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China's Contested Capital

China's Contested Capital: Architecture, Ritual, and Response in Nanjing

Charles D. Musgrove
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    China's Contested Capital
    Book Description:

    When the Chinese Nationalist Party nominally reunified the country in 1928, Chiang Kai-shek and other party leaders insisted that Nanjing was better suited than Beijing to serve as its capital. For the next decade, until the Japanese invasion in 1937, Nanjing was the “model capital” of Nationalist China, the center of not just a new regime, but also a new modern outlook in a China destined to reclaim its place at the forefront of nations. Interesting parallels between China’s recent rise under the Post-Mao Chinese Communist Party and the Nationalist era have brought increasing scholarly attention to the Nanjing Decade (1927–1937); however, study of Nanjing itself has been neglected. Charles Musgrove brings the city back into the discussion of China’s modern development, focusing on how it was transformed from a factional capital with only regional influence into a symbol of nationhood—a city where newly forming ideals of citizenship were celebrated and contested on its streets and at its monuments.

    China’s Contested Capital investigates the development of the model capital from multiple perspectives. It explores the ideological underpinnings of the project by looking at the divisive debates surrounding the new capital’s establishment as well as the ideological discourse of Sun Yat-Sen used to legitimize it. In terms of the actual building of the city, it provides an analysis of both the scientific methodology adopted to plan it and the aesthetic experiments employed to construct it. Finally, it examines the political and social life of the city, looking at not only the reinvented traditions that gave official spaces a sacred air but also the ways that people actually used streets and monuments, including the Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum, to pursue their own interests, often in defiance of Nationalist repression. Contrary to the conventional story of incompetence and failure, Musgrove shows that there was more to Nationalist Party nation-building than simply “paper plans” that never came to fruition. He argues rather that the model capital essentially legitimized a new form of state power embodied in new symbolic systems that the Communist Party was able to tap into after defeating the Nationalists in 1949. At the same time, the book makes the case that, although it was unintended by party planners who promoted single-party rule, Nanjing’s legitimacy was also a product of protests and contestation, which the party-state only partially succeeded in channeling for its own ends.

    China’s Contested Capital is an important contribution to the literature on twentieth-century Chinese urban history and the social and political history of one of China’s key cities during the Republican period.

    49 illus

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3795-2
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    In the February 1938 issue ofNational Geographic, Julius Eigner introduced the magazine’s substantial reading public to the city of Nanjing. By that time many readers may already have heard of the widely publicized atrocities committed by the Japanese in late 1937 and early 1938. Most probably knew from that incident that the city had been the capital of China under the Chinese Nationalist Party, or the Guomindang (GMD).¹ But beyond these basic facts, the Western public knew little about the city or its inhabitants. Eigner began his article, written in November 1937 before the city’s fall, with some observations...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Capital Established Sun Yat-sen, Nationalist China, and Nanjing
    (pp. 23-54)

    New capitals are always the product of politically motivated decisions that grow out of power struggles and cultural contestations in new polities (Vale 1992). New capital locations symbolize changes of power, goals, and attitudes, and when nation-states incorporate multiple regional interests and diverse cultural units, their selection rarely represents consensus. Indeed, it may take many years for a new capital to gain nationwide legitimacy. Legitimacy comes when contending social and cultural groups within the nation develop a shared belief that the capital politically and symbolically embodies their collective identities. When that happens, the complications and conflicts surrounding the new capital...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Visions of Grandeur in the Capital Plan
    (pp. 55-88)

    When one looks closely at any system of governance over time, it tends to look more like an ever-changing work in progress than a truly eternal institution. But, of course, all systems claim to be based on a solid foundation of eternal values and constant forms. The Republic of China in the early years of the Nationalist era clearly was a work in progress. The ten-year period before total war pushed the Guomindang out of Nanjing particularly looks like a confusing set of contradictory ideals and realities that failed to become coherent. The capital at Nanjing was envisioned to embody...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Administrative Aesthetics and Architectural Revolution in the Capital
    (pp. 89-124)

    During the Nanjing Decade, designers attempted to create an “architectural revolution” in the capital city. The main patron of this revolution was the Nationalist Government led by the Guomindang, which hired Chinese architects to plan and build an area devoted to the national administration. With the Central Administrative Zone, the GMD hoped to mark Nanjing as the central city in China, distinct from cities of China’s past such as Beijing and unlike monuments to foreign imperialism such as Shanghai. By looking at how a national capital was envisioned in its ideal state and how this capital was actually constructed with...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Necropolis of Nanjing The GMD’s Ceremonial Center and Cosmological Microcosm
    (pp. 125-166)

    A distinct culture consists of a web of entangled symbol systems. In his essays on culture, Clifford Geertz described the role of symbols and rituals in religious, ideological, and aesthetic systems of meaning as interacting in a cultural matrix of contending social groups.¹ Seen in this manner, the stability of a given society depends on how seamlessly the conflicting patterns of meaning are woven together. Success of a given symbolic system depends on how well it matches (or creates) the community’s “commonsense” understanding of how the world works. Societies in upheaval experience disjuncture between current explanations of world order (that...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Lessons in Allure Celebrations of State in the Capital
    (pp. 167-203)

    The Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum was the most important structure in the Guomindang’s attempt to create a new state ritual that would ensure its place in the “center of things,” which would help to legitimate its self-proclaimed role as the leader of a revolutionary, modern China. As already laid out, there was a concerted effort to provide architectural frameworks for state rituals that imparted a sense of wholeness and naturalness and linked the populace to important elements of the emerging worldview. This chapter traces how the scattered sites described in chapter 3 were linked ritually to the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum so...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Views from the Street Development, Defiance, and Discipline in Nanjing
    (pp. 204-244)

    On maps of Nanjing from the 1930s, everything looks to be clear, orderly, and rational. A thick line representing Sun Yat-sen Road runs from one side of the city to the other, with neat lines crossing at regular intervals, denoting trunk lines and arterial secondary roads that effectually establish boundaries between commercial centers and newly developing neighborhoods. Looking at a map, one can imagine driving a car across the city with little trouble and easily finding a variety of important destinations. Maps—and there were many maps drawn during the Nanjing Decade—are one part reality and one part schematic...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 245-266)

    Nationalist Party efforts to construct a model capital that would produce modern citizens succeeded in changing the expectations of the people in the city and, arguably, across the country. Indeed, citizens had appeared. They were not the cooperative students of political tutelage that the GMD had hoped to cultivate, but they were nevertheless invested in the welfare of the nation-state even as they sought to define it in ways that reflected their own interests. Even though the interactions of people with the capital as a ritual-architectural event often defied the intent of GMD planners, the city emerged as an effective...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 267-284)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 285-304)
  14. Index
    (pp. 305-316)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 317-319)