On Uncertain Ground: Lost Landscapes, Digital Mediation, and Site-Based Research at Early Qing Chengde

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Abstract

The study of premodern architecture and built environments, particularly those
involving extensive designed landscapes, presents a variety of challenges for the
architectural historian. The problems of fragmentary source pools and unconventional
sources, incomplete architectural remains, and the reconstruction of historical
stratigraphy take particularly acute form in study of historic Chinese landscapes. This
essay explores challenges and opportunities encountered in addressing these issues
through the use of global information systems, or GIS. It represents a methodological
reflection on efforts to reconstruct the physical and experiential landscapes of the
largest of the eighteenth-century Qing imperial park-palaces, Bishu shanzhuang 避暑
山 , or the Mountain Estate to Escape the Summer Heat, at a particular moment in its
history. Rooted in other strands of spatial thinking about humanistic subjects, the
methods and outcomes described below seek to put the disparate sources of the
architectural, landscape, pictorial and textual archives related to the site in dialogue
with one another to visualize multiple, overlapping iterations of the Mountain Estate in
both physical and conceptual, or imaginative, forms.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Digital Humanities
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Feb 13 2022

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