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Architectural Models and Their Contexts in China’s 20th-Century Architectural Heritage: An Overview


Qing Chang

Translated by Lui Tam, proofread by Yingchun Li

College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Tongji University, Shanghai, China


ABSTRACT  The article explores the morphological evolution of China’s 20th-century architecture chronologically. Chinese Neoclassicism has played a major role in forming the 20th-century heritage buildings surviving today. The phenomenon of Neoclassicism emerged because of the late arrival of China’s modernisation and industrialisation process compared with the West. In turn, in accepting and contesting Western culture, the Chinese elite have consciously relied upon architecture as a vehicle to uphold visible symbols of national Chinese identity and traditional Chinese culture. Meanwhile, in the foreign settlements of the treaty ports such as Shanghai, the Western Neoclassical style, along with other imported construction trends, also forms part of China’s 20th-century architectural heritage. Western Neoclassicism’s influence on China’s new architecture became even more evident in the mid-20th century, with the modern architectural heritage in Tiananmen Square as its exemplar. Nevertheless, the impact of Western modernist architecture on China’s architecture was minimal. It was not until the 1980s, as China reopened to the world, that various schools of thought from the post-industrial West flowed into China, which significantly enriched the types and sources of China’s 20th-century architectural heritage. Modern Classicism, late Modernism and Postmodernism all found their way into China’s contemporary architecture.

KEYWORDS  China’s 20th-century architectural heritage, model, pseudo-classic, classical Chinese style, national style, neo-Chinese style, diversification

Received October 20, 2019; accepted December 5, 2019.

Updated on December 30, 2019.

​Second updated on March 31, 2020 (added a missing reference "J. Zhang 2018")

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