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Understanding the Chinese City

Understanding the Chinese City

May 2014 | 264 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
"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...”
- Li Shiqiao, writing in the South China Morning Post

This book teaches us to read the contemporary Chinese city. Li Shiqiao deftly crafts a new theory of the Chinese city and the dynamics of urbanization by:     
  • examining how the Chinese city has been shaped by the figuration of the writing system
  • analyzing the continuing importance of the family and its barriers of protection against real and imagined dangers
  • exploring the meanings of labour, and the resultant numerical and financial hierarchies
  • demonstrating how actual structures bring into visual being the conceptions of numerical distributions, safety networks, and aesthetic orders.
Understanding the Chinese City elegantly traces a thread between ancient Chinese city formations and current urban organizations, revealing hidden continuities that show how instrumental the past has been in forming the present. It contextualizes Chinese urban experiences in relation to familiar intellectual landmarks. Rather than becoming obstacles to change, ancient practices have become effective strategies of adaptation under radically new terms.
Quantity Control
The City of Maximum Quantities
The City of Labour
The Body in Safety and Danger
Degrees of Care
The Empire of Figures
Memory without Location
Colonies of Beauty and Violence

Asked what was the difference between Japanese space and ‘western' space, Maki declared emphatically: ‘Nothing!’ Tackling differences in spatial thinking from inside both ‘western’ and Chinese thinking, Li Shiqiao demonstrates how mental space, Chinese and 'western,' is determined by culture.

Professor Leon van Schaik
RMIT University

Li Shiqiao reveals continuities between ancient Chinese city formations and current urban organizations where others see only rupture and chaos. No other work on the staggering urban explosion in China so deftly displays the complexities of these current formulations. Bringing an impressive array of disciplines into conversation with each other, this book gestures toward what urban studies could and should be.

Professor Ryan Bishop
Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton

Li Shiqiao has written the only book on the Chinese city that captures at once the accelerated hypermodernity of the Shanghai stock exchange and 2500 years of Daoist and Confucian culture. It will be a classic.

Professor Scott Lash
Goldsmiths College, University of London

If as Wittgenstein suggested, the limits of one’s language set the limits of one’s world, what difference does it make to conceptualise things in a different kind of word and to give an alternative significance to numbers? In this book Li Shiqiao argues that ideas taken for granted in the West and built into our scientific world-view are by no means universal, while concepts such as yin yang, four cardinal points, five phases, the ten heavenly stems and twelve heavenly branches, allowed the ancient Chinese to develop a different conception of space and time. This is reflected in their architecture and town-planning, and must be taken into account if we are to understand it.

Professor Peter Blundell Jones
The University of Sheffield

The book not only provides a new framework and fresh thinking for research on the Chinese city but also contributes to contemporary urban studies by providing a model for cultural-based research on urbanisation. Understanding the Chinese City is an excellent book. It is suitable not only for academic researchers for research purposes but also for readers interested in Chinese culture.

Na Ta, East China Normal
Urban Studies

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter One: Quantity Control

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