My dissertation examines the city making process of Wuhan out of three different towns. The three towns, Wuchang, Hankou and Hanyang, located at the confluence of the Yangzi River and its largest tributary, the Han River, were divided by water and the imperial administration. In less than fifty years, the three towns disappeared, and in their place emerged Wuhan, the largest Chinese city in terms of its urban area. The urban integration was so successful that their separate pasts have been left out of current public memory. The goal of my study is to understand why and how Wuhan was made, and what the obsession with the city's big size can tell us about Chinese imagination and experience of modernity in the twentieth century.
In answering these questions, the project is designed to cover three periods from late Qing, the republic, to the early PRC, and to trace modernizing efforts made by successive regimes to create "Great Wuhan." It focuses on five key historical periods--the late Qing reform, the urban self recovery after the 1911 revolution, the modernist planning from 1927-1936, Wuhan as a wartime capital in the Anti-Japanese War (1937-1945), and the socialist urban reconstruction from 1949 to 1957. The study shows the 1911 revolution as a turning moment when a modern city was designed to depart from its imperial antecedent. It was Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of Republican China, who first proposed the idea of "Great Wuhan." Such a gigantic urban project shows that Sun was thinking "big." I argued that his way of thinking prevailed with the emergence of a strong scientific faith, which primarily placed upon young technologically trained officials and engineers later. Like Sun Yat-sen, they envisioned a total transformation of modern China through re-engineering urban society and infrastructure construction. This "big" vision of modernity--gigantic and centralized--was promoted by both Chinese Nationalists and Communists and ran across time and ideology in shaping contemporary urban landscape.
I also argue that the creation of Wuhan had been closely tied to the nation-state building in the early twentieth century. Sun's idea of "Great Wuhan" didn't gain currency until the late 1920s when the Nationalist party that inherited Sun's mantle came to power. From then on, efforts to make "Great Wuhan" always intensified at moments of national crisis and political change, through which the state consolidated its power and gained control over local society. The rise of nationalism along the time also contributed the obsession with bigness that fueled the ambitious project of "Great Wuhan." It is under the CCP regime that the city of Wuhan was finally made. The socialist system and its strong nationalist movements established in the early years of PRC proved to be more effective in carrying out the mega city project.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2010. Major: History. Advisor: Ann Waltner and Liping Wang. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 229 pages. Ill. (some col.) maps.
Big is modern: the making of Wuhan as a Mega-City in early twentieth century China, 1889-1957.
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