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By William Wooldridge

All through Nanjing's heritage, writers have claimed that its magnificent panorama of mountains and rivers imbued the town with "royal qi," making it a spot of serious political value. City of Virtues examines the methods a chain of visionaries, drawing on prior glories of the town, projected their ideologies onto Nanjing as they developed constructions, played rituals, and transformed the literary history of the town. greater than an city heritage of Nanjing from the overdue 18th century until eventually 1911―encompassing the Opium warfare, the Taiping profession of the town, the rebuilding of the town via Zeng Guofan, and makes an attempt to set up it because the capital of the Republic of China―this examine exhibits how utopian visions of the cosmos formed Nanjing's direction in the course of the turbulent nineteenth century.

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Such was the case in Qianlong’s encounter with Nanjing’s religious institutions, which had long expressed abstract cosmologies in concrete language and structures. Temples proved ideal sites for shaping space, allowing the emperor to display imperial and cosmic hierarchies. In the Six Dynasties period, Nanjing had been a font of sacred geographies. In the fourth century, immigrants from northern China (which was gripped by war between powerful generals of various ethnic groups) brought with them a form of Daoism known as “Celestial Master” (Tianshi dao), [↜3 4↜] â•… Chapter 1 which called for the establishment of a new age of Great Peace (Taiping).

Twentieth-century revolutionaries would embrace the notion of progress, projecting their utopias into the future rather than depicting the ideal state as a return to the past. They would reject as well the goal of cosmic harmony, and they would borrow from a huge variety of sources to formulate new visions of the polity. They did, however, make use of similar repertoires of activism as they too used buildings, poetry, history, and ritual to display their differing interpretations of the state and of political belonging.

Instead, the emperor transformed the city. The rituals he performed, the verses he wrote, and the encomia he inspired became fixtures of the poetic cityscape, which would come to inscribe his many roles. Nanjing was already known as a city of wealth, of emperors, of temples, of ritual, of scholars. Qianlong used these facets of the city to depict himself as patron of Buddhism, moral exemplar, paragon of military virtues, conqueror, connoisseur, poet, and scholar. The emperor would refigure Nanjing’s vistas even as the physical city remained, as a person fording a stream might create unseen turbulence without changing the direction of the flow.

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