Understanding the Chinese City

“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

“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 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

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.

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