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250 × 164 mm
272 pages
193 illustrations, 60 in colour
01 May 2005

Remaking Beijing Tiananmen Square and the Creation of a Political Space Wu Hung

Remaking Beijing traces China’s modern and contemporary experience, focusing on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, still the most exalted space in China today. Wu Hung describes the square's transformation from a proscribed imperial space to a public arena of political expression, and from a monumental Communist complex to a holy relic of the Maoist era. For over half a century, since the square became the symbolic centre of the new socialist capital, it has determined the city's development; in examining the square, the author examines the city as a whole.

Wu Hung also explores the importance of Tiananmen as a locus of visual production in China: as the site for Mao’s standard portrait on Tiananmen’s façade; as the location of museums and monuments showcasing masterpieces of socialist art; and as a parade ground for extravagant National Day celebrations. In recent years it has also inspired unofficial artists to create a large body of works - paintings, photographs, performances - which challenge its authority.

Using a wide range of sources including government archives, newspapers, photography, architecture, literature, art exhibitions and advertisements, this book explores the history and complex meaning of Beijing’s public spaces. As a native of Beijing, Wu Hung witnessed the construction and transformation of the city; in this book he combines historical inquiry with his own personal experience, offering a case study of a particular type of modern metropolis whose construction is intertwined with the creation of a political nation-state.

‘Tiananmen Square . . . has become both metaphor and reality for the exercise of Chinese state power. In his fascinating book, the art historian Wu Hung deconstructs the square’s many images of authority, from the Martyr’s Memorial where Mao laid the foundation stone to the clock that counted down to the handover of Hong Kong.’ – John Gittings, The Guardian

‘Wu Hung sensitively intertwines his learned analysis with a personal account of how Tiananmen 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.’ – Jonathan Mirsky, TLS

‘This highly original book shows how the transformation of Beijing was dominated first by a resolve to infuse the city’s public spaces with new political meaning, and more recently by the desire for a capital that reflects China's status as a world power.’ – Times Higher Education Supplement

‘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.’ – Asian Affairs

Remaking Beijing explores the changing meaning of what is arguably modern China’s most important politically charged space, Tiananmen Square. Wu Hung brings to the book a lifetime of different sorts of encounters with this locale, as well as the public events and artistic experiments that have taken place there or invoked it . . . This exciting book by a very important figure will have a considerable impact both within and beyond the field of Chinese studies.’ – Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Indiana University

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Wu Hung is Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor in Chinese Art History at the University of Chicago. He is the author of many books, including The Double Screen: Medium and Representation in Chinese Painting (Reaktion, 1996), The Art of the Yellow Springs: Understanding Chinese Tombs (Reaktion, 2010) and A Story of Ruins: Presence and Absence in Chinese Art and Visual Culture (2011).