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The Parlor of the Metropolis: Public Parks and Open Space in the British Concessions of China, 1842–1937

Yichi Zhang, University of Technology, Sydney, Summer Fellow 2015–2016

I came to Dumbarton Oaks to advance research for my dissertation, which is a comparative study of the multiple relationships between social activities and the natural contexts of public space in the seven British Concessions in China: Shanghai, Tianjin, Xiamen, Hankou, Guangzhou, Jiujiang, and Zhenjiang. I examine urban landscapes as sites of encounter between Britain and modern China, focusing on social activities in emergent public parks, where people not only confronted problems resulting from colonialism but also forged ideas about urban modernity. I explore the formation and nature of public parks in the British Concessions in China, and consider the forms of sociability and political ideas that became associated with them. Although I have made exhaustive use of twenty-seven libraries and archives in the United Kingdom, China, and Australia to obtain primary documents, the rich resources of Dumbarton Oaks, as well as interlibrary loans, offered a great number of valuable new sources on gardens and urban history, which I have been able to use to develop new ideas and to organize the materials I have already collected.