Introduction: Decolonizing War Monuments in Greater China: History, Architecture and Visual Culture
The introduction offers an overview of the book in terms of its social and historical background, its significance, the theoretical framework and brief introduction to each chapter. While each chapter focuses on one particular locus and case, in the introduction, the interconnections among the five cases are elaborated.
Chapter 1 Between Iconic Image and (Artificial) Ruins: Shanghai Sihang Warehouse and Chinese Modern Visuality of World War II
Opened in 2015, Sihang Warehouse Memorial Museum is an architectural relic where the fierce and famous “Defense of Sihang Warehouse” during the Battle of Shanghai (Aug. to Nov. 1937) during the Second Sino-Japanese War took place. However, for a long time, the warehouse was barely used as a commemorative site in Communist China’s war memory narrative. This paper endeavors to bring the warehouse space from the background of the much-studied battle per se, to the foreground of its architectural history, painting, photographic and cinematic representations, and its current form of a rare spectacle of artificial ruins in war commemorative culture in the present China. Sihang Warehouse’s image and meaning are not only determined by its past as the valorization of the past has constantly been unstable. The chapter unfolds how commemorative space for modern and contemporary Chinese war memory and its meaning has been constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed.
Chapter 2 (Forgotten) Landscape of Imperial War Memories in a Colonial City: Hong Kong’s Cenotaph and The Statue Square
The Hong Kong Cenotaph stands on the Northeast corner of the Statue Square, which was built in 1887 in commemoration of the Victoria Queen's Golden Jubilee. The pre-WWII Statue Square can be said as a space where the government and the merchant class jointly nurtured royalty and power in the early colonial years of the city. The breakout of the Asian Pacific War and the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong in 1941, however, transformed the square forever. Most of the statues on the square, which were mostly made from bronze, were transported back to Japan and melted for making cannons for the war. After the war, as most of the statues were not able to return to their original sites on the Statue Square, what to do with the empty lot became a question. By tracing the symbolic and actual transformations of the Statue Square after WWII, this chapter tries to understand the changing spatial context of the Cenotaph in the postwar years. The changing nature of Statue Square in the postwar years brought the Cenotaph two major changes. Firstly, the Cenotaph became isolated, decontextualized and thus forgotten in the narrative of the Statue Square, where the beauty, cleanliness, everyday order of the urban garden, rather than symbolism speaking to colonial loyalty, were the featured and major attractions. Secondly, as the number of visitors of the Statue Square dramatically increased, accessibility of the area around the Cenotaph, which is no longer a ritual space for the social elites, has to be regulated and interpreted as an issue of everyday public space.
Chapter 3 Imagining Imaginarium in Taipei: From Taiwan Jinja to National Revolutionary Martyrs’ ShrineThis chapter focuses on the case of the National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine in Taipei in the matrix of colonialism, nationalism and war memories in East Asia. Tracing back to the topological history of the Martyrs’ Shrine, this chapter first scrutinizes the space-making process of the Shrine’s surrounding Yuanshan Area, in which Taiwan Jinja and Gokoku Jinja were built in the Japanese colonial period. Secondly, the chapter analyses aesthetic and spatial style of the Martyrs’ Shrine and its nearby Grant Hotel in relation to war mobilization, commemoration and national building through architectural form. The changing nature and symbolism of Yuanshan and the actual space of the Martyrs’ Shrine reveals how various forces tried to “iconize” the area with their own modernization agendas and ideals, constituting identities of being Japanese, Chinese and Taiwanese. Lastly, two contemporary art projects—“Becoming Taiwanese” by Taiwanese photographer Liang-Pin Tsao and “Torii” by Japanese artist Motoyuki Shitamichi are examined. The two projects reanimate visual memory and history of martyrs’ shrines in Taiwan and the relics of Shinto Shrines in Japan’s former colonies in Asia respectively. Martyrs’ shrines in Taiwan are not completely out of function, but they do have transformed into “difficult heritage” – that is, according to Sharon Macdonald’s definition, a spatial legacy associated with “a past that is recognised as meaningful in the present but that is also contested and awkward for public reconciliation with a positive, self-affirming contemporary identity.”(Macdonald 2009:1)
Chapter 4 The Monument that became Public Toilet: The First New Army Cemetery in Guangzhou
This chapter investigates into the case of the “New 1st Army Memorial Cemetery”. If other monuments in Mainland China are created in the discourse of “the Resistance War against Japan”, this particular monument can be truly regarded as a WWII monument. It commemorates the fallen soldiers of the Chinese Expeditionary Force (CEF) in the battles and expeditions that were not only involved with the fights between Chinese and Japanese both within and outside Chinese soil, but also operated by a less known allied force among China, Britain and the US. After Japan’s defeat in August 1945, Sun Liren, the commander of the Army and the New 1st Army received order to take over Guangzhou and to attend the ceremony of accepting Japan’s surrender. It is therefore pressed for Sun to build a formal monument for the fallen on the retrieved territory in China. The cemetery was completed in 1947 and two years later, the change of the regime from the KMT to the Communist soon made the monument “disappear” as its various parts are destroyed, hidden inside inaccessible military zones or surrounded by markets. As a monument of the largest scale in commemorating the fallen CEF soldiers, its invisibility has a lot to do with the ambiguity of WWII narrative in both mainland China and Taiwan. Moreover, the design and planning of the Cemetery reveals the designer’s unique consideration on monumentality in modern China. While other Republican monuments still took their outer form of Chinese palace or European garden with decorative and refined symbolism, the Cemetery crystallizes a bold experiment in using “cold”, abstract and concise aesthetics to create the atmosphere of solemnity. The chapter also argues that the invisibility of the monument speaks to a history of violent dissembling of the commemorative space amid rapid urban transformations of Guangzhou. It is in the process of violence that not only the history of the cemetery and its commemorative language, but also the history of Guangzhou can be traced.
Chapter 5 Renaming Monument, Rewriting History: Chongqing’s War Victory Stele/Liberation Stele
The Memorial Stele for the Liberation of Chongqing, or better known as the Liberation Stele and its surrounding square has been serving as the centre of Chongqing since the Republican years till now. The name of the Stele and its inscriptions of the handwriting Liu Bochen, the chairman of the Southwestern Division of the Central People’s Government of the PRC in the 1950s, may suggest the monument was built in commemoration of the “Liberation War”— a term the Chinese Communist Party uses to refer to the Civil War against the KMT troops between 1945 and 1949. How
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