The Yuanmingyuan As Collective Memory: The Re-Presentation And Consumption Of History In Late 20Th Century China
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! Yuanmingyuan, more than a site, is an idea that has both historically and recently been associated with diverse ideologies and powerful group sentiments. In the 1980s, the construction of the Yuanmingyuan Ruins Park around the ruins of the early 18th century Qing imperial garden, the Yuanmingyuan, revived old associations and also created new ones related broadly to a project of nationalism in modern China. ! Collective memory has been a concept casually or indirectly invoked in several studies of the Yuanmingyuan Park, and it is an effective means of describing the fluctuating and multi-faceted discourse of Yuanmingyuan as a mental construct. Nevertheless, the application of collective memory as a framework needs to be critically examined and refined. The complexity of producers as groups of people with varied motives, the multivocal representations they produce and the process of consumption undertaken by shifting collectives needs to be further elaborated both in terms of the collective memory of Yuanmingyuan and the theoretical model of collective memory itself. ! This paper combines concrete analysis of representations of Yuanmingyuan, especially the Yuanmingyuan Park constructed in the 1980s; scrutiny of historical data that indicates a shift in ideas related to Yuanmingyuan; and relevant theory in order to approach an understanding of the collective memory of Yuanmingyuan-its evolution over time and how it has been related to material as well as mental constructs. This analysis of the chronological progression of the collective memory of Yuanmingyuan also accounts for the spatial heterogeneity of the idea at any given time, or the multiple and often contradictory meanings tied up in the conception of Yuanmingyuan as a physical space. It addresses how certain ideologies have been deliberately associated with topographical space and material objects in order to embed symbolic significance aimed at constituting and reifying imagined social collectives. It also addresses the gaps between intended meanings, presented meanings and received meanings, and the complications of signification at a national level that the Yuanmingyuan exposes. ! The collective memory of the Yuanmingyuan is approached as an ever- changing discourse attached to multiple meanings in order, on the one hand, to explore how similar ideas about specific historical events formed and functioned to sustain a sense of collective identity in modern China, and, more broadly, to elaborate upon the phenomenon of collective memory itself.
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