A socio-cultural study of Kaiping Watchtowers : a traditional Chinese county's encounter with foreign architectural inspirations from the 1920's to 30's

by Cheng, Yu-wai

Abstract (Summary)
(Uncorrected OCR) Abstract of thesis entitled A Socio-cultural study of Kaiping Watchtowers: A Traditional Chinese County's Encounter with Foreign Architectural Inspirations from the 1920's to 30's. submitted by Cheng Yu Wai, Irene for the degree of MSc (Conservation) at the University of Hong Kong in September 2003 This essay is a humanistic inquiry, with an ideological focus, into the factors for the flowering of watchtowers in the 1920's and 30's in the South China's county of Kaiping, why they appear in eclectic architectural styles and what this eclecticism tells about the owners', mainly the returnees' understanding of their own and foreign cultures. A historically grounded cross-cultural perspective towards the study of watchtowers which has often been overlooked by the technically driven conservation practitioner will be offered. Firstly to be looked into is the migration history of Kaiping people on diaspora as it is suggestive of the possible source of foreign architectural influences manifested on the watchtowers. My study moves on to critically reviewing the ambiguous platitude of "East meets West" commonly applied to the description of the watchtowers' architectural style, starting from a brief chronicle of Chinese social thinking, particularly the change in Chinese attitude towards Westernization and social elite, from the imperial to early Republican age and a charting of Chinese cultural landscape as expressed by string of cultural expressions in the early modem period, through an architectural appraisal of the watchtowers' Western and Eastern or East/West eclectic motifs, to a presentation of earlier Europeans' aspiration and imitation of Chinese art and architectural motifs in 17th and 18th century, as concretized by the term chinoiserie, which contrasts with Kiaping watchtowers' loan of western architectural details in the early 20th century. Parallel to the trace of migration path is an investigation of the various possible routes for the spread of foreign architectural influences to Kaiping. It is natural that we always look forward to locating difference between one thing and the other in order to find meaning for both. While we focus on the foreign and novel architectural details on the watchtowers that make them different from the fellow traditional domestic compounds, we should not be surprised that there are indeed significant resemblances between the two built-forms. My study will be rounded off by revisiting the notion of "East meets West" as applied to the watchtowers and addressing the issues of conserving the spirit of watchtowers.
Bibliographical Information:


School:The University of Hong Kong

School Location:China - Hong Kong SAR

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:architecture china kaiping shi


Date of Publication:01/01/2003

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