Debates on Orientalism: British Consulate Architecture in Border Cities (Yunnan and Manchuria) of China before 1953
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 nor 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 design of 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
PhD Student, School of Architecture, University of Sheffield