This talk focuses on two sites that function as national heritage in Beijing and Tokyo. By comparing the Forbidden City (a museum) and the Meiji Shrine (a park and Shinto shrine), I will discuss how views of the imperial house and its history have been constantly reconstructed since the time they were open to the public in the 1920s. Both sites reveal tensions between the present modern nation-state identity vis-à-vis the historic emperorship. They also presented how elite and popular goals differ, and how new memories and narratives have added nuance to their representation of the past. The Forbidden City, a site of key political, religious, and ancestral rituals since the fourteenth century, underwent a process of desacralization. It was partially open to the public in the wake of the 1911 Revolution, and officially opened as a museum in 1925. The palace has represented both feudal decadence and past glory. The Meiji Shrine, housing the kami of the Meiji Emperor and Empress, finished construction in 1920. Buildings of the Shrine combined the Japanese traditional style and Western style, and served as a venue for both political activities and religious rituals. Such arrangement embodies the contested views of identity and historicity.
About the speaker
Peter Zarrow is a Professor of History at the University of Connecticut, having previously worked as a Research Fellow at Academia Sinica, Taiwan. His research focuses on the intellectual and cultural history of modern China (late 19th through 20th centuries). Zarrow has written on such aspects of Chinese political thought as anarchism, statism, and utopianism; key intellectuals such as Liang Qichao, Cai Yuanpei, and Hu Shi, as well as lesser-known figures; and a variety subjects including education, trauma, and historiography. His current research deals with the construction and consumption of heritage in comparative perspective, using key sites in China, Japan, Britain, and France as case studies.
Before the seminar
All attendees are invited to join us in the CIW Tea House from 3.30pm for an informal discussion with the guest speaker before the seminar.
The ANU China Seminar Series is supported by the Australian Centre on China in the World at The Australian National University’s College of Asia & the Pacific.