Cover: Beijing Time, from Harvard University PressCover: Beijing Time in PAPERBACK

Beijing Time

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$31.00 • £26.95 • €28.95

ISBN 9780674047341

Publication Date: 05/01/2010


288 pages

5-1/2 x 8 inches

73 halftones, 4 maps


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The book starts with Beijing places, beginning of course at the centre of the Chinese universe, Tiananmen Square, and starts to unpack their meanings for people today. It is interspersed with long encounters with interesting, ordinary Beijingers: a policewoman, rubbish sifters, a seedy businessman working contacts in a karaoke joint.—Rowan Callick, The Australian

A fascinating cultural mapping of modern Beijing. Here are ring roads that resemble ‘successive reworkings of the old city wall’; here is the district for ‘saw-gash CDs’ (imperfect discs dumped by western record labels on the Chinese market), where the young bob for Sex Pistols albums… The book is a useful street-level corrective to received ideas. In particular, its interviews with citizens—an ex-policeman, scavengers in plastic-bag mountains, luminaries of the art scene, cafe owners who dream of being film directors, members of a kind of granny Neighborhood Watch scheme—are wonderfully humane.—Steven Poole, The Guardian

This engrossing book merges travel writing, sociology and streetwise reportage. From Mao’s tomb to designer malls, karaoke bars to ‘Pandaman,’ who parodies Olympic hype, these intellectual sleuths search for clues to the hidden city beneath the headline stories. Their Beijing hums with ghosts of the past, as well as with every kind of futuristic dream.—Justin Wintle, The Independent

Beijing Time is an exhaustive, modern portrayal of a city and its people, written with flair from the belly of the Beijing dragon. As China scrubs away the history of the Cultural Revolution and repaints the city in capitalist strokes, old Beijing is being replaced by a more tourism-oriented version… This is a vividly textured account of a city in transition.—Laurence Mackin, Irish Times

Beijing Time is a wide-ranging travelogue that succeeds in capturing the contradictions of what the authors call a ‘monstropolis.’ They eschew simplification in favor of Beijing’s dazzling intricacy… We are shown a city with astonishing human capital, a city where, barely a decade after Tiananmen, the people and the government appear to have reached some tentative concord between dissent and coercion.—Tod Hoffman, Montreal Gazette

Beijing Time is an intriguing puzzle portrait of pieces of China, from an explication of how Communist construction disrupted the traditional flow of qi through the city to scenes from ragpickers’ slums, karaoke bars, ‘ghost markets’ where collectors search for authentic Maoist ephemera, former factories converted to avant-garde artists’ spaces, and a good deal more in only 238 well-illustrated pages. Through it all, China emerges as something quite different from the totalitarian nightmare of some people’s fears, something more like the European monarchies of the 19th century where arts, culture and independent thinking flourished alongside the activities of secret police—not a free society in the American sense, necessarily, but one where plenty of people seem to be free just the same, and maybe more free, for the risks they might run, than Americans would give them credit for.—Samuel Wilson, Think 3 Institute

Deeply informed by urban theory and exhibiting an assured feel for the city, Beijing Time paints a vivid picture of Beijing’s tumultuous transformations. At once anthropological and historical, and with its sights set on both the official and nonofficial city, on both urban form and urban experience, this book offers a wonderfully textured guide to contemporary Beijing, written with wit and panache. There is simply no other study quite like this.—Gyan Prakash, Princeton University

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