Debates about Orientalism: British Consulate Architecture in Border Cities (Yunnan and Manchuria) of China before 1953

By Hsin-Yin Huang.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Since foreign trade was forced to open in 1842, China’s relationship with its dependencies turned into international affairs with imperialist countries, British, Japan and Russia for instance. As a unique existence in the modern history of British-China relationship, the China Consul Service was required to establish posts since then to supervise trade and practice extraterritorial rights. The British Office of Works accordingly opened its Shanghai Office in 1867 to overlook the diplomatic premises in China. So did the border cities near the colonised countries, such as British Burma, Japanese Korea and Russian-influenced Northeast China. In 1897 British set up Ssumao consulate on the border between China and Burma. It was followed by the institution of Tengyueh (1899), Yunnan Fu (1902) Kashgar (1904), Mukden (1906), Antung(1908) and Harbin (1910). Letters between architects, diplomats and the Treasury reveal that the design for the remote consulates was prepared in a standardised model by the architects, who scarcely visited the posts to understand the geographical diversity of China or regarded the opinion of the consuls on-site. The architectural classicism was as a result directly transplanted onto the Chinese soil, without considering climatic, cultural and technological differences. Base on archival examination, historic context reconstruction, and contemporary literature criticism, the paper examines the debates between the British diplomats and architects on the design of the consulate architecture in southern and northern borders of China as an alternative way to understand the British Orientalism and its physical appearance of consulate architecture.

Keywords: British Consulate Architecture, Design, Geography, Imperialism, Orientalism

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 3, Issue 8, pp.185-194. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 614.562KB).

Hsin-Yin Huang

PhD Student, School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

I was born in Taiwan, Southeast Asia, where the East met the West. The island locates beside the Mainland China, on the middle way of Japan and South Asia, thus a perfect depot base for the West and East cultural interaction, which has been my most interesting subject since childhood. I have undergone architectural training form basic design practice to research-based building testing experiments, and involved in social and cultural events from community-based planning after the 921 earthquakes to conferences in history nationally and internationally before studying abroad. Studying in the School of Architecture, the University of Sheffield and under the advise from Prof. Peter Blundell-Jones prove to be an inspiring experience in my career. The interdisciplinary research between architecture and anthropology provides a refreshing perspective in my interacting cultural research as redefining the root of the tradition.

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