While Beijing is a city of traditional Chinese architecture, identified by its emphasis on horizontality and sloped roofs, Shanghai is a city of Western modernity, marked by bright neon lights that illuminate the heights of soaring skyscrapers and monumental Neoclassical banks.
Anthony E. Clark
Dr. Anthony E. Clark is the Edward B. Lindaman Endowed Chair and Professor of Chinese History at Whitworth University. His most recent book is China Gothic: The Bishop of Beijing and His Cathedral.
Articles by Anthony E. Clark
When we build,” John Ruskin famously remarked in The Lamp of Memory, “let it not be for present delights nor for present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think ... that men will say, as they look upon the labor and the wrought substance of them, ‘See! This our fathers did for us!’” The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Beijing is undertaking a substantial restoration and renovation of its most famous church, the Xishiku North Cathedral, in a way that would have contented Ruskin’s sensibilities.
The opening lines of Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities describes well China's state of sacred building in recent decades: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness...it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us."1