Remaking Beijing

Tiananmen Square and the Creation of a Political Space

Wu Hung

Remaking Beijing

Wu Hung

240 pages | 133 halftones, 60 color plates | 6_1/2 x 9_4/5 | © 2005
Paper $35.00 ISBN: 9780226360799 Published September 2005 For sale in North and South America only
In 1949, Beijing still retained nearly all of its time-honored character and magnificence. But when Chairman Mao rejected the proposal to build a new capital for the People's Republic of China and decided to stay in the ancient city, he initiated a long struggle to transform Beijing into a shining beacon of socialism. So began the remaking of the city into a modern metropolis rife with monuments, public squares, exhibition halls, and government offices.

Wu Hung grew up in Beijing and experienced much of the city's makeover firsthand. In this lavishly illustrated work, he offers a vivid, often personal account of the struggle over Beijing's reinvention, drawing particular attention to Tiananmen Square—the most sacred space in the People's Republic of China. Remaking Beijing considers the square's transformation from a restricted imperial domain into a public arena for political expression, from an epic symbol of socialism into a holy relic of the Maoist regime, and from an official and monumental complex into a site for unofficial and antigovernment demonstrations.

Wu Hung also explores how Tiananmen Square has become a touchstone for official art in modern China—as the site for Mao's monumental portrait, as the location of museums narrating revolutionary history, and as the grounds for extravagant National Day parades celebrating the revolutionary masses. He then shows how in recent years the square has inspired artists working without state sponsorship to create paintings, photographs, and even performances that reflect the spirit of the 1989 uprisings and pose a forceful challenge to official artworks and the sociopolitical system that supports them.

Remaking Beijing will reward anyone interested in modern Chinese history, society, and art, or, more generally, in how urban renewal becomes intertwined with cultural and national politics.
1. Tiananmen Square: A Political History of Monuments
2. Face of Authority: Tiananmen and Mao's Tiananmen Portrait
3. Displaying the People: National Day Parades and Exhibition Architecture
4. Monumentality of Time: From Drum Tower to 'Hong Kong Clock'
5. Art of the Square: From Subject to Site
Coda: Entering the New Millennium
Photo Acknowledgements
Review Quotes
Delia Davin | The Times Higher Education Supplement
"Highly original. . . . The author's account of his own developing political understanding adds another perspective to his cultural studies approach and records the intellectual and poltiical history of a generation."
John Gittings | The Guardian
"Fascinating. . . . multilayered book into which the author has woven passages of thoughtful narrative from his own experience. . . . Should help us all to think and look beyond the square."
Daniela Yew | Art Documentation
"At first glance, Remaking Beijing seems a curious mix of art history, political history, and personal reminiscences, but this first impression quickly fades and the book emerges as a compelling and well-structured whole."
Asian Affairs
"The author’s balanced but sensitive observation complements the scholarly narrative, and yet avoids the trivialising self-absorption that can spoil personal reactions to these momentous events."
Jonathan Mirsky | Times Literary Supplement

"Wu Hung sensitively intertwines his learned analysis with a personal account of how Tananmen influenced him and his family. He explains how the Communists decided to turn the area in front of the Forbidden City from a relatively private space into an overpowering public one."

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