The Emergence of Modern Parks and Recreational Landscapes in Guangzhou and Hong Kong

Authors: Cecilia Chu*, The University of Hong Kong
Topics: Cultural Geography, Historical Geography, Asia
Keywords: Landscape, park, recreation, leisure, modernism, China, Hong Kong
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper traces emergent conceptions of modern parks and recreational landscapes in colonial Hong Kong and Republican Guangzhou amidst growing calls to improve the health of populations in both cities between 1910s and 1930s. While foreign-trained architects and planners envisioned a better urban future characterized by beautiful parks, tree-lined streets and ample public spaces that were accessible to everyone, social reformers and philanthropists sought to promote organized recreational activities for the poorer classes in order to turn them into modern, governable subjects. Meanwhile, with the advent of the popular press in the 1920s, iconic images of modern leisure spaces in the West were widely circulated both in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, generating widespread enthusiasm as well as new debates over the need to retain “local tradition” against wholesale Westernization. By revisiting the planning processes and discourses of a number of major parks in this period, this paper illustrates that the advent of modernist recreational landscapes paralleled a larger shift toward a new urban milieu constructed by a wide range of actors and institutions that traversed across the two territories. This study will further enable a better understanding of the transnational exchange of knowledge about modernist planning and landscape design and how particular models originated from the West were adapted in non-Western contexts for the promotion of specific visions and agendas.

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