: “Man is subordinated to Earth, Earth to Heaven, Heaven to Dao (the Great way) and Dao to Nature”, which again emphasized on harmony and matched the principle one of Earth Charter today, “respect and care for the community and life”, presenting a strong model of sustainable development back then (Joel, 2012).

The Forbidden City was constructed in Yuan, and then rebuilt by the Ming (1368-1644) at the nearby location. Cosmological principles strengthened the grid layout and high walls segregated the Forbidden City from the remainder of the Imperial City, with residential quarter spread across fifty wards around the Palace. There was also an outer city to the south for the Beijing populace. The form of the city, defined by its main north-south axis and the line of its city walls, has sustained since then (Gu and Cook, 2011).

Not only the traditional culture but also western influence has shaped Beijing’s urban development. In 19th century, western influence increased, following the Opium Wars and the ‘Boxer’ rebellion of 1900. Under the influence of the Constitutional Movement and then of the revolutionary sentiments which fulfilled in the birth of the Republic of China under Sun Yat-sen in 1911, thoughts and ideas of a substantial change in China’s political and social atmospheres began to take shape. The remnants of the Western architectural influences can still be seen in the churches, cathedrals which were built at the time of modern town and country planning ideas introduced to China. Pressures for change were great during this period as the decaying Qing dynasty finally fall from power and, in the early years of the new Republic, the ancient traditional culture was fluctuated by further reform movement –the New Culture Movement of 1917 and the Fourth of May Movement of 1919 which both aim to shape the country in a distinctive way of combining Chinese and Western culture .However, when the People’s Liberation Army entered the ancient capital in 1949, Beijing engaged in a radically different path as a socialist Chinese capital.

Beijing’s urban transformation in last 50 years

After the founding of People Republic of China, there was heated debate over the early plans for the new capital of the People’s Republic. Mainly two different opinions emerged, on economic and aesthetic aspects, some experts who were mainly from Soviet advocated an administrative center based on the Old City while the alternative view emphasized the protection of the Old City and the establishment of and administrative center covering a larger area, which was supported by Liang Sicheng who called for cultural and historical heritage protection (Gu and Cook, 2011). However, construction began in Beijing’s central area while these debated were under way, following the Russian proposals that a master plan developed in 1953 drew significantly on the Moscow Plan of 1935, made under Stalin.

Because of the same political ideology, Mao Zedong tended to follow the Russian’s step resulting in the basic principle for the planning of Beijing was heavily influenced by former Soviet Union. Under Mao Zedong, Beijing was massively transformed in both form and function became a production city with a focus on heavy industries. Following the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), Beijing entered a period of planning anarchy. But the situation began to change in the early 1970s when China-US relations improved and China joined the United Nations as a permanent member state. After the death of Mao in 1976, Deng Xiaoping took the leadership and opened up a whole new world, initiating a long process of economic and social transformation by submitting ‘Four Modernizations’ and ‘Open Door’ policy. In the light of reform and opening up, the Chinese people were moving forward and changing planning regulation to adapt the new form of development and facilitate the foreign investment. Referred to a research carried out by Gu and Cook(2011), in the mid-1990s, the amount of construction per year increased to between 11 and 12 million square meters, rising later to 20 million square meters and to 30 million square meters per year after 2000. However, not only the temporal spirit but also traditional culture value affects now days rapid economic development. As Wallach (2005) noted that the rapid economic development of China today is often attributed to Confucian values, including the acceptance of one’s position within a hierarchy and a determination to work incredibly hard out of sense of responsibility, both to one’s superiors and inferiors.

The Modern metropolis

Beijing’s success of winning the Olympic bid in 2001 to host the 2008 Olympic Games built up the confidence of Beijing as a major player capable of hosting high-quality, world-class events on the global scale. Beijing treasured this event as a great opportunity to raise the level of openness in all aspects and present to the world a brand new image of the nation after reform and opening-up, which had a big influence on urban settlement as it appears today.

To achieve the promise of being a renowned, historical, cultural city, a comprehensive plan of new development was drawn which its strategic conception has included the widely known “New Beijing, Great Olympics” which based on green, science and technology ’,‘ humanism’ principle. The Olympic Green’ was designed as an extension of the old traditional north-south central axis, with extensive planting and water flowing through the whole area create a balance and harmony which corresponded the traditional Chinese philosophies in additional to temporal growth needs.

Following the first decade of the twenty-first century, there is an increase in the scale of new developments in Beijing. What is emerging in Beijing today is a distinctive landscape as the Chinese state has invited these international architects to create the landmarks of an ‘ open, modern, international city’ which include the new headquarters for China Central Television (CCTV) by Re Koolhaas and the National Grand Theatre by Paul Andreu. As Gu and Cook noted (2011) this landscape provides a spectacle intended to showcase Beijing and China in the global media. These buildings are symbols of the real socio-economic and political transformations underway as China has shifted from Beijing a closed state administrative center to becoming a heart city in the Asian region.

Challenges and issues

The urban transformation of Beijing in the last decades is significant. However, planning processes at such incredible pace have not always been successful. The drive of building the city at such a rapid rate and huge scale can lead to social and cultural problems.

Social polarization is considered as a key feature of Beijing’s current situation that there is an increasing contrast in income between different groups within the population. Lower income groups are mainly rural migrants from different regions that have flooded into including Beijing with the implementation of market economy. However ,known as floating population they are ‘in’ the city but not ‘of’ the city since they generally without ‘Hukou’ registration which is a system entitled officially sanctioned residents to gain access to housing, health, food rations and other benefits. Floating population employed jobs are often low paid, low skilled as working in construction industry or as stallholders selling a range of clothing and foods .There is also a regional culture issue that migrants are likely to live in crowded conditions with people from their own town or province within urban villages in Beijing, which face a regular threat of eviction and demolition if their dwelling place is required for new urban development (Gu and Cook, 2011).

Talking about demolition, statistics based on investigation carried out by Wang(2011) show that back in 1949, Beijing had more than 7,000 hutongs which are narrow lanes and alleys seen by many as a most salient cultural feature of this ancient capital. By the 1980s only about 3,900 had survived. As “transformation” of old Beijing accelerates, some 600 have disappeared annually in the most recent years. ‘Chai’ the Chinese character of demolition has become the most common word appeared on the walls flanking hutongs. More recently, Nanluoguxiang Street which is one of the most ancient hutong of Bejing is in danger of demolition because of an ongoing construction for a subway stop, showing the conflict between modern urban development and preservation of cultural heritage. Lots of citizens’ heart affected by the fate of Nanluoguxiang since the culture of Beijing not only has the red walls green watts of imperial amorous feelings, but also have the streets and lanes of common people life.

Conclusion

By analyzing the past experience, identifying the present problems, I intend to present a clear picture of how traditional cultural idea with addition of temporal spirit and outside influences shape Beijing’s urban settlement pattern. The harmony between the environment and rapid urban growth ,the balance between construction of new landscape and the preservation of historic and cultural heritage need to be reached as Beijing’s promise of being a renowned, historical, cultural while open ,modern ,new city.

Through various historical periods, Beijing’s urban settlement development succeed in guiding us understand the importance of cultural influence which could lead us preferably solve contemporary problems and establish the ethics of future urban design under social and cultural aspects.

Bibliography

Cayford,J. 2012. Planning for sustainability, Planning 100&100G lecture University of Auckland 21st May 2012

Golany,S.G.1995. Ethics and urban design: culture, form and environment. 1st Edition .New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Golany,S.G.2001. Urban design ethics in ancient China.1st Edition. New York: The Edwin Mellen Press.

Gu,C. & Cook,G.I.2011. Beijing: Socialist Chinese Capital and new world city, in Planning Asian cities: Risks and resilience, edited by Hamnett .Stephen. and Forbes. Dean. New York: 90-130.

Wallach,B.2005. China, in Understanding the cultural landscape. 1st Edition. New York: The Guilford Press: 61-71.

Wang, J.2011. Beijing Record: A physical and political history of planning modern Beijing. 1st English Edition. Beijing: World scientific.

1 comment:

shan marsh said...

This is a only post heaving more aggressive and detail info. I really like this so nice post.
Builder Auckland

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Essay: Beijing - Ancient to Modern Metropolis

This post contains an essay submitted as part of student course work for the Planning 100 "Introduction to Planning" course taught by me this year at Planning School, University of Auckland. The topic for the essay is: Comment on the influence of culture on the way urban settlement develops. Choose a city and describe how specific cultural ideas shape settlement patterns within the urban environment. The essay is about Beijing and is by Jianin Wu, who has kindly given permission for it to be published here.


Beijing’s Urban Development: From the Ancient Capital to the Modern Metropolis The influence of culture on the way urban settlement develops

Introduction

From paleolithic nomadism to nowadays metropolises, urban settlement development is a complex and dynamic process which shaped by many factors. Among all, cultural influence stands out its self and shows that it is the social-cultural values of past historical experience, rather than our technological achievements, that will guide us in solving contemporary problems and establishing the ethics of future urban design (Golany, 1995). Unlike other ancient civilizations, such as Greek and Romans, the Chinese never had a break in its continuity based on its comprehensive traditional culture. Thus, the cultural influence on Chinese urban settlement development would offer an excellent cultivation mode of such an understanding. Beijing, the Capital city for 800 years under five dynasties and now the most dynamic modern metropolis would guide us explore the uniqueness of Chinese culture and its influence on urban settlement development.

The Ancient Capital

Beijing is such a famous historic and cultural city that has 3,000 years of history as a city, and was for 800 years the capital under the Liao, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, which is the most representative model of how traditional culture shape the urban development patterns .

Through Chinese history, its urban design principle is mainly based on harmonizing the relationship among humankind, heaven and earth, which is the triumvirate of elements related to the philosophies of Confucianism and Daoism that both arose in 16th century BC. The one was concerned principally with social behavior; the other, with the relationship between humanity and natural world. As Wallach(2005) summarized that Confucian, father of Confucianism ,advocated good behavior that was not only outwardly correct but inwardly true to one’s nature and emphasized on order and hierarchy in both social and political aspects. Unlike Confucianism, Golany pointed out that Daoism was a philosophy of non-interference which deeply appreciates and emphasizes nature and cosmos. Lao-zi offered the idea of Dao which is characterized by Wu-Wei (Literally “no action”) and called for no unnatural action or interference with a given situation, advocated freedom of thought, individuality and naturalness. As a result, Chinese houses tend to be followed the dictates of Confucius which is symmetrical and strictly ordered with straight lines, while Chinese gardens were more Daoist-asymmetrical, providing at least the illusion of wildness, and with curving lines.

Looking at the Beijing during Yuan dynasty which was named Da Du constructed adhered to the rules from ‘ The Artificers’ Record’ in ‘ The Ritual of Zhou’ ( Zhou Li-Kao Gong Ji) , a guideline for city building dating to Zhou Dynasty and a classic work of Confucianism. Referred to Golany ‘s research (2001) the ideal city described in ‘The Ritual of Zhou’ contained nine equal units, which consisted of nine latitudinal and nine meridianal avenues measuring 9 Li ( 1Li=0.5 kilometer) on each side.

Kublai Khan, the Mongolian emperor successfully put up Beijing as the grandest and the most faithful manifestation of ‘The Artificers’ Record’. Moreover, as Wang noted (2011): “builders of Dadu were bold enough to divert water of a natural lake- the lake of Shichahai as it is known today-into the city through a man-made channel that crossed with the city’s axis, thus completing the master plan on the basis of which old Beijing was developed.” While following the teachings of Confucianism the city of Dadu featured an architectural style and also showed understanding of basic teaching of Daoism: “Man is subordinated to Earth, Earth to Heaven, Heaven to Dao (the Great way) and Dao to Nature”, which again emphasized on harmony and matched the principle one of Earth Charter today, “respect and care for the community and life”, presenting a strong model of sustainable development back then (Joel, 2012).

The Forbidden City was constructed in Yuan, and then rebuilt by the Ming (1368-1644) at the nearby location. Cosmological principles strengthened the grid layout and high walls segregated the Forbidden City from the remainder of the Imperial City, with residential quarter spread across fifty wards around the Palace. There was also an outer city to the south for the Beijing populace. The form of the city, defined by its main north-south axis and the line of its city walls, has sustained since then (Gu and Cook, 2011).

Not only the traditional culture but also western influence has shaped Beijing’s urban development. In 19th century, western influence increased, following the Opium Wars and the ‘Boxer’ rebellion of 1900. Under the influence of the Constitutional Movement and then of the revolutionary sentiments which fulfilled in the birth of the Republic of China under Sun Yat-sen in 1911, thoughts and ideas of a substantial change in China’s political and social atmospheres began to take shape. The remnants of the Western architectural influences can still be seen in the churches, cathedrals which were built at the time of modern town and country planning ideas introduced to China. Pressures for change were great during this period as the decaying Qing dynasty finally fall from power and, in the early years of the new Republic, the ancient traditional culture was fluctuated by further reform movement –the New Culture Movement of 1917 and the Fourth of May Movement of 1919 which both aim to shape the country in a distinctive way of combining Chinese and Western culture .However, when the People’s Liberation Army entered the ancient capital in 1949, Beijing engaged in a radically different path as a socialist Chinese capital.

Beijing’s urban transformation in last 50 years

After the founding of People Republic of China, there was heated debate over the early plans for the new capital of the People’s Republic. Mainly two different opinions emerged, on economic and aesthetic aspects, some experts who were mainly from Soviet advocated an administrative center based on the Old City while the alternative view emphasized the protection of the Old City and the establishment of and administrative center covering a larger area, which was supported by Liang Sicheng who called for cultural and historical heritage protection (Gu and Cook, 2011). However, construction began in Beijing’s central area while these debated were under way, following the Russian proposals that a master plan developed in 1953 drew significantly on the Moscow Plan of 1935, made under Stalin.

Because of the same political ideology, Mao Zedong tended to follow the Russian’s step resulting in the basic principle for the planning of Beijing was heavily influenced by former Soviet Union. Under Mao Zedong, Beijing was massively transformed in both form and function became a production city with a focus on heavy industries. Following the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), Beijing entered a period of planning anarchy. But the situation began to change in the early 1970s when China-US relations improved and China joined the United Nations as a permanent member state. After the death of Mao in 1976, Deng Xiaoping took the leadership and opened up a whole new world, initiating a long process of economic and social transformation by submitting ‘Four Modernizations’ and ‘Open Door’ policy. In the light of reform and opening up, the Chinese people were moving forward and changing planning regulation to adapt the new form of development and facilitate the foreign investment. Referred to a research carried out by Gu and Cook(2011), in the mid-1990s, the amount of construction per year increased to between 11 and 12 million square meters, rising later to 20 million square meters and to 30 million square meters per year after 2000. However, not only the temporal spirit but also traditional culture value affects now days rapid economic development. As Wallach (2005) noted that the rapid economic development of China today is often attributed to Confucian values, including the acceptance of one’s position within a hierarchy and a determination to work incredibly hard out of sense of responsibility, both to one’s superiors and inferiors.

The Modern metropolis

Beijing’s success of winning the Olympic bid in 2001 to host the 2008 Olympic Games built up the confidence of Beijing as a major player capable of hosting high-quality, world-class events on the global scale. Beijing treasured this event as a great opportunity to raise the level of openness in all aspects and present to the world a brand new image of the nation after reform and opening-up, which had a big influence on urban settlement as it appears today.

To achieve the promise of being a renowned, historical, cultural city, a comprehensive plan of new development was drawn which its strategic conception has included the widely known “New Beijing, Great Olympics” which based on green, science and technology ’,‘ humanism’ principle. The Olympic Green’ was designed as an extension of the old traditional north-south central axis, with extensive planting and water flowing through the whole area create a balance and harmony which corresponded the traditional Chinese philosophies in additional to temporal growth needs.

Following the first decade of the twenty-first century, there is an increase in the scale of new developments in Beijing. What is emerging in Beijing today is a distinctive landscape as the Chinese state has invited these international architects to create the landmarks of an ‘ open, modern, international city’ which include the new headquarters for China Central Television (CCTV) by Re Koolhaas and the National Grand Theatre by Paul Andreu. As Gu and Cook noted (2011) this landscape provides a spectacle intended to showcase Beijing and China in the global media. These buildings are symbols of the real socio-economic and political transformations underway as China has shifted from Beijing a closed state administrative center to becoming a heart city in the Asian region.

Challenges and issues

The urban transformation of Beijing in the last decades is significant. However, planning processes at such incredible pace have not always been successful. The drive of building the city at such a rapid rate and huge scale can lead to social and cultural problems.

Social polarization is considered as a key feature of Beijing’s current situation that there is an increasing contrast in income between different groups within the population. Lower income groups are mainly rural migrants from different regions that have flooded into including Beijing with the implementation of market economy. However ,known as floating population they are ‘in’ the city but not ‘of’ the city since they generally without ‘Hukou’ registration which is a system entitled officially sanctioned residents to gain access to housing, health, food rations and other benefits. Floating population employed jobs are often low paid, low skilled as working in construction industry or as stallholders selling a range of clothing and foods .There is also a regional culture issue that migrants are likely to live in crowded conditions with people from their own town or province within urban villages in Beijing, which face a regular threat of eviction and demolition if their dwelling place is required for new urban development (Gu and Cook, 2011).

Talking about demolition, statistics based on investigation carried out by Wang(2011) show that back in 1949, Beijing had more than 7,000 hutongs which are narrow lanes and alleys seen by many as a most salient cultural feature of this ancient capital. By the 1980s only about 3,900 had survived. As “transformation” of old Beijing accelerates, some 600 have disappeared annually in the most recent years. ‘Chai’ the Chinese character of demolition has become the most common word appeared on the walls flanking hutongs. More recently, Nanluoguxiang Street which is one of the most ancient hutong of Bejing is in danger of demolition because of an ongoing construction for a subway stop, showing the conflict between modern urban development and preservation of cultural heritage. Lots of citizens’ heart affected by the fate of Nanluoguxiang since the culture of Beijing not only has the red walls green watts of imperial amorous feelings, but also have the streets and lanes of common people life.

Conclusion

By analyzing the past experience, identifying the present problems, I intend to present a clear picture of how traditional cultural idea with addition of temporal spirit and outside influences shape Beijing’s urban settlement pattern. The harmony between the environment and rapid urban growth ,the balance between construction of new landscape and the preservation of historic and cultural heritage need to be reached as Beijing’s promise of being a renowned, historical, cultural while open ,modern ,new city.

Through various historical periods, Beijing’s urban settlement development succeed in guiding us understand the importance of cultural influence which could lead us preferably solve contemporary problems and establish the ethics of future urban design under social and cultural aspects.

Bibliography

Cayford,J. 2012. Planning for sustainability, Planning 100&100G lecture University of Auckland 21st May 2012

Golany,S.G.1995. Ethics and urban design: culture, form and environment. 1st Edition .New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Golany,S.G.2001. Urban design ethics in ancient China.1st Edition. New York: The Edwin Mellen Press.

Gu,C. & Cook,G.I.2011. Beijing: Socialist Chinese Capital and new world city, in Planning Asian cities: Risks and resilience, edited by Hamnett .Stephen. and Forbes. Dean. New York: 90-130.

Wallach,B.2005. China, in Understanding the cultural landscape. 1st Edition. New York: The Guilford Press: 61-71.

Wang, J.2011. Beijing Record: A physical and political history of planning modern Beijing. 1st English Edition. Beijing: World scientific.

1 comment:

shan marsh said...

This is a only post heaving more aggressive and detail info. I really like this so nice post.
Builder Auckland