Garside Original Proposal_Stephanie Wu


Stephanie Wu 1

Garside Prize Proposal 2013 – Stephanie Wu

Framing New China: Exploring the Changing Chinese

Identity Through Architecture­‐china-­‐then-­‐and-­‐now/

Stephanie Wu 2

“Architecture is a social act and the material theater of human activity.”

-­‐ Spiro Kostof

An introduction -­‐ Getting to know me:

My name is Stephanie Wu and I am a senior at Hanszen College majoring in Ecological and

Evolutionary Biology, History, and Asian Studies. Before I begin, I would like to share a

personal secret. I am a cultural nomad.

I was born and raised in San Jose, California until my parents decided to haul me back to

the motherland, Taiwan. I graduated from high school there and was sent back to the US for

college. Having spent a great deal of my adolescence in both Taiwan and the US, I describe

myself as having “one foot in the Eastern world and one foot in the Western world.” To my

college friends, I explain it as having the best of both worlds but at the same time,

belonging to neither. It is as much a blessing as it is a curse. It is a blessing because from

this hybrid culture, an unstable mix of East and West (in general terms), I have learned to

see things from multiple vantage points. Yet it is a curse because it has led me to a

scrambling identity crisis of a third culture kid. I see myself constantly struggling to strike a

balance between these two worlds that have seemingly polar opposite customs, values, and

practices. With every move I make, every word I speak, there seems to be a tiny voice in my

head querying: “Is that too Chinese/Taiwanese or is that too American?” This constant self-­awareness

has led me to a state of restlessness and allowed me to develop a keen

observance of others.

Due to my own experience with the clash of cultures, I have become greatly attuned to

similar cases in the larger, global context. It has become a serious obsession of mine to

track down areas of great cultural exchange and to understand how those various cultures

interact to cope with their differences. Naturally enough, as an Asian studies and History

major, I could not escape the mighty and ever-­‐so demanding presence of China.

Following Deng Xiaoping’s ascension to power in 1978, China set out on a path of national

transformation. He redefined China’s economy by introducing his “Socialism with Chinese

characteristics” and “reform and opening” strategies, allowing China to adopt a market

economy under a central bureaucracy. By creating Special Foreign Economic Zones and

opening up China to world trade and foreign investment, the Chinese government greatly

increased trade with the outside world. The Silk Road had exemplified in earlier history

that cross-­‐cultural trade inevitably causes profound cultural circulation, thereby

encouraging the exchange of all aspects of life ranging from religion, technology, diet,

ideology, art, architecture, to even the abstract concept of perceptions of beauty.

With China’s rising stardom in the international scene along with influences of

Westernization due to globalization and the increasingly capitalistic economy, China will

have to cope with the clash of cultures as new cultures (predominately Western) infiltrate

the country. We live in such a fascinating time of great change. Within my two-­‐decade long

lifespan, I was able to watch China transform from a backward, bullied country to its

current status of an economic giant where its metropolitan cities such as Shanghai and

Stephanie Wu 3

Beijing make even cities in developed nations seem somewhat rural and rustic. Having said

that, it is in my utmost interest to understand the clash of cultures in this newly emerging

world power China in an attempt to see how China incorporates the unavoidable

movement of Western culture into its strong traditions.

After taking several history courses here at Rice with amazing faculty, I have gained a new

set of analytical skills that allow me to use multidisciplinary approaches to undertake

cross-­‐cultural comparisons. One in particular, blew my mind. It was the 25-­‐page paper that

I had written for Dr. Balibanlilar’s Pre-­‐Islamic History Seminar, comparing the Mughal Red

Fort in Delhi to the Forbidden City in Beijing. 1

Like other forms of material culture, architecture provides both an explicit understanding

of a culture with its artistic form and display and also an implicit expression of cultural

values and meanings. As Kim Dovey puts it, “places tell us stories; we read them as spatial

text. The idea of ‘framing’ contains this ambiguity […it] implies both the construction of a

world and of a way of seeing ourselves in it – at once picture and mirror […] the

ambiguities of ‘framing’ reflect those of the nexus between place and practices of power.” 2

The Proposal:

Now, with a better understanding and appreciation for the power of architecture, I would

like to propose a month long trip to examine the influence of westernization, globalization,

and capitalism on China’s architecture. By analyzing the historical context behind specific

Chinese architectural structures (modern, traditional, or those with a hint of both), it is

possible to understand how social space was constructed and also how it has changed

throughout history, specifically the post-­‐Deng era. From these structures, I would like to

examine 1) what the people building the structures wanted to portray (through their

architectural design and use of space) and 2) how they saw themselves within these

structures. For an example, I have included an excerpt from my paper on the Forbidden

City in Beijing. 3 Another example would be the recently completed Shanghai World

Financial Center. This sleek, modern skyscraper projects a demanding display symbolizing

1 In writing this paper, I became critically aware of the power of material culture, namely that of

architecture. By analyzing the two magnificent imperial structures, I was able to hone in on the

conscious effort of the emperors in their portrayal of their empires and ideas of kingship.

2 Dovey, Kim. Framing Places: Mediating Power in Built Form. (London: Routledge, 1999): 1.

3 From the very beginning, the Forbidden City was designed to be a display of splendor and power.

Its full name Zijin Cheng is derived from a complex, Chinese, cosmologic order. Translated as

“Purple Forbidden City,” it denotes a mysterious yet powerful ring, with purple being a regal color. 3

The second Ming emperor, Yongle, moved his court from the old capital of Nanjing to the

preplanned city of Beijing. He had designed a grand plan for this new capital and his new palace.

According to Chinese tradition, “Beijing was the earthly termination of the axis of the universe, the

center of the world, the pivot of the four quarters. It [Beijing] created a world, from center to

circumference. It spoke, not in words, but in the language of architecture, mass, and space.” 3 .

Covering over 72 hectares of imperial structures and immense courtyards, as well as over 900

rooms, the Forbidden City was built to awe the subjects of China as well as the tributary border

states of the Ming.

Stephanie Wu 4

China’s present economic dominance. Situated in the cultural center of Shanghai it

represents a new force to be reckoned with. Multimedia forms online simply do not do

justice to these structures.

In addition, I am extremely curious as to how the local people understand these structures

such as the Financial Center. In particular, I plan on focusing on three different age groups:

the older population born before the cultural revolution, the middle-­‐aged population born

during the cultural revolution, and the younglings born after Deng opened up China. With

such diverse historical experiences, I want to ask: What do they see? What do they feel?

What is gained? What is lost? How do they view themselves in relation to such modern

structures? How do they cope with the mixing of tradition and change? What good do they

believe Westernization will bring and similarly, what bad will it bring? How do people of

different ages view this change? What about this progress? Is it too fast? How many people

are actually benefitting from it? What is it like to live in this new Chinese world that is

constantly changing, with the tearing down of old barriers and the creation of new ones?

Another aspect of this architectural project would be to identify which buildings the

Chinese chose to keep as a relic of their cultural history and which ones they readily

destroyed to replace with the fast-­‐paced growing demand of capitalism and wealth. By

looking at which ones they keep, it is possible to identify what they value in their traditions

and which ones they value less so. What does this new China want to portray? What does

she want to hide? Where is she headed? Which aspects of Western culture does she deem

useful, which ones does she discard? I have racked up a library of endless questions that I

truly hope to pursue with this trip to China. From there I want to understand the making of

this new global China. I want to gain a better sense of what makes Chinese, Chinese in this

new global context. As American architect Michael Graves once said, “In any architecture,

there is an equity between the pragmatic function and the symbolic function.” We humans

are fascinating, unpredictable creatures of surprise. Sometimes, we place emotions and

meaning in places where we never expect to find them. By delving into the amazing

symbolism and meaning behind China’s architecture, where Eastern and Western culture

collide and where tradition and change attempt to compromise, I hope to find the emotions

buried deep beneath the surface.

My trip is largely inspired by author of “China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising

Power” and former NPR correspondent, Rob Gifford. After many years of being a journalist

in China, he set out on a 3,000 mile, 14-­‐day trek across China on Route 312 (often called

China’s Mother Road). Beginning from the “boomtown” of China, Shanghai, he travelled

west on Route 312 along what was originally the Silk Road. His journey ended at the

Kazakhstan border.

Stephanie Wu 5

“China’s physical landscape is changing as the country is turned upside down by

development. But so is its psychological landscape, and its moral universe – what people think,

what they believe. In the West, there were more than a hundred years for the dust of the

Industrial Revolution to settle before the Technological Revolution came along. In China, the

two revolutions are happening simultaneously. The dislocation both physical and

psychological, is immense, and it is tearing at the fabric of society, even as the new roads and

railroads knit the country more closely together.” – Rob Gifford

A quest for personal growth and self-­‐exploration:

While grappling with my own ambivalence, my school work in Asian studies and History

has led me to realize that despite thousands of years of rich history, China exudes a

youthful, exciting, confused, yet powerful aura; which reminds me largely of my present

21-­‐year-­‐old self. I would love to go to Europe or Australia to see their great architectural

histories, however, I chose China because of its enormous rate of change and growth. There

history is being made every second. A building that might not have been there a week ago,

may be standing with towering awe. China is where it is at. I want to be able to witness its

change and share its experience. Like China, I am undergoing one of the most chaotic yet

defining eras of growth in my life. Not only does this project stress the beauty of a

multidisciplinary approach (as Rice is known for), but it will also allow me a chance for

self-­‐exploration outside the boundaries I am accustomed to. After all, I am just a girl who

wants to understand the world around her so she can understand who she wants to be and

what values she wants to follow.

Pre-­‐trip Readings and Preparations:

Note: I have completed the highest level Mandarin Chinese Reading and Writing course here

at Rice. In addition, I have 4+ years of experience living in Taiwan. I am also speaking


• Books:

o China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power by Rob Gifford

o Out of Mao’s Shadow by Philip Pan

o Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler

o River Town by Peter Hessler

o Lonely Planet China Guide 12 th Edition (2011)

o The Last Days of Old Beijing by Michael Meyer

• Multimedia:

o “Last Train Home” Documentary of a Chinese family living through China’s

rush to economic development

o “Morning Call” Talk Show hosted by Singer/composer Gao Xiaosong who

comments on the latest trends in the culture industry and everyday life.

• Various China Travel Blogs such as:




Stephanie Wu 6

Trip Reflection Projects:

• Daily detailed journal entries

• Photography of travels made visible online as a photo essay in different

forms of social media

• A blog with entries, post-­‐trip reflections, photography, recommendations,

tips, etc.

• Documentary video of trip using iMovie


Original Map Adapted from:

Route: Beijing Xi’an Suzhou Shanghai Hangzhou Guangzhou Hong Kong

Note: Sights are subject to change depending on the interaction and suggestions given by the

locals. Admission fees are also listed (rounded up to nearest USD).

Length of Trip: 35 days total. 5 days at each of the 7 cities.

Stephanie Wu 7

1. Beijing:

The Forbidden City ¥60 (CNY) $10 (USD)

Great Hall of the People ¥30 $5

Tian Tian Gongyuan ¥35 $6

Ming Tombs (all 4 tombs) ¥165 $27

National Aquatics Center ¥30 $5

National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) ¥30 $5

Lama Temple ¥25 $4

Confucius temple ¥30 $4

Mutianyu Ming Dynasty guard towers ¥45 $8

Prince Gong’s Residence (entrance, guide, opera) ¥70 $12

Summer Palace (full access) ¥50 $9

The Big Bell Tower ¥35 $6

National Stadium (plus skiing) ¥160 $26

CCTV Building


Beijing Hutongs


Temple of Heaven ¥35 $5

Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center


Foreign Legation Quarter


Historic Streets: Qianmen Dajie, Nanluogu Xiang, Dashilar Free

Total: ¥800 $132

2. Xi’an:

Terracotta Amry ¥150 (CNY) $25 (USD)

Xi’an City Walls ($4 with student half price) ¥40 $7

Huashan Mountain (for fun $23 for cable car) ¥180 $29

Little Goose Pagoda (with pagoda mounting) ¥28 $5

Big Wild Goose Pagoda ($15) ¥130 $21

Grand Mosque ($5) ¥25 $5

Xi’an Museum


Folk House ¥20 $4

Temple of Eight Immortals ¥3 $1

Tang Dynasty Arts Museum ¥5 $1

Shaanxi History Museum


Drum and Bell Towers ¥30 $5

Total: ¥612 $103

Stephanie Wu 8

3. Suzhou:

Suzhou Museum Free (CNY) $ (USD)

Famous Classical Gardens of Suzhou


*Gardens are also great architectural structures that give

us an insight into the cultural significance of the area.

Library of Wenzheng College


Humble Administrator’s Garden ¥70 $12

Lingering Garden


The Grand Canal


Panmen Gate


The Garden of Master Nets


Tongli Water Town


Tiger Hill


Zhouzhuang Water Town


Lion Grove ¥20 $4

Hanshan Temple


Silk Museum ¥10 $2

Museum of Opera


The Garden of Harmony


Guanqian Street


Jinxi Ancient Town


Total: ¥100 $18

4. Shanghai:

“If the 21 st century belongs to China, then the city that will be at the heart of it will be

Shanghai. Shanghai is the boomtown of Asia where shiny new skyscrapers seem to spring up

daily like mushrooms after a spring rain.” – Rob Gifford with NPR

Jin Mao Building ¥ 100 (CNY) $ 17(USD)

Oriental Pearl TV Tower (for 3 spheres) ¥150 $25

Shanghai World Financial Center ¥150 $25

Shanghai Grand Theater


Ningbo Tengtou Pavilion


Shikumen Open House Museum ¥20 $4



The Bund Architecture


Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall ¥30 $5

Taikang Road Art Center


Qibao Ancient Town


Duolun Road Cultural Street Architecture


Young Allen Court


Wukang Road Tourist Information Center


Total: ¥450 $76

Stephanie Wu 9

5. Hangzhou:

Lingyin Temple ¥65 (CNY) $11 (USD)

Qinghefang Old Street


West Lake Area


Gu Hill Gardens


Six Harmonies Pagoda ¥30 $5

Chinese Medicine Museum ¥10 $2

Hangzhou Churches


Seal Engraver’s Society


Southern Song Dynasty Guan Kiln Museum ¥3 $1

Yue Fei Temple ¥25 $5

Baopu Taoist Temple ¥5 $1

Yellow Dragon Cave Park


Jingci Zen Monastery ¥10 $2

Zhejiang Provincial Museum


Baochu Pagoda


China Silk Museum


Liulang Wenying Park


Mausoleum of Yue Fei ¥25 $5

Leifang Pagoda ¥40 $7

Total: ¥148 $39

6. Guangzhou:

Guangzhou City Museum Free (CNY) (USD)

China International Trust and Investment Company Free


Guangzhou Opera House


Cathedral of the Sacred Heart


Guangxiao Temple ¥5 $1

Yuexiu Park ¥5 $1

Orchid Garden (with tea tasting) ¥20 $4

Qingping Market


Temple of Five Immortals


Mausoleum of the Nanyue King ($3) ¥12 $3

Chen Clan Ancestral Hall ($2) ¥10 $2

Temple of the Six Banyan Trees ($3) ¥15 $3

Whampoa Military Academy ($3) ¥15 $3

Memorial Museum of Generalissimo Sun Yat-­‐sen’s Free


Church of Our Lady Lourdes


Total: ¥82 $17

Stephanie Wu 10

7. Hong Kong:

Walking around Hong Kong and interacting with the locals will give me a better sense of

which sites to go to. It will be easier to plan when I am there, therefore, I will not provide an

extensive detailed list.

Peak Tower ¥ 30 (CNY) $ 5 (USD)

Government House free


Former French Mission Building free


Murray House free


Old Stanley Police Station free ¥5 $1

Apliu Street Market


Total: ¥35 $6

Stephanie Wu 11

Garside Prize Budget Proposal

(35 Days Total)

Airfare (baggage cost included):

U.S. (Houston) to China Round Trip

Ground Transport:

Beijing Xi’an (Train)

Xi’an Suzhou (Train)

Suzhou Shanghai (Train)

Shanghai Hangzhou (Train)

Hangzhou Guangzhou (Plane)

Guangzhou Hong Kong (Train)

Beijing (5 days):

Housing: Sitting on the City Walls Courtyard Hostel $50

Transportation: (¥2 per ride on subway, ¥1 per ride on bus, Airport

Express subway ¥25 each x2)

Food: Estimated $30 per day

Site Admission Fees: (Previously detailed)

Xi’an (5 days):

Housing: Approx. $30 per night at Han Tang Youth Hostel

Transportation: Rough Estimate

Food: Estimated $30 per day

Site Admission Fees: (Previously detailed)

Suzhou (5 days):

Housing: Approx. $20 per night at Suzhou Watertown Hostel

Transportation: Rough Estimate

Food: Estimated $30 per day

Site Admission Fees: (Previously detailed)

Shanghai (5 days):

Housing: approx. $20 per night at Blue Mountain Youth Hostel

Transportation: (3-­‐8 RMB subway ride) Rough Estimate

Food: Estimated $30 per day

Site Admission Fees: (Previously detailed)

Hangzhou (5 days):

Housing: approx. $20 per night at Wushanyi Int’l Youth Hostel


Food: Estimated $30 per day

Site Admission Fees: (Previously detailed)

Guangzhou (5 days):

Housing: approx. $20 per night at Dongshan Catalpa Garden Hostel


Food: Estimated $30 per day

Site Admission Fees: (Previously detailed)
































Stephanie Wu 12

Hong Kong (5 days):

Housing: approx. $30 per night at Delta Hostel Hong Kong


Food: Estimated $30 per day

Site Admission Fees: (Previously detailed)


Single Entry Visa to China

(Unforeseen Costs):









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