The Importance of Chinese Vernacular Architecture in Explaining the Decline of Rujiasixiang in the People's Republic of China
An overlooked factor that explains for China’s widening moral vacuum and waning rujiasixiang (Confucian-Mencian thought) is the destruction of Chinese vernacular architecture, for architectural space not only shapes social behavior but reflects and embodies specific morals and values. This paper uses Beijing as a case study in order to explore how the rapid demolition of siheyuan (traditional quadrangle courtyards) has contributed to China’s changing moral landscape. There is existing literature regarding how space provides a fundamental physical framework in which traditions, values, and culture are both reflected and reinforced. However, while there is documentation of and resistance against the bulldozing of Chinese vernacular architecture, few studies connect space with China’s widening moral vacuum. Examination of space offers a new and unconventional approach to this traditional political science question. The research procedure for this paper involves detailed analysis of the three dominant paradigms used to account for China’s vanishing rujiasixiang, and shows how they contain credence but are inadequate for presenting the whole picture. In the spirit of Peter Katzenstein, in which eclecticism can greatly contribute to problem solving, this paper seeks to prove that an understudied explanation for the rujiasixiang problem lies in space and vernacular architecture. It uses Beijing as an example to highlight the consequences associated with the erosion of environments that are culturally rooted and locally produced, and draws on a wide breadth of secondary reading to convey the significance of space, and emphasizes how it comprises physical, mental, and social dimensions, and is constituted through concrete human practices. The methodology also includes researching specific, detailed architectural components of siheyuan, assessing the principles its structure espouses, and tracing how the very social rules built into the quadrangle courtyard’s configuration is uprooted by urbanization, ultimately resulting in a dramatic value shift.
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