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The essence of Chinese urbanism: A macro-historical interpretation . Laurence J. C. Ma 马润潮 Department of Geography and Planning Akron, Ohio 44325 USA International Conference on China’s Urban Land and Housing in the 21 st Century, Hong Kong Baptist University, December 13-15, 2007.
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Laurence J. C. Ma马润潮
Department of Geography and Planning
Akron, Ohio 44325 USA
International Conference on China’s Urban Land and Housing in the 21st Century, Hong Kong Baptist University, December 13-15, 2007
“In our attempt to achieve a better insight into the present state of the city, we must peer over the edge of the historic horizon, to detect the dim traces of still earlier structures and more primitive functions. This is our first task” —
Lewis Mumford, The City in History (1961), p. 4.
and the early Zhou)
traditional China (from the Zhou to the late Qing)
L. Wirth’s determinist theory (1938):“Urbanism as a way of life”:Size, density, heterogeneity of urban population in central city; urbanism affects social organization and results in social differentiation, anomie and disorder.
Herbert Gans’ suburbanism (1968): Class, life-cycle stage, ethnicity and culture are more important factors affecting neighborhood choices and social life than population size, density and heterogeneity.
“New urbanism” in urban planning: A postmodern anti-sprawl urban planning movement since the early 1980s aiming at the creation of more people-oriented and walkable communities with conventionally designed compact town centers that are easily accessible, mixed land use and different housing types.
“Postmodern urbanism” Michael Dear and
Steven Flusty’s (1998): Based on Los Angeles,
characterized by a dispersed polycentric and
polyglot metropolitan urban form with diverse
ethnic, residential, cultural and economic spaces
and strong global-local connection and social
Paul Wheatley (1972): “characterize[s] the concept of urbanism as compounded of a series of sets of ideal-type social, political, economic and other institutions which have combined in different ways in [the cities of] different cultures and at different times. It is not unlikely that the only feature which such congeries of institutions will ultimately prove to have in common is the fact of their aggregation.”
The essence of urbanism is operationallydefined as:
“the basic function and the attendant nature
of the most fundamental, important and
dominant features – social, economic
and spatial – of the cities in a particular
nation or region in a specific period of
It is argued that city and state are intimately intertwined, mutually constituted and coevolve over time. As dynamic centers of change in China’s long history, the evolution of cities has not really been limited by China’s major historical traditions as assumed in the paradigm of “change within tradition.”The essence of Chinese urbanism has undergone fundamental changes over time with qualitative differences. However, as the Chinese state has always been stronger than the city and society, the essence of Chinese urbanism has been strongly impacted by the developmental agenda set by the state.
(bangguo 邦国; wanguo 万国; Longshan period)
(Longshan cultures: ca 3000 – 2000 B.C.)
Territorial states or kingdoms
(wangguo 王国; Xia, Shang and Zhou)
(Xia: 2070 – 1600 B.C.; Shang: 1600 – 1046 B.C.; Zhou: 11th century B.C. – 221 B.C.)
(diguo 帝国; Qin to Qing)
(221 B.C. – 1911 A.D.)
Prehistoric (un)walled villages
(Defensive; Middle Neolithicca. 6500 B.C.-5000 B.C.)
Prehistoric (un)walled towns
(Defensive; Longshanca. 3000 B. C. – 2000 B.C.)
Early urban centers
(Administrative, religious and defensive.
Xia 2070 B.C.-1600 B.C.and Shang1600 B.C.-1046 B.C.)
Cities(Western Zhou11th century B.C.-771 B.C.)
Cities(Post-Chunqiu, after770 B.C.)
(Administrative, commercial and defensive)
[Site at Lingjiatan, 凌家滩, 含山县, 巢湖市, 安徽 is a late Neolithic, 3300-3500 B.C., unwalled early town with a large raised ceremonial platform and numerous high-quality jade objects. A ceremonial and jade production center.]
More than 50 found. 郑州西山仰韶晚期古城, 5200-5300 BC 始建, 4800 BC 废弃; 山西襄汾陶寺龙山城城址, 2600-2200 B.C.; 河南淮阳平粮台, 4355±175; 山东章丘城子崖, 2035±115 B.C. 至2405±170 B. C.; 河南登封王城岗, 4000±65 B. P.; 河南安阳后岗, 2155±120 B. C. to 2590±135 B. C.; 河南新密新砦遗址, 4000-5000 B.P.; 河南郾城郝家台; 河南辉县孟庄;
1. More dense population and larger size
2. Most citizens were peasants. Full-time craftsmen, merchants, officials and priests supported by the
surplus produced by the peasants
3. Concentration of surplus through tax or tithe
4. Monumental public buildings: temples, pyramids, royal graneries
5. The ruling class—priests, military leaders and officials—absorbed the bulk of the concentrated surplus
6. Writing system
7. Predictive sciences—arithmetic, geometry and astronomy
8. Artistic expression
9. Long-distance trade
10. Tiny ruling class controlled population groups by controlling temples, shrines and state organization
What was the essence of ancient cities elsewhere? Economic factors dominant, i.e., cities were mainly economic centers.
Types of early urban centers: [Chengbao城堡]; yi, du and duyi邑, 都, 都邑; [chengshi 城市].
Culturally descending from Longshan and emerging in the late Xia and early Shang when territorial states appeared, China’s largest early duyi were created with clear administrative, military, religious but limited economic functions. (Xia: 2070 B. C.-1600 B.C. 据断代工程) and the early Shang (Shang: 1600 B.C. – 1046 B.C.同上).
(Ca. 1900 B.C.-1500 B.C.; peaked ca. 1700-1600 B.C.)
(Ca. 1600 B.C. – 1300 B.C.)1. Large palace/temple buildings; many houses
2. Ceremonial platforms and/or burial sites
(Ca. 1600 B.C. – 1300 B.C.) 4. Specialized workshops producing weapons and ritual
vessels for the elite and tools for others; no evidence
of urban markets (shi).
(1300 B.C. – 1046 B.C.)6. Chang Kwang-chih: Ancient Chinese cities were
tools and symbol of political power. (1985)
(1300 B.C. -1046 B.C.)
Duyi 都邑: Urban centers during the Shang (16th – l lth century B.C.)and the Zhou (Western Zhou, 11th century B.C.- 771 B.C.; Chunqiu, 770 – 476 B.C.; Zhanguo, 475 – 221 B.C.)
Heterogeneization of the urban population and the beginning of commercial urbanism during the Chunqiu and Zhanguo periods (8th century B.C. through 3rd century A.D.):
1. Yan Xiadu
2. Zhao Handan
3. Wei Anyi
4. Zhou Wangcheng
5. Zheng, Han city
6. Chu Ji’nancheng
A street scene in Kaifeng, early 12th century. Resketched from Zhang Zeduan’s original painting “Along the river [Bian] on the day of Qingming” [April 5 or 6].
late 19th century
Title: “They love drinking as if it was their life.”
Let the efficient free market do its work with minimum
Deregulation to encourage competition;
Privatization, trade liberalization and fiscal
discipline through the reduction of public spending;
Property rights and individualism valued;
Characteristics of neoliberalization in China:
(1) Political: Paying no attention to democracy and
liberty that underlie neoliberalism;
(2) Economic: Embracing its economic strategies
and spatial outcome;
(3) Social: Ignoring the social and environmental
consequences of neoliberalization.
Exogenous: (1) Neoliberalization; and simultaneously
(2) Globalization of production;
Endogenous: (1) The policy of “reform and openness”;
(3) Deregulation and devolution of
fiscal and administrative power; and
(4) Commodification of urban land use
rights and housing privatization.
Incipient urbanism, essentially ceremonial and administrative
Administrative and commercial urbanism
3. Since antiquity, the state has persisted as the most powerful agent shaping the nature of Chinese urbanism.
Beyond empiricism toward more relevance:
Move from urban social spatiality to social justice through academic activism aiming at policy change.