Print this Page. Send this Page.

Subproject D4

Working Title: Aspects of Authenticity: Maintenance, Restoration and Conservation of Historic Architecture in China  

Researcher: Shaohua Grasmück-Zhang

Monument protection and the preservation, conservation and restoration of monuments and historic buildings as scientific disciplines in China are innovations of the 20th century that exemplify the transcultural flows of concepts and practices. Brief instructions for the reparation and maintenance of buildings are yet found in official construction manuals in ancient China, e.g. in “Treaties on Architectural Methods” (Yingzao Fashi營造法式), written by Li Jie李誡 towards the end of the 11th century. On the fundamentals expressed by Li Jie, major construction standards in China should be based for the following 1000 years. In the early 20th century, however, Chinese architects and archaeologists suddenly expressed a western-centric, archaeological interest in Chinese architecture, paying special attention to issues of conservation, preservation and restoration of architectural heritage. In consequence of a growing international exchange, a number of guidelines for cultural heritage preservation in China were formulated and betimes modified, particularly since the 1980s.

This research project examines the history of essential aspects of maintenance, restoration and conservation of Chinese architecture using interdisciplinary methodologies while always keeping in mind the art historical approach which is the focus of interest. Firstly, attention is given to artisanal traditions as well as concepts and practices of maintenance in Chinese architectural history since the 8th century. While studying relevant historical texts, such as “Ordinance of Construction” (Yingshan ling營繕令) dating back to the Tang dynasty, and “Treaties on Architectural Methods” (Yingzao Fashi營造法式) from Song time, it is necessary to reveal and analyze the great corpus in classical Chinese that deals with various concepts of architectural maintenance, conservation and restoration.
Furthermore the focus is on the introduction and development of Chinese cultural heritage preservation from the 1930s until now. The “Society for the Study of Chinese Architecture” (Zhongguo Yingzao Xueshe中國營造學社), founded back then by a group of young architects who had studied abroad, initially propagated the conservation and restoration of historic architecture as an academic discipline. The association´s articles that will be presented testify the first written encounters of western conservation and restoration knowledge with an ancient Chinese understanding of architectural maintenance. The preservation, conservation and restoration of monuments and historic buildings has been established in China during the last thirty years. Terms, such as “authenticity”, or “integrity”, which play a key role in the western conservation and restoration discourse, had thitherto been unknown in the context of Chinese architecture but were finally adopted by Chinese conservators and integrated into certain Chinese regulations. In the newest guidelines such as the “Principles for the Conservation of Heritage Sites in China” (中國文物古跡保護準則) (2000), terms like “original state” (Yuanzhuang 原状), “original site” (Yuanzhi 原址) or last but not least “authenticity” (Zhenshi 真实性) rank among the key words. The negotiation processes between and increasing entanglements of Chinese and “international” conservators will be identified on the basis of the different Chinese guidelines´ analysis. The impact of this Chinese development in architectural heritage conservation on the actual conservation practice will be exemplarily documented by the presentation of specific case studies in Peking and Xi’an.