Changing Beijing

By Gaubatz, Piper | The Geographical Review, January 1995 | Go to article overview

Changing Beijing


Gaubatz, Piper, The Geographical Review


Since the economic reforms of 1979 the physical representation of socialist ideology and state power imposed on Beijing during the Mao era has been transformed by ideological, economic, and social changes. Focusing on the rapid transformation of the urban landscape after 1979, this article examines urban-planning strategy and the effect of changes in industry, housing, commerce, and transportation on urban form. Traditional Chinese urban form and socialist urban structure continue to shape the city, despite rapid change that is bringing Beijing closer in form to cities in other developing countries. The data presented in this article were collected during fieldwork in 1992, 1993, and 1994 as part of a study of recent urban planning and development in Beijing, Shanghai, Xiamen, and Guangzhou.

TRADITIONAL BEIJING

Beijing is a venerable city steeped in the grandest of northern and imperial traditions. It has served as the national capital for much of the time since the founding of the Liao dynasty in the tenth century A.D. It has been a major regional political center from as early as the Warring States period (453-221 B.C.). City form in 1949 retained many patterns dating to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) (Hou 1983). The street network and all monumental architecture were aligned with the cardinal directions to conform with Chinese geomancy, and massive crenellated walls bounded most of the site. The stone-faced walls enclosed two adjoining areas: a square imperial city on the north, which contained the walled palace complex as well as the homes and temples of the city's political elites; and a rectangular area on the south, which contained the commercial and common residential districts. Between the few monumental axis roads that traversed the city, residential neighborhoods of courtyard houses were threaded by hutongs - narrow alleyways separating the high, blank walls of the courtyards. The imperial palace, a few monumental structures such as temples and the bell-and-drum towers, and hundreds of hutongs and old neighborhoods still survive.

Pre-1949 Beijing had several distinctive districts that serve similar functions today. Two of these districts - the imperial city and the Qianmen-Dazhalan market - date to the Ming dynasty. Two late-nineteenth-century districts also survive: the Wangfujing Street shopping area east of the palace complex, which served as the commercial district for the foreign community, and the university district on the northwest, which developed around the Harvard-Yenching Institute.

Traditional Beijing, like most Chinese cities, was characterized by a high degree of neighborhood specialization. Members of craft guilds plied their trades as groups in specific neighborhoods. Other neighborhoods specialized in activities ranging from the academic nurturing of the next generation of bureaucrats to the provision of services for foreign legations. Present-day street names often recall past functions.

SOCIALIST BEIJING

During the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Mao Zedong's socialism reshaped the city. New development was structured around large walled work-unit compounds, where people lived as small communities centered on the workplace. The compounds consisted of three-to-five-story blocklike buildings that accommodated varied enterprises such as housing, production facilities, dining halls, and infirmaries. In the work-unit-based city, neighborhoods were relatively undifferentiated by function (Pannell 1980). Chinese cities in the 1949-1978 era were planned on the assumption that most residents would rarely need to travel beyond their compounds. There were no private cars and few taxis. Wide monumental streets that ran between the high compound walls were traversed primarily by buses, trucks, and bicycles, but traffic was sparse.

Although the Maoist urban structure was realized in newly developed areas, preexisting structures - specifically the complex maze of courtyard housing and winding hutongs - constrained development in the old districts. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Changing Beijing
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.