Making a spectacle : the Golden Pavilion at the 1933-1934 Chicago World's Fair

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Tao, Tao, M.A.

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This thesis traces the making and exhibiting of the Golden Pavilion at Chicago World’s Fair from 1933 to 1934. It first explores how this cross-cultural replica was perceived during the different stages of its existence, from the dynastic regime of Qing China to the 1927-1935 Sino-Swedish Expedition, and to the Chicago World’s Fair. It points out that the Golden Pavilion was a spectacle created to satisfy the Western fascination about Chinese culture. It also argues that, the Golden Pavilion, originally an architectural symbol for the centralized power of Qing China, attested to the conflict between the Chinese Nationalism and the Western Colonialism, as well as the commercialization of non-western cultures. This study concludes that the Golden Pavilion, perceived as a simulacrum, a lesser copy of its powerful original, exemplified an imaginary China which was based on fragmentized and illusionary materials. This condition prevented the pavilion from being valued by the Western museums and it was thus shut out in the later shaping of Chinese images in the West.



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