A widely accepted assumption concerning the form of Chinese traditional cities is that they are derived from Confucian Cosmology and Fengshui theory, thus making them full of myth and symbolism. In this paper, we attempt to build three arguments based on political economic perspectives. Firstly, borrowing Kevin Lynch’s definitions (1981), we argue that the ideal form of Chinese traditional cities is a mechanical, functional model rather than a magical one. Secondly, by examining historical maps of various capital cities, we suggest that the form-evolution as well as distribution of Chinese cities can be better classified according to the relationship between the tributary mode of production (TMP) and the petty capitalist mode of production (PCMP). Thirdly, we argue that it is possible to use our classification and analysis to examine the form of current Chinese cities as the nature of the Chinese political economy remains relatively unchanged.
We have succeeded at identifying a dynamic consistent pattern of change in Chinese city form over history as the interaction between TMP and PCMP. Social and physical forms are the result of a polarized society and an uncompleted public sphere interface between the state and the citizenry, with a consequent inequality in urban development in modern times.
The authors 2014
Proceedings of the 12th Australasian Urban History Planning History Conference 2014