The Return of Chinese Imperialism in Shanzhai Architecture in Contemporary China

By Wing Yin Chan.

Published by The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: December 2, 2014 $US5.00

In China, there is a visual cultural phenomenon pertaining to many provincial and municipal government offices and courthouses built stylistically identical to the Capitol or the White House in Washington, D.C. This article is based on research that studies the architectural style of major government buildings and the sociocultural context in contemporary China. The research suggests how the architectural scene in China involves complicated power politics. The provincial government, representing a political center of the province, can influence the urban landscape and the leading image of a city. This “archi-text” provides us with some insights into the study of the government’s self-identity and self-imagination. Its “direct copy” of the US Capitol is not simply about bad aesthetic taste or lack of innovation among the Chinese officials in designing their own offices, but a collective behavior reflecting the Chinese imperialist imagination and how the government perceives the American power. The architectural sites are intended to represent a bold artistic statement marking the return of Chinese imperialist ambition in twenty-first century.

Keywords: Architectural Mimicry, Politics, Neoimperialism, Occidentalism, Contemporary China, Urban Landscape

The International Journal of Social, Political and Community Agendas in the Arts, Volume 8, Issue 3-4, December 2014, pp.23-30. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: December 2, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 916.047KB)).

Wing Yin Chan

Masters Student, Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Warwick, University of Amsterdam and University of Arts, Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro