Keynote speakers

Stacey Pierson, SOAS

Keynote title: ‘Fragments of China: Destruction, Location and the Collecting of Chinese Architectural Remains in 19th century Britain’

The collecting of Chinese art and objects in Britain developed significantly in the second half of the 19th century. This development was associated with greater access to collectible material and to China itself, primarily as a result of military activity. Events such as the sacking of the Summer Palace in 1860 provided physical access to China and its things and led to new areas of collecting and approaches to collecting. It also led to new ways of thinking about both China and collected objects. Of particular interest is the collecting of architectural remains from China because these objects became at once souvenirs, trophies and ‘art’. They were connected physically and intellectually to a nation, specific buildings and specific events. The kind of architectural fragments that were removed and collected included tiles, bricks, roof ornaments and fragments of statuary that decorated buildings. As such, these Chinese ‘objects’ were more familiar to the British collector than items more typically identified as art, such as porcelain or cloisonné vases, pictures, lacquerware or jades. This familiarity is the result of a long history of collecting architectural remains in Britain which became almost a craze during the 18th century and the pursuit of ‘the Grand Tour’. What is different about the collecting of Chinese architectural fragments is that it was associated with immediate events, rather than the temporal distance that was associated with European fragments. Unlike Chinese ones, these fragments were ‘ruins’, the perceived result of crumbling that comes with age and is linked to the ancient past. There is therefore a romance associated with such collecting, but the psychology of collecting Chinese fragments was very different as it was associated with contemporary violence. In this talk, the many aspects of collecting architectural remains from China in 19th-century Britain will be explored with a view to illuminating collecting practices associated with specific types of material but also the relationship between collecting and destruction that characterized a material relationship with China after 1860.

© SOAS, University of London

Dr Stacey Pierson is a Senior Lecturer in Chinese Ceramics in the Department of History of Art and Archaeology in the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Her research over the last 5 years has focused on the history of Chinese art collecting in Britain. This subject was also part of a wider research enquiry into the history and impact of an art collecting group that was active in Britain from 1866-1950, resulting in a recently published monograph that examined the membership of the group from the perspective of their collecting interests and strategies as well as their exhibitionary activities. She is currently developing a study of a single collector of Chinese art from the late nineteenth century whose network included the Pre-Raphaelite circle as well as the Quaker community in Britain: William Cleverly Alexander. His Chinese objects can be seen in several museum collections in Britain today. She has published widely on the subject of Chinese collections and her book Private Collecting, Exhibitions and the Shaping of Art History in London: the Burlington Fine Arts Club was published in 2017 by Routledge.


Ya Ping Wang, University of Glasgow

Keynote title: ‘China’s Urban Transformation: A Confucianism Perspective’

China has been moving very fast from an agriculture based society toward an urban dominant country over the last three decades. Researchers have applied various ideologies and frameworks to study and understand this dramatic and unprecedented urban transformation. Of the most commonly adopted theories, neoliberalism, focusing on the political economies of state-market relation, provides an important lens of critical analysis. China’s urban development has however created many unique features. For example, the excessive trend of centralization; the wealth generation and property-led development in top ranked cities; the production of uniformed and architecturally homogenous residential areas with very high building height and density; the persistence of the hukou effects; the continuous prominence of the work unit system; and the emerging new patterns of urban community management and governance. Many of these features and their dynamic changes cannot be easily explained by any generic and imported theories. This paper examines some of these key features of urban changes in China and their linkage to the dominant Chinese culture – Confucianism. It demonstrates that the integration of neoliberalism and Confucianism (the Neoliberal-Confucianism) may provide a better theoretical framework and approach to understand China’s urbanisation and the China development model.

Professor Ya Ping Wang is Chair in Global City Futures at University of Glasgow and a Fellow of Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS). He is also Director for the newly established GCRF Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods. Ya Ping was Head of Subject for Urban Studies from 2013 to 2015. Before moving to Glasgow, he was Professor in Urban Studies at Heriot-Watt University.

Ya Ping’s research focusses on housing, urban development and rural to urban migration in China which has been supported by several prestigious research bodies including ESRC, DFID, British Academy, British Council, Leverhulme Trust, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC). He is the author of Urban Poverty, Housing and Social Change in China published by Routledge in 2004 and, alongside his colleagues, he co-authored Planning and Housing in the Rapidly Urbanising World (Routledge, 2007), as well as Housing Policy and Practice in China (Macmillan, 1999).

He currently leads on two ESRC collaborative research projects: ‘The Remaking of Chinese Urban Neighbourhoods: socio-spatial transformation and access to public services’, co-funded by China’s NSFC in collaboration with Nankai University, and ‘Urban Development, Migration, Segregation and Inequality’, which is also co-funded by the China Academy of Social Sciences and is a collaboration between the University of Glasgow, University of Sheffield and Institute of Urban Development and Environmental Studies of CASS. In addition to these projects, Ya Ping is leading on a new Research Councils UK Global Challenges Research Fund project to which China is one of the eight international partners, entitled GCRF Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods.  The Centre will strengthen research capacity among urban researchers, government officials and policy makers in developing countries and the UK, and conduct comparative studies of urbanisation and urban neighbourhoods to address the challenges caused by large-scale rural to urban migration.