Mapping out a ‘Folded’ city – British resident-travellers’ writing on Beijing, 1911 – 1939

Xi, Kun (2020) Mapping out a ‘Folded’ city – British resident-travellers’ writing on Beijing, 1911 – 1939. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.


This thesis attempts to develop our understanding of British travel writing on early twentieth century China by focusing specifically on travel narratives about Republican Beijing, building on the argument that earlier British perceptions of China were conditioned by specific geographical locations such as treaty ports and crown colonies, as well as of the major cities. I pay particular attention to the accounts of British resident-travellers who interacted with Beijing more intensively and sought to evoke its urban space with more subtlety and complexity. The major works of travel literature that the chapters in this thesis cover include Sir Harold Acton’s Peonies and Ponies (1941), Sir Reginald Fleming Johnston’ Twilight in the Forbidden City (1934), and Ann Bridge’s Peking Picnic (1932). These texts make a survey of the city from a variety of significant sites, ranging from hutongs and royal palaces to the Legation Quarter and the city’s outskirts. Instead of seeking an all-embracing concept like that of orientalists or colonists to explain British resident-travellers’ encounters with Beijing, I detect an intricate pattern in their perceptions of a foreign city and land at a time of social and political turmoil. To address the point, I expose the selected travel narratives to a repertoire of cultural-geographical theories, including work by Michel Foucault, Lewis Mumford, Nina Chordas, Homi Bhabha, and Lucy Huskinson, etc. By capturing the differences among these three primary authors and their literary characters in terms of modes of residency, intention, occupation, gender, and sexuality, the thesis brings to light divergent discourses about the cultural spatiality of Beijing. I propose that these discourses can be measured in terms of, for example, Foucauldian heterotopia (Chapter One), reconstructive utopia, escapist utopia (Chapter Two), and the unhomely homes and sites of the urban uncanny (Chapter Three). In so doing, the thesis lends Beijing a metaphorical topography rich in dimensionality, rendering its cultural space as if it were upfolded from a flat atlas. Working with the concept of ‘heterotopography’, the thesis affords a new way of understanding how Britons perceived the city of Beijing and its environs. Ultimately, I hope that this approach will supply a stimulus not only to textual scholars but also urban and cultural geographers.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright issues this thesis is not available for viewing.
Keywords: British travel writing, resident-travellers, Beijing, a heterotopographic paradigm.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Leask, Professor Nigel and Radford, Dr. Andrew
Date of Award: 2020
Embargo Date: 29 May 2023
Depositing User: Ms KUN XI
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81399
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 29 May 2020 10:47
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2021 16:07

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