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Intersecting narratives of site: Fragrant Hill Hotel as a reconstruction project

Intersecting narratives of site: Fragrant Hill Hotel as a reconstruction project JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING https://doi.org/10.1080/13467581.2022.2160206 ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY AND THEORY Xuerui Wang and Xiangning Li College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Tongji University, Shanghai, China ABSTRACT ARTICLE HISTORY Received 17 February 2022 Ieoh Ming Pei completed his work on the Fragrant Hill Hotel in Beijing in the year of 1983. This Accepted 15 December 2022 has been a piece of significant work in modern Chinese architecture. Corresponding studies and discussions have been mainly attracted to its style and its exploration of modernity, while KEYWORDS relatively less concentrated on a close reading of the design. Taking “site reconstruction” as a Fragrant Hill Hotel; Ieoh clue, this paper traces the historic transformations of the site condition of this hotel. Following Ming Pei; Jing Yi Garden; a chronological review and a formal analysis of different time periods, the paper revisits the Fragrant Hill Protectory; site discourse of the Fragrant Hill Hotel both in Chinese and American contexts. It examines the reconstruction gaps between Chinese and American critiques and speculates on the reasons for the discre- pancies. By comparing the discursive focus of “hunting park” and “imperial garden,” this paper attempts to uncover the tension between history and identity concealed in I.M. Pei’s address on the site. While the inconsistency is partly due to the time and people’s standpoints originating from the time, it still shows how design functions as a form of power in the history. 1. Introduction design and construction narrative. Conversely, the The Fragrant Hill Hotel was the first work of the Chinese critiques of that period were aimed at “com- Chinese-American architect Ieoh Ming Pei in paring the Fragrant Hill Hotel with ‘our architecture’ Mainland China. It is also the earliest work by an intro- and thus integrating it into the discussion of Chinese duced foreign architectural expert after China’s reform architectural traditions and approaches.” (Liu 2009, 53) and opening up (Zou et al., 2010, p. 106). Since I.M. After 1990, I.M. Pei’s biographies and portfolios lent the Pei accepted the design invitation of the Fragrant Hill details of previous media reports and hence helped to Hotel in late 1978, he had participated in numerous establish a discursive set of information. seminars, interviews, and speeches both in China and After more than forty years, discussions about the in the West. According to his repeated statements in modern transformation of Chinese architectural tradi- American and Chinese contexts, it has been a narrative tion around the Fragrant Hill Hotel are still ongoing. model that he was going to design by encapsulating Behind the academic community’s efforts is the desire Chinese architectural traditions into the process of to uncover the original context of modern Chinese “modernization” in China. At the end of 1982, the architecture from historical materials, which ensures “Symposium on the Fragrant Hill Hotel”, attended by theoretical discussions and a perspective in further more than 30 Chinese scholars and experts, marked research. Recent studies on the Fragrant Hill Hotel the climax of the domestic debate, but I.M. Pei was have gradually moved from subjective critiques to absent. The Jianzhu Xuebao (建筑学报 ) published the textual and discursive analysis in the following two symposium’s outcomes in its March and April 1983 directions. One is to revisit the 1982 Symposium orga- issues, together with nine critical papers on the nized by the Jianzhu Xuebao so that whose vitality in Fragrant Hill Hotel. (Figure 1) modern Chinese architecture history can be defined The New York Times published its first report on the (Liu 2009; Hu 2014). By detecting the subtle contrasts construction a week after the opening ceremony of the between the experts’ speeches at the symposium, Fragrant Hill Hotel in October 1982. While the major researchers examined the cognition and the transfor- crowd of international reviews of the project appeared mation of the concept of “modernism” in Chinese mainly in 1983, The New York Times, Connoisseur, House architecture in the 1980s. Another direction is to refer & Garden and Architecture published further critiques to I.M. Pei’s biographies, archives, and interviews, in on the Hotel in January, February, April, and order to locate the significance of the Fragrant Hill September that year. (Figure 2) The English coverage Hotel in Pei’s architectural career and the complex primarily focused on the role it played in the evolution role of this design in the dual context of China’s early of I.M. Pei’s design career from the perspectives of the economic reforms and the American post-modernist CONTACT Xiangning Li lixiangning@tongji.edu.cn College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Tongji University, Siping 1239, 200092 Shanghai, China © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group on behalf of the Architectural Institute of Japan, Architectural Institute of Korea and Architectural Society of China. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. 2 X. WANG AND X. LI Figure 1. The current state of the central courtyard of the Fragrant Hill Hotel in 2021. photograph by Zhang Nan Figure 2. Several Chinese and American periodicals in 1983 with the Fragrant Hill Hotel on their covers, from left to right: Jianzhu Xuebao, 1983(03); Xin Jianzhu (New Architecture), 1983(01); Connoisseur, 1983(02); Architecture, 1983(09). ideology (Fang 2008; Zhu 2009; Chen 2017; Roskam the site of the former Fragrant Hill Hotel after the 2015, 2017). founding of the People’s Republic of China. Most his- However, multiple lines of evidence indicate that torical studies were restricted to a specific period and the Fragrant Hill Hotel was a reconstruction project did not form an overall chronological narrative. on a site with historical remains according to the doc- Furthermore, I.M. Pei was often reticent to talk about umentations kept by the Pei archives at the Library of the history of the Fragrant Hill Hotel site in the Chinese Congress and other related institutions. This perspec- context, whereas he would refer to it as a “former tive has long been neglected by the architectural com- imperial hunting park” in the English-speaking world. munity. Although several experts noticed this Other American critiques continued following this information during the 1982 symposium, it did not unfamiliar term, resulting in the site design of the receive agreement from the general criticism on econ- Fragrant Hill Hotel being shadowed by its absence. omy and practicality. It did not attract the attention of Though neglected in the field of architecture, the subsequent architectural studies either. However, the site information is still very necessary in understanding site of the Hotel has been mentioned in studies rele- deeper the design and discourse of the Fragrant Hill vant to the history of the Fragrant Hill, as it used to be Hotel. The “site reconstruction” provides an essential the Central Palace (中宫 ) in the Qing Dynasty’s imperial perspective that is both circumstantial and analytical Jing Yi Garden (静宜园 ), then it became the on the relationship between architecture and site. Republican-era Protectory (香山慈幼院 ) and finally Moreover, it orients a critical evaluation of the JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 3 contrasting discourses on the “site choice” in China approach to the redevelopment of the Fragrant Hill and the West. Therefore, this paper attempts to exam- Hotel. In the third section, to understand the starting ine the 40-year-long controversy on the Fragrant Hill point of architectural criticism and its contextual basis Hotel from the perspective of site reconstruction. How in diversified contexts, we analyze the studies on the has the site of the Fragrant Hill Hotel evolved during its history of the site, and then the different proposals history? What would it mean to take the absence of site within Chinese and Western discourse systems, respec- information as the historical condition under which the tively. On this basis, we attempt to identify the self- Fragrant Hill Hotel is produced as design work and contradictions of I.M. Pei and the reasons behind them understood as discursive formation? in terms of cultural identity. Accordingly, this paper aims to respond to the research questions through the above three steps. In each point of historical, for- 2. Methodology mal and discursive analysis, we always focus on the “site” as the center of the discussion. Taking the Fragrant Hill Hotel as a site reconstruction project, the Archaeology of Knowledge is the primary methodology to provide a critical perspective on mod- 3. The archaeology of the Fragrant Hill Hotel ern Chinese architectural criticism. Based on “discur- site sive analysis” in linguistic philosophy, this paper is devoted to establishing the structure of discourse 3.1. From the Central Palace in Jing Yi Garden to into a genealogy. The paper then interprets discursive the Girls’ School of Protectory formation and reveals the hidden ideological power by Located in the northwestern suburb of Beijing, probing images and textual content. Fragrant Hill is in the ranges of the Western Hills (西 Hu (2014) examined fifteen critical articles on the 山 ). Several imperial temples have been built on the Fragrant Hill Hotel that appeared in the Jianzhu Xuebao Fragrant Hill from Tang Dynasty (618–907) to Ming from 1980 to 1992. He concluded three discursive Dynasty (1368–1644). The Kangxi Emperor in Qing modes around the Fragrant Hill Hotel and the different Dynasty constructed a garden here in 1677. It was meaning systems. Different from Hu’s study, we endea- further expanded by the Qianlong Emperor in 1745, vored to critically understand I.M. Pei’s approach to the who gave it the name of Twenty-eight Attractions of site and its historical reference by taking “site recon- Jing Yi Garden. The courtyard of “Xulang Hall (the hall struction” as a central concept and combining histor- of modesty and enlightenment),” located in the iography with formal analysis. We then compare the Central Palace (Figure 3), was one of these attractions evidence from maps with the ambiguous “site” dis- (Qianlong and Yu 1746). course. On this basis, this paper describes two inter- The Jing Yi Garden was one of the imperial gardens related but separate discursive structures. The first one in the Western Hills that were twice ransacked and is the site of the Fragrant Hill Hotel itself. Here we are burned by foreign aggressors in 1860 and 1900. interested in the historical transformations of different During the Guangxu years, the imperial family architecture for different usages, that is, from an imper- entrusted the Yangshi Lei (样式雷 ) with restoring the ial garden to a school, and then to a guest house and Jing Yi Garden. “However, most of the work remained finally an international hotel. The second is the discus- schematic, and only a few buildings were restored. sion of the set Chinese attitudes towards the site Besides the buildings in Qianlong Emperor’s plan, the against the Western ones. In other words, we will new scheme added a courtyard in the southwest cor- compare how scholars and architects from different ner and eliminated the miscellaneous courtyard on the cultural backgrounds have each made their comments south side of Huachan Room; in spite of these changes, on the design so that the historical reference of the site the layout was not significantly reversed.” (Li and Yang was obscured. 2022, 32) These analyses are implied in the following three In 1912, Ma Xiangbo and Ying Lianzhi petitioned the sections. In the first section, a connection of the histor- former Empress Dowager of the Qing Dynasty, Long ical lineage to a transparent and credible narrative is Yu, to borrow the grounds of the Fragrant Hill for a established, according to the transformation of the site girls’ school, called Jing Yi Girls’ School (静宜女子学校 ) from an imperial garden in the Qing Dynasty to the (Qian and Zhang 2020, 195). Xiong Xiling established Fragrant Hill Hotel’s redevelopment after the Chinese the Fragrant Hill Protectory nine years later. He economic reform. In the second section, we compare expanded the grounds of the original girls’ school to the site reconstruction proposals of the five periods accommodate orphans during the war and natural horizontally, converting ourselves from historical disasters (Xiong 1920). (Figure 4) When the Protectory research to a brief formal analysis exploring I.M. Pei’s was first established, it was divided into two schools, design strategies and historical references in his These temples included Yong’an Temple (永安寺 ), Jinshan Temple (金山寺 ), Biyun Temple (碧云寺 ), and Hongguang Temple (洪光寺 ). 4 X. WANG AND X. LI Figure 3. Xulang Hall (Central Palace) group in the scroll of “Twenty-eight Attractions of the Jing Yi Garden,” painted by Zhang Ruocheng, Qing dynasty, Copyright © Online Archives of the Palace Museum of China Figure 4. Plan of the Fragrant Hill Protectory. Copyright © 1993 by the Beijing Lixin School. History of Beijing Fragrant Hill Protectory. The location marked in red by the author is the site of the Girls’ School. one for boys and another for girls. The girls’ school of Hill Temple to subsidize educational expenses. According the Protectory is located in the former Central Palace, to Li (1937), who taught at the Protectory, “now that the where the current Fragrant Hill Hotel stands. The new temple no longer exists, the buildings were converted school buildings partly followed the original layout of into the originally Ganlu Hotel, which was renamed to the Central Palace. There were eight classrooms, four the Fragrant Hill Hotel in 1930. When I was working at the dormitories, a library, several offices, several shops, and Protectory, most of my colleagues hosted their guests several bathrooms in the girl’s school, and these func- there. The food was immaculate. However, the room rent tional places counted altogether 46 buildings (Xiong was expensive, so most visitors would not spend a night 1922). there.” In addition, Preston Moore once visited the origi- nal Fragrant Hill Hotel with his family when his father was a military officer stationed in China in 1931 (Wiseman 3.2. Two “Fragrant Hill Hotels” in image and text 1990, 203). He became an architect in I.M. Pei’s company After the opening of the Protectory, Xiong Xiling opened and engaged in the design and on-site construction of a “Fragrant Hill Hotel” on the site of the former Fragrant the Fragrant Hill Hotel half a century later. (Figure 5) It can JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 5 Figure 5. Partial map of Central Palace and Ganlu Hotel (later renamed as Fragrant Hill Hotel). copyright © Chen Anlan 1920. be determined that the original Fragrant Hill Hotel (Ganlu government approved utilizing the existing buildings Hotel) of the Republican period was near the Fragrant Hill to open a “Fragrant Hill Hotel,” which was officially Temple, but it is not the same site as the present Fragrant opened in June. This former Fragrant Hill Hotel was Hill Hotel. one of the eight largest hotels in Beijing in the 1950s. It After the Pingjin campaign, the People’s Liberation was a place for dignitaries to stay and dine for short Army arrive in the suburbs of Beijing in 1948. The periods and was not precisely for profit. Although it Protectory was then moved from Fragrant Hill to the was called a “hotel,” it more functioned as a govern- city to spare enough space for the army (Fragrant Hill ment guest house under the planned economy. Park Administration 2001, 20–24). In April 1957, the (Figure 6) Figure 6. The interior of the former Fragrant Hill Hotel between 1957 and 1978. The original description was “Enjoy the summer at the Fragrant Hill Hotel in the dense forest (在层峦密林的香山饭店里消夏 )”. Copyright © Picture album of Beijing, Beijing Editorial Board Press. 1959, pp. 138. 6 X. WANG AND X. LI The former Fragrant Hill Hotel inherited the name indicate portions that have been retained, yellow of the original Fragrant Hill Hotel of the Republican to indicate portions that have been added newly, era. However, it was no longer located within the and grey to denote that the change cannot be Fragrant Hill Temple. Instead, it occupied the determined from our available materials.a) Central grounds and buildings of the former Protectory, Palace scheme of Qianlong years (redrawn from a which also included the present Fragrant Hill Hotel Yangshi Lei drawing provided by Li Jiang and Yang 4.1. Site remnants site. (Fragrant Hill Park Administration 2001, 299) Jing). b) Central Palace scheme of Guangxu years We can refer to the People’s Daily (Ji 1982) cover A comparison of the general plan of Jing Yi Garden (redrawn from a Yangshi Lei drawing provided by Li of the opening of I.M. Pei’s Fragrant Hill Hotel: “The with that of the Protectory shows that the main build- Jiang and Yang Jing). c) The Fragrant Hill Protectory, new Fragrant Hill Hotel was rebuilt on the former ing of the Protectory was built roughly on the founda- Republican period (redrawn from the entire map of the Fragrant Hill Hotel site. The total area of the new tions of the former theatre (戏台 ) and the area around Jing Yi Garden by Chen Anlan). d) 1957–1978 Former hotel does not exceed that of the former one.” the Xuegu Hall (学古堂 ) of Jing Yi Garden (Figure 8). Fragrant Hill Hotel (redrawn from archival drawings Impacted by several significant earthquakes in the The building on top of the theatre foundation was the provided by Liu Shaozong and Pei Architects). e) surrounding region, the original buildings of the for- dining hall of the Girls’ school (Chen and Guo 2012, p. Diagram of trees preserved at the Fragrant Hill Hotel mer Fragrant Hill Hotel sank and cracked in the 1970s. 231). The foundations of the western part are relatively since 1982 (redrawn from a diagram provided by Wang With the approval of the State Council, the Beijing City well-preserved, at least before the Protectory period of Planning Commission and the Construction Tianxi). f) The general plan of the courtyard planting of this site (Figure 9). The elevations of Kuangzhen Hall Commission issued a notice to renovate the Fragrant the Fragrant Hill Hotel since 1982 (redrawn from a plan (旷真阁 ), its courtyard, and Yiqing Shushi (怡情书史 ) Hill Hotel in October 1979. Following discussions in provided by Liu Shaozong). A 1920 photograph of the were 2.7, 1.3 and 4.1 meters respectively, as shown on Beijing, I.M. Pei and his firm determined the final Girls’ School of Protectory. Provided by (Qian and Chen Anlan’s mapping. In the design of the Fragrant design for the Fragrant Hill Hotel, agreeing that all Zhang 2020). Hill Hotel, I.M. Pei transformed the site’s original terrace original buildings inside the retaining wall would be (which should have been the foundation of the Yiqing demolished. (Chen and Guo 2012, 235) Demolition Shushi) into an outdoor swimming pool. was initiated in November 1979, marking the end of It is controversial why the outline of the courtyard the former hotel’s history from 1957. The groundbreak- wall in the Protectory differs from that of the former ing for the new hotel started in April 1980. (Hoving Fragrant Hill Hotel period. The “restoration of the bro- 1983, 78) A grand opening ceremony for the I.M. Pei- ken wall and retaining wall” in the 1950s-1970s might designed Fragrant Hill hotel was held on 17 October be the reason, for it has been mentioned several times in the “Fragrant Hill Park Chronicles.” The eastward extension increased the site area. A group of buildings framed a courtyard during the former Fragrant Hill 4. Five reconstruction plans for the site Hotel period. In addition, two bar-shaped buildings The site of the Fragrant Hill Hotel underwent sev- appeared on the west side, roughly situated on the former foundation of the Kuangzhen Hall. The changes eral reconstructions between the 17th and 20th thus created a semi-enclosed layout on the southwes- centuries. The Kangxi Emperor constructed a tern side, but the overall plan was still not systematic. palace upon the original Yong’an Village in the 17th century. The Qianlong Emperor later expanded it into the Central Palace of Jing Yi 4.2. Site elements Garden in the mid-18th century. Unfortunately, We compared the original site plan before reconstruc- the site was subjected to two military disasters in tion (Figure 10, Figure 11), the general plan of the new the 19th century, in between which Yangshi Lei courtyard design provided by the Beijing Landscape designed the reconstruction but failed to realize. Bureau (Figure 12), and the diagram of the preserved The 20th century saw even more rapid changes. It trees provided by Wang Tianxi, who was then the was home to the Jing Yi Girls’ School and the later intern architect of PEI Architects (Figure 13). It is likely Protectory during the Republican era. Between that the trees in the garden of I.M. Pei’s Fragrant Hill 1957 and 1978, the former Fragrant Hill Hotel Hotel were mostly redesigned and transplanted, for served as a government-owned guest house. The they were originally not on the site. The “Fragrant Hill original buildings were all demolished in 1979, and Park Chronicles” documented three discussions related the present Fragrant Hill Hotel was built during to the “Cutting of Trees”: 1980–1982. In considering the five reconstruction “On 24 May 1979, the Landscape Bureau reported plans for the site, we can identify the following that the renovation plan of the Fragrant Hill Hotel significant revisions (Figure 7). We use blue to would cut down 485 ancient pines and cypresses, indicate areas that have been removed, black to which would severely damage the scenic area of The hotel at that time covered the area of Fenglin Village, Kindergarten of Protectory, East Court of Wofo Temple, Red Leaf Village and eight villas on the hill, which could accommodate thousands of people. JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 7 Figure Figure 7. 7. a) a) Central Central Palace Palace scheme scheme of of Qianlong Qianlong years years (redrawn (redrawn from from a a Yangshi Yangshi Lei Lei drawing drawing provided provided by by Li Li Jiang Jiang and and Yang Yang Jing). Jing). b) b) Central Central Palace Palace scheme scheme of of Guangxu Guangxu years years (redrawn (redrawn from from a a Yangshi Yangshi Lei Lei drawing drawing provided provided by by Li Li Jiang Jiang and and Yang Yang Jing). Jing). c) c) The The Fragrant Fragrant Hill Hill Protectory, Protectory, Republican Republican period period (redrawn (redrawn from from the the entire entire map map of of the the Jing Jing Yi Yi Garden Garden by by Chen Chen Anlan). Anlan). d) d) 1957–1978 1957–1978 Former Former Fragrant Fragrant Hill Hill Hotel Hotel (redrawn (redrawn from from archival archival drawings drawings provided provided by by Liu Liu Shaozong Shaozong and and Pei Pei Architects). Architects). e) e) Diagram Diagram of of trees trees preserved preserved at at the the Fragrant Fragrant Hill Hill Hotel Hotel since since 1982 1982 (redrawn (redrawn from from a a diagram diagram provided provided by by Wang Wang Tianxi). Tianxi). f) f) The The general general plan plan of of the the courtyard courtyard planting planting of of the the Fragrant Fragrant Hill Hill Hotel Hotel since since 1982 1982 (redrawn (redrawn from from a a plan plan provided provided by by Liu Liu Shaozong). Shaozong). A 1920 photograph of the Girls’ School of Protectory. Provided by (Qian and Zhang 2020). 8 X. WANG AND X. LI Figure 7. (Continued). Fragrant Hill as well as the greening project. On 5 Park reported to the Landscape Bureau the fact of September, the Beijing Municipal Infrastructure cutting down 245 trees during the construction of the Commission replied: according to the layout of the Fragrant Hill Hotel, including more than 70 trees aged design scheme, 31 cypress and tulip trees could be over 100 years old.” (Fragrant Hill Park Administration cut down within the hotel site, and the others should 2001, 34-37) be preserved as far as possible. On 19 May 1980, a In contrast to the case of trees being cut down and meeting was held at Fragrant Hill to study issues relating to the protection of trees and the construc- replanted, I.M. Pei remade the Qianlong years’ Water tion of the new hotel. On 25 June 1982, Fragrant Hill Maze (流觞曲水 ) in its original form in the design of JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 9 Figure 10. Map of the preserved trees at the Fragrant Hill Hotel, copyright © Box 138, Folder 6, I.M. Pei Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Figure 8. A 1920 photograph of the Girls’ School of Protectory. Provided by (Qian and Zhang 2020). Figure 11. The original state of the former Fragrant Hill Hotel, provided by Liu Shaozong, Tan Xin 1983. Figure 9. Architecture in the west compound of Protectory. Provided by Yang Jing 2022. the Fragrant Hill Hotel. As it was recorded by Cannell (1995, pp. 316–317): Figure 12. The general plan of the courtyard design of the Fragrant Hill Hotel, provided by Liu Shaozong 1983. “The relics left on the Fragrant Hill site included a gray marble platform, known as a liu shui yin, carved with a compose a poem in the seven or so minutes it took serpentine channel. According to legend, poets floated the slow-moving current to carry a glass to the end of wineglasses down the Water Maze in the moonlight. the 165-foot passage. This particular liu shui yin, one of They were permitted to drink only if they could 10 X. WANG AND X. LI Figure 15. Water Maze in Pei-designed Fragrant Hill Hotel. photograph by Zhang Nan Figure 13. Schematic diagram of the preservation of trees and walls, provided by Wang Tianxi 1981. interpretation and idealization of Chinese architectural traditions rather than on the restoration of historical accuracy. 4.3. Site layouts I.M. Pei utilized the southeastern corner of the site, the east-road courtyard in the Qianlong scheme, with four original Sandhills (砂山 ). In the restora- tion plan of Yangshi Lei, a combined courtyard was proposed for the southeast corner, reducing the number of Sandhills to two. However, the four Sandhills are still visible on the map of the former Fragrant Hill Hotel site, which indicates that the revisions made during the Guangxu years have not been conducted. Figure 14. Water Maze in the Girls’ School of Protectory, According to I.M. Pei’s Complete Works (Jodidio and copyright © Beijing Experimental School History Library online archive. Strong 2008, 183), “I.M. Pei reversed the traditional Chinese entry from the south to maximize the main garden within existing retaining walls. Combining clas- five left in all of China, was damaged by workmen sic Chinese axiality and spatial sequencing that alter- mixing cement, so Pei ordered a replica cut from a nately expands and contracts (not unlike the thousand-year-old quarry outside Beijing. He posi- Forbidden City), the hotel radiates out from the central tioned it as an island in an ornamental pond inhabited atrium with guestroom wings shifted asymmetrically by goldfish.” to preserve the site’s many trees.” However, if we look at the plans of the five periods, we find inaccuracies in From the photo of the Republican period (Figure that description. The East Palace Gate should be the 14), it is clear that the courtyard of the Water Maze main gate among all the original ones. During the occupied a prominent position in the spatial lay- Republican era, the main entrance to the Protectory out. However, the drawings of site conditions pro- had been reversed from the east one to the north one. vided by the Pei archives at the Library of People entered the main road of the campus through Congress and Beijing Landscape Bureau respec- the North Gate, while the East Gate and the South Gate tively diverged graphically. In the former drawing, were the secondary entrances. I.M. Pei adopted the the Water Maze was still enclosed within the court- main entrance on the north side and made no mod- yard, while the latter shows that there were only ifications. In addition, the map of the preserved trees in two walls remaining. the archives of I.M. Pei papers shows the original site The Water Maze has undergone the most funda- before the construction of the Fragrant Hill Hotel mental revision in I.M. Pei’s design (Figure 15). It was (Figure 10). As it shows, the original central garden transformed from an enclosed, relatively private space was located on the south side and consisted of three into a public art and sculpture, which is displayed in an parts: a cross-shaped square, the Water Maze and open courtyard. I.M. Pei’s choice embodies a modernist Sandhills. reinvention. It was in some ways based on his own JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 11 speeches compiled by Gu Mengchao, a total of 11 4.4. Site functions experts mentioned the issue of “site.” The argu- The differences among the site’s functions during its ments centered on three aspects. (1) The hotel is transformation are particularly noteworthy apart from too far from the city to reach conveniently. (2) The the differences in the architectural layout. It evolved sizable volume will disfigure the landscape. (3) from a garden to a school, and then from a guest Building in a scenic area will lead to an extensive house to a high-standard international hotel. The two investment in the infrastructure of water, electricity larger volumes designed by I.M. Pei are located in the and sewage discharge, which is not economical former canteen of the Protectory and the central court- (Figure 16). yard of the Jing Yi Garden, which respectively function In contrast, there were only four references to “I.M. as cafeteria and lobby at present. Influenced by the Pei’s reconstruction of the Fragrant Hill Hotel occupying American “international style,” I.M. Pei probably the ancient Jing Yi Garden,” and three of these state- instinctively assumed that a modern, high-standard ments were brief. As Liu Kaiji emphasized, “The site was hotel would necessarily accompany a grand lobby inappropriately chosen. Leave aside the occupation of and a full-service restaurant. It inevitably increased the ancient gardens by the Fragrant Hill Hotel, it is also the footprint of the concentrated volumes, which is difficult to attract foreign tourists due to the hotel’s difficult to reconcile between the site and function. distance from the city, its inaccessibility, and the lack Combining a hotel and a Chinese garden also over- of facilities for tourists.” According to a written state- extended the interior circulations. The original Jing Yi ment by Li Daozeng and Guan Zhaoye, “Trespassing on Garden is a grouping of single units according to the public gardens has harmed the environment to some organization of traditional Chinese courtyards: “A ‘Jian degree. It shows mainly accomplishments in the (间 )’ is the unit that forms a single building, a single destruction of the landscape, which is all the more building forms a courtyard, and a courtyard forms unfortunate as the Fragrant Hill Park is a famous scenic various groups.” (Huang 1983, 67) I.M. Pei has deliber- spot evolving from the former imperial garden of the ately used the meandering volumes to enclose court- Qing Dynasty.” Ma Mingyi, on the other hand, noted yards of different sizes. Still, most of them are linked by from a technical perspective that “The building site, interior corridors subordinated to an integrated build- which was originally the Jing Yi Garden and the ing rather than by an architectural group consisting of Protectory, has undergone several manual leveling and several sequences. The extension of the internal circu- transformation, resulting in volatile lithology and lation leads to a corresponding increase in energy uneven soil quality.” (Gu 1983a) consumption and a decrease in management effi - Only Fu Xinian in the Symposium emphasized the ciency. The 1982 Symposium kept criticizing repeat- effect of the reconstruction. From the perspective of edly: “It is difficult to guarantee the quality of service as historical heritage conservation, he affirmed the afore- it is about three hundred meters from the rooms at the mentioned experts’ criticism that the Fragrant Hill end of the passage to the main service desk. ”(Guo Hotel “is a good building built in an inappropriate 1983, 68) location.” He also stressed that the occupation of the ancient gardens was the main reason for its “inappro- priateness.” In addition, Fu Xinian’s presentation refer- 5. Two contexts of the site discourse enced the site’s original appearance and conservation If the chronological tracing of the site has given a value: comprehensive context of the design, then the hori- zontal comparison of the five plans will further reveal “After its destruction by the British and French forces in 1860, only a few remnants of the Jing Yi Garden the historical reference of I.M. Pei’s spatial treatments. survived. However, the original site is still identifiable, Given the Fragrant Hill Hotel was the catalyst of an and the archives possess maps of the original state. architectural controversy around 1983, the attitudes The low-standard buildings built in the Republican era towards the “site” were somewhat divergent in the are easy to remove, and the restoration conditions are Chinese and American contexts. better and less expensive than those of the Yuan Ming Garden. If gradually rebuilt, it is good news for the capital since an important historical garden could be 5.1. Criticism of the site in the 1982 Symposium restored afterward. However, the new-built Fragrant Hill Hotel, a building with a different style and tone, By reading the 1982 Symposium on the Fragrant has damaged the original Chinese landscape and the Hill Hotel critically, we find that the issue of “site” atmosphere of the monuments, making it extremely contributes largely to criticism inside of the coun- difficult to reconstruct the Fragrant Hill.” (Gu 1983a, try. However, the critics mainly took the economic pp. 61-62) practicality as the main reason for that criticism, which to some extent undermined the information In the early years of China’s reform and opening up, of “reconstruction”. In a summary of 17 experts’ experts and scholars usually chose relatively cautious 12 X. WANG AND X. LI Figure 16. An aerial photograph of the Fragrant Hill Hotel. The building’s color and massing are distinctly different from its surroundings, which Chinese experts in the Symposium widely criticized. Photograph by Yang Jing. rhetoric for the semi-public symposiums, trying to Ouyang (1983), the architect of the Beijing Institute approach the collective goal of “modernization.” It of Architectural Design, examined the historical nature led to examinations of economic practicality out- of the site. He pointed out the role of the site from a weighing concerns about the site’s history in the garden to a reconstruction of the former Fragrant Hill Fragrant Hill Hotel Symposium. Roskam (Li 2017) Hotel. As for its role as a garden, he argued that the once praised I.M. Pei’s courage in experimenting with Fragrant Hill Hotel resulted from I.M. Pei’s extremely “localness” in the design of the Fragrant Hill Hotel, liberal approach to choosing the site, which did not arguing that “for Chinese people who have just experi- match the general reality of the Chinese architectural enced the Cultural Revolution, it is sensitive to talk profession. Therefore it was out of typical significance. about history and tradition. People will reflexively In terms of its role as a reconstruction, he criticized that associate them with the remnants of feudalism.” It is “The remains should be reconsidered in the light of the debatable whether this assessment is appropriate for I. overall planning of the Jing Yi Garden. There is no M. Pei, who has lived in the United States and has been good reason why it must be rebuilt on an expanded away from China for dozens of years. Still, perhaps scale from the original.” experts and scholars in China were even more empa- The architectural commentator Gu (1983b) gave a thetic. However, it is noteworthy that four more articles further critical comment. “The designers overthought discussing the occupation of the ancient gardens were how the small environment of the ‘precious land and published in the same issue of the Jianzhu Xuebao that trees’ of Fragrant Hill would benefit the hotel. They did recorded the symposium. not pay enough attention to the larger context of the Landscape architects Liu and Tan (1983) noted city’s master plan. As a result, the design cast a poor that the original buildings of the Jing Yi Garden did choice of location and hence made the mistake of not exist anymore on the site, but that “the present occupying the old site of the Jing Yi Garden, bringing road system and remnants of the site reflect the about many conflicts in the protection of monuments, original pattern.” Professor Zhu (1983) of Tsinghua hotels, and park management. The architects were also University mentioned that the former Fragrant Hill responsible for the inappropriate site choice and the Hotel was damaged after the Tangshan Earthquake hotel standard.” Different from most critics, Gu did not in 1976. In terms of the site reconstruction, “it was seem to attribute the disadvantages of the Fragrant originally a good opportunity to renovate the classi- Hill Hotel entirely to I.M. Pei’s design failures. He cal garden,” but instead, “the pattern of the garden weighed the site’s legitimacy objectively, implying was irreparably damaged by the construction of the that planning decisions are also responsible for the new Hotel.” disadvantages. JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 13 currently mentions the site’s originality as an imperial 5.2. Overlap between the two discursive types in garden. the American context The site descriptions in several English-language The above criticism was made in the absence of I.M. biographies of I.M. Pei primarily relied on accounts Pei. It would trigger our curiosity about Pei’s response from 1983. Descriptions of “Fragrant Hill” often appear if he were present. In the three interviews of the 1980s in the context of I.M. Pei’s famous refusal to build a given by I.M. Pei in the Chinese context, neither the high-rise in the center of Beijing, which was followed history of the site nor the reconstructive nature of the by his first visit and choice of Fragrant Hill. It was project was mentioned. It is only in Beijing Daily (Wang mainly described as a “former imperial hunting park” 1982) that Pei mentioned something about the afore- versus the less frequently mentioned “existing deterio- mentioned two items. In the newspaper, he spoke of rated hotel” (Wiseman 1990, 190; Cannell 1995, 304). his love for the natural scenery of Fragrant Hill and Of particular note is a 1996 interview with I.M. Pei by iterated that his first intention was “not destroying the Janet Adams Strong, who held the position of Director stunning scenery but preserving the beautiful trees”. of Public Relations at I.M. Pei’s office (Jodidio and The beauty of the natural landscape and the his- Strong 2008, 350): tory of the “imperial hunting park” almost define the site’s identity in American critiques. Fewer critics “The fact that such privileged land could be secured mentioned the existence of a “deteriorated hotel” ‘was nothing short of miraculous,’ said Pei. ‘It was on the site. Only one critic mentioned the Jing Yi occupied by a cheap hotel with outdoor plumbing. Garden, but no one ever mentioned the influential Terrible! Nature was so beautiful and the man-made buildings were a disgrace. As soon as I saw those Protectory in the Republican era. The earliest magnificent trees, I knew this was where I wanted to description came from a report by the journalist build.” Wren (1982) published in The New York Times a week after the opening of the Fragrant Hill Hotel: As I.M. Pei rarely wrote personally, we can hardly “The hotel, which the Chinese say cost about $25 retrace his words from resources except for the writ- million, covers 397,000 square feet on the site of an ings of journalists, critics and biographers. Conversely, old imperial hunting lodge.” The architecture critic the terms of I.M. Pei and his architects turned into the Goldberger (1983) also commented in The New York most important sources about the Fragrant Hill Hotel Times: for Western authors. This leads to an intriguing phe- nomenon. That is, I.M. Pei’s words helped construct the “He chose to build a new hotel at Fragrant Hill Park, a Western authors’ writings, so that the discourses from rural area near Peking that had long had a small and rather primitive resort hotel. . . . It is a site of magnifi - these two identities overlapped greatly. As it appears, cent trees, many of which are quite old, and it is the site description in English is mainly around three nestled in a cradle of mountains.” points: the beautiful natural surroundings and trees, the former imperial hunting park, and the existing A month later, Connoisseur published a lengthy review deteriorated hotel. In contrast to the overwhelming by Thomas Hoving (1983, pp. 72), former director of emphasis on the first point, the latter two are only the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, record- attached to the scenario in which I.M. Pei chose ing I.M. Pei’s typical description of the site: Fragrant Hill as a perfect site. The Fragrant Hill Hotel was awarded the Honor “‘Then we went to a place that intrigued me,’ he con- Award by the American Institute of Architects in tinues. ‘It was a great public park in Fragrant Hill, a park which was once an imperial hunting preserve. The 1984. Regardless of the ambiguity over whether the people revere it. There are thousands of trees there Fragrant Hill Hotel is a Chinese architecture or an —some of them centuries old. It was perfect. There American one, there presents a rare “architect’s state- was a deteriorated old hotel that could come down. I ment” under the Jury Comment: “The hotel is located felt certain the Chinese would want a building that on a 30,000-square-meter walled site within the would not destroy the green.’” Fragrant Hill Park. . . . This park is famous for its beauti- ful scenery. Once a part of the Imperial hunting In April, William Walton (1983, p. 182), a close friend of grounds, it contains many well-known temples.” I.M. Pei, mentioned: “The region is soaked in historical This quotation can be regarded as I.M. Pei’s most associations. The hotel occupies a corner of a national straightforward description of the site. However, I.M. park, Jingyiyuan, meaning Park of Tranquility and Rest, Pei’s description obviously contradicts criticism in the site of a palace built in 1186. All of it, like so many Chinese context, the facts of the construction process, choice sites in China, was once an Imperial garden.” and the widely known history of Fragrant Hill in the Although it is difficult to define why Walton would following three points. He exceedingly appreciated the date Jing Yi Garden back to 1186 (indeed it took trees on the site and promised to preserve them to the shape and got its name in the 18th century), Walton’s possibly greatest extent, but in the end, hundreds of description is the only English-language critique that 14 X. WANG AND X. LI them still died. In addition, he made very few references nature of the classical garden system. Therefore, it to the existence of a deteriorated hotel on the site, but seems untenable to suggest I.M. Pei just followed the Chinese scholars claimed that the garden pattern was Western knowledge of Fragrant Hill as hunting still clearly identifiable. Most importantly, it’s pretty grounds. unfamiliar to describe the Jing Yi Garden as “former When faced with a site, an architect’s emotions and imperial hunting grounds” in the Chinese context. intuition often prevail over the precision of historical Suppose we suspend the inconsistent testimony in the facts. It is perhaps inconsequential to dwell on the first two points, namely the beautiful trees, and the terms “hunting grounds” and “imperial garden.” existing deteriorated hotel and then we consider the Nevertheless, if we consider that the Fragrant Hill third point, that is, the former imperial hunting park Hotel is a project that has been extensively “debated,” from a historical perspective. Fragrant Hill was indeed it remains intriguing to reflect on I.M. Pei’s reticence a hunting park in Liao and Jin dynasties. But the about the site remnants in the Chinese context, and Western Hills of Beijing, including Fragrant Hill, had the many contradictions in his American expression. evolved into imperial gardens that functioned as tem- The phrase “former imperial hunting grounds” is per- ples and palaces in Qing Dynasty. Meanwhile, major haps more of strategic rhetoric than the fact of “recon- hunting activities have shifted to the Mulan Hunting struction on the site of an imperial garden and existing Ground (木兰围场 ) near the Mountain Resort in buildings.” On the one hand, it obscures the site’s Chengde (承德避暑山庄 ). (Siu 2013, 205) Thus the existence as a built rather than a natural environment Fragrant Hill is usually described as part of the imperial for at least the last three centuries. On the other, it gardens, a scenic area with a collection of famous subtly transgresses the ethical criticism involving monuments, without any deliberate emphasis on damaging the original appearance of a historical site. being hunting grounds in most Chinese discourses. I.M. Pei’s expression of the site’s history might be Why would I.M. Pei pass over its nearer history of considered a trick to avoid or blur the focus on its being an imperial garden and describe it as the hunting originality, and this consideration seems to reflect pre- grounds whose history dates back to an older period? cisely his self-contradiction in the design. I.M. Pei advised the Chinese government “not to build high- rise buildings near the Forbidden City” in 1978, and 5.3. The hidden self-contradiction in the site famously refused the design commission for a high- discourse rise hotel on Chang’an Avenue. He has mentioned proudly on several occasions that if he had moved From the existing research on Fragrant Hill in English, it the government in any way toward the new policy appears that the term “hunting grounds” may be a (which refers to the guidelines for future construction more common Western concept of Manchu nomadic in Beijing), it was “my major contribution to China.” gardens. It can be traced back to Malone’s book (1934), (Wiseman 1990, 191) In several lectures to Chinese “History of Peking Summer Palaces under the Ch’ing architecture students, I.M. Pei earnestly reminded (Qing) Dynasty.” However, I.M. Pei should have known them that “a new form, a new creative path for modern that the site used to be the former Qing imperial Jing Yi Chinese architecture must emerge precisely from Garden when he designed the Fragrant Hill Hotel, as China’s own traditional architectural pattern.” He also inferred from Walton’s article. Besides, I.M. Pei con- emphasized that the design of the Fragrant Hill Hotel sulted several experts during the design process. He was “to find a way to nationalize Chinese architectural was close friends with the garden expert Chen creation (Wang 1990, pp. 253–255).” However, in his Congzhou, who visited the site together with Pei on practice, I.M. Pei demolished a site with such a rich several occasions. (Wiseman 1990, 201) It is clear that I. history and built it almost totally by his own design. M. Pei had the opportunity to be well informed about Hundreds of trees were cut down because of the the history of Fragrant Hill from a Chinese academic reconstruction, despite Pei enthusiastically praising context. In addition, the Sandhills, the Water Maze, the and promising to preserve them. surrounding traditional pavilions, and several terraces We are not meant to be critical or accusatory with should still be present before the 1980s’ reconstruction the benefit of hindsight. As Liu (2009) points out, “The according to the metric map (Figure 10). Therefore, it Fragrant Hill Hotel may have accomplished a compre- can be inferred that what Pei saw was not just a “cheap hensive attempt to be so-called ‘Chinese yet new,’ but hotel,” but an identifiable garden pattern. Moreover, I. it may not be a thoroughgoing ‘base’ experiment in M. Pei retained the Water Maze in his design. He never Fragrant Hill. This is one of Pei’s regrets. When the withheld the fact that it was a site relic, rather, he vision is too high, it always drifts into vagueness; featured it as a symbol of the literati tradition. When when the ‘culture’ is not implemented into the site, it the Water Maze was inadvertently damaged during the always drifts into universality.” I.M. Pei was perhaps reconstruction, he spared no expense in restoring it more concerned with the higher value of the project, and positioned it in the center of the central garden. rather than the design of a hotel on the site of Fragrant The Water Maze demonstrates the self-explanatory JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 15 Hill. For I.M. Pei, this project will bring about two kinds Hotel as a reconstruction project. More unfortunately, of self-fulfillment: his cultural vocation as an overseas the critical voices of Chinese experts, who were once Chinese, and his professional ambition as an architect. legitimately outraged by the reconstruction of the site, Once these two kinds of self-fulfillment have come were slowly drowned in the dusty archives of the time. together to construct I.M. Pei’s design intention, the “site” is no longer an actual design condition and 6. Discussion physical space, but an imaginary reference to Pei’s concept of “China.” Taking the “site” of the Fragrant Hill Hotel as a theore- Jing Shuping, who was a classmate of I.M. Pei at St. tical perspective for conducting architectural criticism, John’s University and later became a famous banker, this paper explores the duality of the Hotel as a design once said: “People of our generation in China had for project and a discursive system in both Chinese and so long felt humiliated by foreigners, whether British, American contexts. The paper challenges the discur- American, French, or Japanese. We always secretly sive analysis of the Chinese perspective that began thought that we should stand up for China, because with the Fragrant Hill Hotel Symposium in 1982. In her culture was so old. When l.M. and I got together, I addition, it contests the heroic narrative of “I.M. Pei’s sensed this feeling in him. . . . When Ieoh Ming told me return to China” and its implied sense of novelty from about Fragrant Hill, I knew it was more than just a hotel an American perspective. for him. Every Chinese is very proud of our ancestry, Historical archives and resources are keystones in and he said that he wanted to develop some kind of analyzing the site’s transformation. The research looks architectural language to leave to our descendants.” for historical connections across a wider chronological (Wiseman 1990, pp. 191–192) range in order to explain several arguments that have Imagine I.M. Pei when he first saw Fragrant Hill. The remained unclear in earlier studies. The formal analysis twice-burned garden ruins and the deteriorated hotel makes significant observations about choices such as: may have stimulated him to change the site so that it the extensive tree cutting, the postmodern interpreta- would become a contribution to his imaginary “China.” tion of historical allusions like the Water Maze, the His nationalist sentiments as a Chinese and the instinct hotel’s new boundaries, the challenges posed by the as a modernist architect possibly far surpassed his hotel’s enormous scale and occupation of the original historical sensitivity at that moment. To some extent, gardens, as well as the difficulties with circulation I.M. Pei in 1978 was being empowered by the Chinese caused by the new volumes. government to practice “reform” through his reputa- When examining the discursive formation of the tion and talents in design. Because international hotels Fragrant Hill Hotel, one central problem is the subjec- crucially characterized China’s modernization in the tive perspective of architectural criticism. In the 1980s, early years of reform and opening up by symbolizing Chinese and American critiques of the Fragrant Hill the image and strength of the country. Thus, rather Hotel revealed vast differences in the perspectives than being attentive to the stylistic character and strat- they chose to criticized a work. This is due to the egy of the new design, the government was more long isolation before. One of the most significant dif- concerned with proving its ability to invite such a ferences was that Chinese critics tended to focus on renowned Chinese-American architect as I.M. Pei to the ways and means of modernizing Chinese architec- design an international hotel. The corresponding pro- ture, while American commentators tended to observe paganda and political significance conveyed the deter- China’s reform and opening up through I.M. Pei’s mination of the government and showed the brand return. new appearance of the country under the policy of Recent Chinese studies can be divided into two economic reform. The motive and act of maintaining groups: one focuses on the Fragrant Hill Hotel historical sites, which were usually presented in an Symposium; the other takes the English biographies ambiguous manner, were largely replaced by the of I.M. Pei as a source and encapsulates the Fragrant undeniable “progress”. Hill Hotel in the discussion of postmodernism. We But at any rate, the Fragrant Hill Hotel is an archi- argue that these two forms of writing kept the dichot- tecture interwoven with conflicts. It was claimed to be omy between Chinese and American critical discourse a modern exploration out of Chinese tradition and of the 1980s. This reduced the Fragrant Hill Hotel to an culture, but the authenticity of its site is obscured in undefined symbol and a misinterpreted discourse by the actual treatment at the outset of the design. Pei both the Oriental and Western camps, while critiques kept reticent in the Chinese context to conceal the of design remain elusive. conflict while opting for strategic rhetoric in the This research has potential limitations. Although our American context. For this reason, most Western inference regarding I.M. Pei’s cultural identity is sup- authors who have not visited the Fragrant Hill Hotel ported by a range of evidence and reasoning, it relied mainly on I.M. Pei’s statements, and hence had remains a generalized speculation because I.M. Pei no way of knowing the historical narrative behind the never explicitly explained the design specifics of the 16 X. WANG AND X. LI site during his lifetime. To ensure the relative neutrality Professor Yang Jing of Tianjin University offered valuable advice. Sincere appreciation to the reviewers for their enligh- of the inference, we draw attention to the discrepan- tening comments. cies between Pei’s design and his rhetoric through the analysis of archives, texts, and images, and place his words in the context in both China and the United Disclosure statement States. No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author(s). The paper focuses on two periods when criticism of the Fragrant Hill Hotel reached its climax: 1982–1983, following the hotel’s completion, and 1990, following I. Funding M. Pei’s announcement of his retirement from PCF and This work was supported by the National Social Science Fund the release of multiple biographies in English. Two of China - Art Major Program under Grant [20ZD11]. further areas of study need particular consideration if the chronological frame is stretched: (1) The contradic- tions of viewing the Fragrant Hill Hotel as a modern or Notes on contributors postmodern architecture in the context of China and the Wang Xuerui is now a visiting scholar at GTA, ETH Zurich and United States. (2) The recent-proposed views on the a PhD candidate at the College of Architecture and Urban nationalism and regionalism of I.M. Pei’s cultural identity. Planning, Tongji University. This paper is based on her cur- atorial research for the 2023 I.M. Pei exhibition at M+ Museum, Hong Kong. 7. Conclusion Li Xiangning is now the dean and professor at the College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Tongji University. Taking the “site” as a narrative thread, this paper attempts to explain the complex entanglement between the historical background of the Fragrant ORCID Hill Hotel and I.M. Pei’s cultural identity. For this pur- Xuerui Wang http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7506-9860 pose, it combined discursive analysis and formal ana- lysis, which have been proven to be two critical methodologies in the field of Architectural History, References Theory and Criticism. The proposed methodology Cannell, M. 1995. I.M. Pei: Mandarin of Modernism. Danvers: employs a comprehensive examination of the site’s Clarkson Potter. transformation and the various discourses underlying Chen, A. (2017, October 6). I. M. Pei’s Groundbreaking the Fragrant Hotel’s reception in both the American Fragrant Hill Hotel, Revisited. Retrieved from https:// and Chinese architectural milieus to achieve the histor- www.mplus.org.hk/en/magazine/i-m-peis-ground-break iographical criticism of I.M. Pei’s design. ing-fragrant-hill-hotel-revisited The contradictions that entwine the Fragrant Hill Chen, F., and C. Guo. 2012. “Xiangshan Fandian Xiaoji [A Short Note on the Fragrant Hill Hotel.“ In Chen F, Baifang Hotel have stimulated the curiosity and desire for Jinghua Mingjia [Visiting Beijing Celebrities], edited by Y. further explanation, keeping the architectural dis- Sun, 228–242. Beijing: Central Literature Publishing course vibrant to this day. If the process of unearthing House. historical material is like exploring for unknown petro- Fang, X. 2008. “Beiyuming de Xungen Zhilu: Cong Xiangshan leum in a stratum, then understanding the implications Fandian Dao Suzhou Bowuguan [I.M. Pei’s Journey to His Roots: From the Fragrant Hill Hotel to Suzhou Museum.” In of the discourse is more like cross-examination in for- Wei Zhongguo Er Sheji: Jingwai Jianzhushi Yu Dangdai ensic science. Perhaps it is no longer possible to fully Zhongguo Jianzhu [Designing for China: Foreign Architects collate the truth about the Fragrant Hill Hotel regard- and Contemporary Chinese Architecture], edited by D. 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Intersecting narratives of site: Fragrant Hill Hotel as a reconstruction project

Intersecting narratives of site: Fragrant Hill Hotel as a reconstruction project

Abstract

Ieoh Ming Pei completed his work on the Fragrant Hill Hotel in Beijing in the year of 1983. This has been a piece of significant work in modern Chinese architecture. Corresponding studies and discussions have been mainly attracted to its style and its exploration of modernity, while relatively less concentrated on a close reading of the design. Taking “site reconstruction” as a clue, this paper traces the historic transformations of the site condition of this hotel. Following a...
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Publisher
Taylor & Francis
Copyright
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group on behalf of the Architectural Institute of Japan, Architectural Institute of Korea and Architectural Society of China.
ISSN
1347-2852
eISSN
1346-7581
DOI
10.1080/13467581.2022.2160206
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JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING https://doi.org/10.1080/13467581.2022.2160206 ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY AND THEORY Xuerui Wang and Xiangning Li College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Tongji University, Shanghai, China ABSTRACT ARTICLE HISTORY Received 17 February 2022 Ieoh Ming Pei completed his work on the Fragrant Hill Hotel in Beijing in the year of 1983. This Accepted 15 December 2022 has been a piece of significant work in modern Chinese architecture. Corresponding studies and discussions have been mainly attracted to its style and its exploration of modernity, while KEYWORDS relatively less concentrated on a close reading of the design. Taking “site reconstruction” as a Fragrant Hill Hotel; Ieoh clue, this paper traces the historic transformations of the site condition of this hotel. Following Ming Pei; Jing Yi Garden; a chronological review and a formal analysis of different time periods, the paper revisits the Fragrant Hill Protectory; site discourse of the Fragrant Hill Hotel both in Chinese and American contexts. It examines the reconstruction gaps between Chinese and American critiques and speculates on the reasons for the discre- pancies. By comparing the discursive focus of “hunting park” and “imperial garden,” this paper attempts to uncover the tension between history and identity concealed in I.M. Pei’s address on the site. While the inconsistency is partly due to the time and people’s standpoints originating from the time, it still shows how design functions as a form of power in the history. 1. Introduction design and construction narrative. Conversely, the The Fragrant Hill Hotel was the first work of the Chinese critiques of that period were aimed at “com- Chinese-American architect Ieoh Ming Pei in paring the Fragrant Hill Hotel with ‘our architecture’ Mainland China. It is also the earliest work by an intro- and thus integrating it into the discussion of Chinese duced foreign architectural expert after China’s reform architectural traditions and approaches.” (Liu 2009, 53) and opening up (Zou et al., 2010, p. 106). Since I.M. After 1990, I.M. Pei’s biographies and portfolios lent the Pei accepted the design invitation of the Fragrant Hill details of previous media reports and hence helped to Hotel in late 1978, he had participated in numerous establish a discursive set of information. seminars, interviews, and speeches both in China and After more than forty years, discussions about the in the West. According to his repeated statements in modern transformation of Chinese architectural tradi- American and Chinese contexts, it has been a narrative tion around the Fragrant Hill Hotel are still ongoing. model that he was going to design by encapsulating Behind the academic community’s efforts is the desire Chinese architectural traditions into the process of to uncover the original context of modern Chinese “modernization” in China. At the end of 1982, the architecture from historical materials, which ensures “Symposium on the Fragrant Hill Hotel”, attended by theoretical discussions and a perspective in further more than 30 Chinese scholars and experts, marked research. Recent studies on the Fragrant Hill Hotel the climax of the domestic debate, but I.M. Pei was have gradually moved from subjective critiques to absent. The Jianzhu Xuebao (建筑学报 ) published the textual and discursive analysis in the following two symposium’s outcomes in its March and April 1983 directions. One is to revisit the 1982 Symposium orga- issues, together with nine critical papers on the nized by the Jianzhu Xuebao so that whose vitality in Fragrant Hill Hotel. (Figure 1) modern Chinese architecture history can be defined The New York Times published its first report on the (Liu 2009; Hu 2014). By detecting the subtle contrasts construction a week after the opening ceremony of the between the experts’ speeches at the symposium, Fragrant Hill Hotel in October 1982. While the major researchers examined the cognition and the transfor- crowd of international reviews of the project appeared mation of the concept of “modernism” in Chinese mainly in 1983, The New York Times, Connoisseur, House architecture in the 1980s. Another direction is to refer & Garden and Architecture published further critiques to I.M. Pei’s biographies, archives, and interviews, in on the Hotel in January, February, April, and order to locate the significance of the Fragrant Hill September that year. (Figure 2) The English coverage Hotel in Pei’s architectural career and the complex primarily focused on the role it played in the evolution role of this design in the dual context of China’s early of I.M. Pei’s design career from the perspectives of the economic reforms and the American post-modernist CONTACT Xiangning Li lixiangning@tongji.edu.cn College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Tongji University, Siping 1239, 200092 Shanghai, China © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group on behalf of the Architectural Institute of Japan, Architectural Institute of Korea and Architectural Society of China. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. 2 X. WANG AND X. LI Figure 1. The current state of the central courtyard of the Fragrant Hill Hotel in 2021. photograph by Zhang Nan Figure 2. Several Chinese and American periodicals in 1983 with the Fragrant Hill Hotel on their covers, from left to right: Jianzhu Xuebao, 1983(03); Xin Jianzhu (New Architecture), 1983(01); Connoisseur, 1983(02); Architecture, 1983(09). ideology (Fang 2008; Zhu 2009; Chen 2017; Roskam the site of the former Fragrant Hill Hotel after the 2015, 2017). founding of the People’s Republic of China. Most his- However, multiple lines of evidence indicate that torical studies were restricted to a specific period and the Fragrant Hill Hotel was a reconstruction project did not form an overall chronological narrative. on a site with historical remains according to the doc- Furthermore, I.M. Pei was often reticent to talk about umentations kept by the Pei archives at the Library of the history of the Fragrant Hill Hotel site in the Chinese Congress and other related institutions. This perspec- context, whereas he would refer to it as a “former tive has long been neglected by the architectural com- imperial hunting park” in the English-speaking world. munity. Although several experts noticed this Other American critiques continued following this information during the 1982 symposium, it did not unfamiliar term, resulting in the site design of the receive agreement from the general criticism on econ- Fragrant Hill Hotel being shadowed by its absence. omy and practicality. It did not attract the attention of Though neglected in the field of architecture, the subsequent architectural studies either. However, the site information is still very necessary in understanding site of the Hotel has been mentioned in studies rele- deeper the design and discourse of the Fragrant Hill vant to the history of the Fragrant Hill, as it used to be Hotel. The “site reconstruction” provides an essential the Central Palace (中宫 ) in the Qing Dynasty’s imperial perspective that is both circumstantial and analytical Jing Yi Garden (静宜园 ), then it became the on the relationship between architecture and site. Republican-era Protectory (香山慈幼院 ) and finally Moreover, it orients a critical evaluation of the JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 3 contrasting discourses on the “site choice” in China approach to the redevelopment of the Fragrant Hill and the West. Therefore, this paper attempts to exam- Hotel. In the third section, to understand the starting ine the 40-year-long controversy on the Fragrant Hill point of architectural criticism and its contextual basis Hotel from the perspective of site reconstruction. How in diversified contexts, we analyze the studies on the has the site of the Fragrant Hill Hotel evolved during its history of the site, and then the different proposals history? What would it mean to take the absence of site within Chinese and Western discourse systems, respec- information as the historical condition under which the tively. On this basis, we attempt to identify the self- Fragrant Hill Hotel is produced as design work and contradictions of I.M. Pei and the reasons behind them understood as discursive formation? in terms of cultural identity. Accordingly, this paper aims to respond to the research questions through the above three steps. In each point of historical, for- 2. Methodology mal and discursive analysis, we always focus on the “site” as the center of the discussion. Taking the Fragrant Hill Hotel as a site reconstruction project, the Archaeology of Knowledge is the primary methodology to provide a critical perspective on mod- 3. The archaeology of the Fragrant Hill Hotel ern Chinese architectural criticism. Based on “discur- site sive analysis” in linguistic philosophy, this paper is devoted to establishing the structure of discourse 3.1. From the Central Palace in Jing Yi Garden to into a genealogy. The paper then interprets discursive the Girls’ School of Protectory formation and reveals the hidden ideological power by Located in the northwestern suburb of Beijing, probing images and textual content. Fragrant Hill is in the ranges of the Western Hills (西 Hu (2014) examined fifteen critical articles on the 山 ). Several imperial temples have been built on the Fragrant Hill Hotel that appeared in the Jianzhu Xuebao Fragrant Hill from Tang Dynasty (618–907) to Ming from 1980 to 1992. He concluded three discursive Dynasty (1368–1644). The Kangxi Emperor in Qing modes around the Fragrant Hill Hotel and the different Dynasty constructed a garden here in 1677. It was meaning systems. Different from Hu’s study, we endea- further expanded by the Qianlong Emperor in 1745, vored to critically understand I.M. Pei’s approach to the who gave it the name of Twenty-eight Attractions of site and its historical reference by taking “site recon- Jing Yi Garden. The courtyard of “Xulang Hall (the hall struction” as a central concept and combining histor- of modesty and enlightenment),” located in the iography with formal analysis. We then compare the Central Palace (Figure 3), was one of these attractions evidence from maps with the ambiguous “site” dis- (Qianlong and Yu 1746). course. On this basis, this paper describes two inter- The Jing Yi Garden was one of the imperial gardens related but separate discursive structures. The first one in the Western Hills that were twice ransacked and is the site of the Fragrant Hill Hotel itself. Here we are burned by foreign aggressors in 1860 and 1900. interested in the historical transformations of different During the Guangxu years, the imperial family architecture for different usages, that is, from an imper- entrusted the Yangshi Lei (样式雷 ) with restoring the ial garden to a school, and then to a guest house and Jing Yi Garden. “However, most of the work remained finally an international hotel. The second is the discus- schematic, and only a few buildings were restored. sion of the set Chinese attitudes towards the site Besides the buildings in Qianlong Emperor’s plan, the against the Western ones. In other words, we will new scheme added a courtyard in the southwest cor- compare how scholars and architects from different ner and eliminated the miscellaneous courtyard on the cultural backgrounds have each made their comments south side of Huachan Room; in spite of these changes, on the design so that the historical reference of the site the layout was not significantly reversed.” (Li and Yang was obscured. 2022, 32) These analyses are implied in the following three In 1912, Ma Xiangbo and Ying Lianzhi petitioned the sections. In the first section, a connection of the histor- former Empress Dowager of the Qing Dynasty, Long ical lineage to a transparent and credible narrative is Yu, to borrow the grounds of the Fragrant Hill for a established, according to the transformation of the site girls’ school, called Jing Yi Girls’ School (静宜女子学校 ) from an imperial garden in the Qing Dynasty to the (Qian and Zhang 2020, 195). Xiong Xiling established Fragrant Hill Hotel’s redevelopment after the Chinese the Fragrant Hill Protectory nine years later. He economic reform. In the second section, we compare expanded the grounds of the original girls’ school to the site reconstruction proposals of the five periods accommodate orphans during the war and natural horizontally, converting ourselves from historical disasters (Xiong 1920). (Figure 4) When the Protectory research to a brief formal analysis exploring I.M. Pei’s was first established, it was divided into two schools, design strategies and historical references in his These temples included Yong’an Temple (永安寺 ), Jinshan Temple (金山寺 ), Biyun Temple (碧云寺 ), and Hongguang Temple (洪光寺 ). 4 X. WANG AND X. LI Figure 3. Xulang Hall (Central Palace) group in the scroll of “Twenty-eight Attractions of the Jing Yi Garden,” painted by Zhang Ruocheng, Qing dynasty, Copyright © Online Archives of the Palace Museum of China Figure 4. Plan of the Fragrant Hill Protectory. Copyright © 1993 by the Beijing Lixin School. History of Beijing Fragrant Hill Protectory. The location marked in red by the author is the site of the Girls’ School. one for boys and another for girls. The girls’ school of Hill Temple to subsidize educational expenses. According the Protectory is located in the former Central Palace, to Li (1937), who taught at the Protectory, “now that the where the current Fragrant Hill Hotel stands. The new temple no longer exists, the buildings were converted school buildings partly followed the original layout of into the originally Ganlu Hotel, which was renamed to the Central Palace. There were eight classrooms, four the Fragrant Hill Hotel in 1930. When I was working at the dormitories, a library, several offices, several shops, and Protectory, most of my colleagues hosted their guests several bathrooms in the girl’s school, and these func- there. The food was immaculate. However, the room rent tional places counted altogether 46 buildings (Xiong was expensive, so most visitors would not spend a night 1922). there.” In addition, Preston Moore once visited the origi- nal Fragrant Hill Hotel with his family when his father was a military officer stationed in China in 1931 (Wiseman 3.2. Two “Fragrant Hill Hotels” in image and text 1990, 203). He became an architect in I.M. Pei’s company After the opening of the Protectory, Xiong Xiling opened and engaged in the design and on-site construction of a “Fragrant Hill Hotel” on the site of the former Fragrant the Fragrant Hill Hotel half a century later. (Figure 5) It can JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 5 Figure 5. Partial map of Central Palace and Ganlu Hotel (later renamed as Fragrant Hill Hotel). copyright © Chen Anlan 1920. be determined that the original Fragrant Hill Hotel (Ganlu government approved utilizing the existing buildings Hotel) of the Republican period was near the Fragrant Hill to open a “Fragrant Hill Hotel,” which was officially Temple, but it is not the same site as the present Fragrant opened in June. This former Fragrant Hill Hotel was Hill Hotel. one of the eight largest hotels in Beijing in the 1950s. It After the Pingjin campaign, the People’s Liberation was a place for dignitaries to stay and dine for short Army arrive in the suburbs of Beijing in 1948. The periods and was not precisely for profit. Although it Protectory was then moved from Fragrant Hill to the was called a “hotel,” it more functioned as a govern- city to spare enough space for the army (Fragrant Hill ment guest house under the planned economy. Park Administration 2001, 20–24). In April 1957, the (Figure 6) Figure 6. The interior of the former Fragrant Hill Hotel between 1957 and 1978. The original description was “Enjoy the summer at the Fragrant Hill Hotel in the dense forest (在层峦密林的香山饭店里消夏 )”. Copyright © Picture album of Beijing, Beijing Editorial Board Press. 1959, pp. 138. 6 X. WANG AND X. LI The former Fragrant Hill Hotel inherited the name indicate portions that have been retained, yellow of the original Fragrant Hill Hotel of the Republican to indicate portions that have been added newly, era. However, it was no longer located within the and grey to denote that the change cannot be Fragrant Hill Temple. Instead, it occupied the determined from our available materials.a) Central grounds and buildings of the former Protectory, Palace scheme of Qianlong years (redrawn from a which also included the present Fragrant Hill Hotel Yangshi Lei drawing provided by Li Jiang and Yang 4.1. Site remnants site. (Fragrant Hill Park Administration 2001, 299) Jing). b) Central Palace scheme of Guangxu years We can refer to the People’s Daily (Ji 1982) cover A comparison of the general plan of Jing Yi Garden (redrawn from a Yangshi Lei drawing provided by Li of the opening of I.M. Pei’s Fragrant Hill Hotel: “The with that of the Protectory shows that the main build- Jiang and Yang Jing). c) The Fragrant Hill Protectory, new Fragrant Hill Hotel was rebuilt on the former ing of the Protectory was built roughly on the founda- Republican period (redrawn from the entire map of the Fragrant Hill Hotel site. The total area of the new tions of the former theatre (戏台 ) and the area around Jing Yi Garden by Chen Anlan). d) 1957–1978 Former hotel does not exceed that of the former one.” the Xuegu Hall (学古堂 ) of Jing Yi Garden (Figure 8). Fragrant Hill Hotel (redrawn from archival drawings Impacted by several significant earthquakes in the The building on top of the theatre foundation was the provided by Liu Shaozong and Pei Architects). e) surrounding region, the original buildings of the for- dining hall of the Girls’ school (Chen and Guo 2012, p. Diagram of trees preserved at the Fragrant Hill Hotel mer Fragrant Hill Hotel sank and cracked in the 1970s. 231). The foundations of the western part are relatively since 1982 (redrawn from a diagram provided by Wang With the approval of the State Council, the Beijing City well-preserved, at least before the Protectory period of Planning Commission and the Construction Tianxi). f) The general plan of the courtyard planting of this site (Figure 9). The elevations of Kuangzhen Hall Commission issued a notice to renovate the Fragrant the Fragrant Hill Hotel since 1982 (redrawn from a plan (旷真阁 ), its courtyard, and Yiqing Shushi (怡情书史 ) Hill Hotel in October 1979. Following discussions in provided by Liu Shaozong). A 1920 photograph of the were 2.7, 1.3 and 4.1 meters respectively, as shown on Beijing, I.M. Pei and his firm determined the final Girls’ School of Protectory. Provided by (Qian and Chen Anlan’s mapping. In the design of the Fragrant design for the Fragrant Hill Hotel, agreeing that all Zhang 2020). Hill Hotel, I.M. Pei transformed the site’s original terrace original buildings inside the retaining wall would be (which should have been the foundation of the Yiqing demolished. (Chen and Guo 2012, 235) Demolition Shushi) into an outdoor swimming pool. was initiated in November 1979, marking the end of It is controversial why the outline of the courtyard the former hotel’s history from 1957. The groundbreak- wall in the Protectory differs from that of the former ing for the new hotel started in April 1980. (Hoving Fragrant Hill Hotel period. The “restoration of the bro- 1983, 78) A grand opening ceremony for the I.M. Pei- ken wall and retaining wall” in the 1950s-1970s might designed Fragrant Hill hotel was held on 17 October be the reason, for it has been mentioned several times in the “Fragrant Hill Park Chronicles.” The eastward extension increased the site area. A group of buildings framed a courtyard during the former Fragrant Hill 4. Five reconstruction plans for the site Hotel period. In addition, two bar-shaped buildings The site of the Fragrant Hill Hotel underwent sev- appeared on the west side, roughly situated on the former foundation of the Kuangzhen Hall. The changes eral reconstructions between the 17th and 20th thus created a semi-enclosed layout on the southwes- centuries. The Kangxi Emperor constructed a tern side, but the overall plan was still not systematic. palace upon the original Yong’an Village in the 17th century. The Qianlong Emperor later expanded it into the Central Palace of Jing Yi 4.2. Site elements Garden in the mid-18th century. Unfortunately, We compared the original site plan before reconstruc- the site was subjected to two military disasters in tion (Figure 10, Figure 11), the general plan of the new the 19th century, in between which Yangshi Lei courtyard design provided by the Beijing Landscape designed the reconstruction but failed to realize. Bureau (Figure 12), and the diagram of the preserved The 20th century saw even more rapid changes. It trees provided by Wang Tianxi, who was then the was home to the Jing Yi Girls’ School and the later intern architect of PEI Architects (Figure 13). It is likely Protectory during the Republican era. Between that the trees in the garden of I.M. Pei’s Fragrant Hill 1957 and 1978, the former Fragrant Hill Hotel Hotel were mostly redesigned and transplanted, for served as a government-owned guest house. The they were originally not on the site. The “Fragrant Hill original buildings were all demolished in 1979, and Park Chronicles” documented three discussions related the present Fragrant Hill Hotel was built during to the “Cutting of Trees”: 1980–1982. In considering the five reconstruction “On 24 May 1979, the Landscape Bureau reported plans for the site, we can identify the following that the renovation plan of the Fragrant Hill Hotel significant revisions (Figure 7). We use blue to would cut down 485 ancient pines and cypresses, indicate areas that have been removed, black to which would severely damage the scenic area of The hotel at that time covered the area of Fenglin Village, Kindergarten of Protectory, East Court of Wofo Temple, Red Leaf Village and eight villas on the hill, which could accommodate thousands of people. JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 7 Figure Figure 7. 7. a) a) Central Central Palace Palace scheme scheme of of Qianlong Qianlong years years (redrawn (redrawn from from a a Yangshi Yangshi Lei Lei drawing drawing provided provided by by Li Li Jiang Jiang and and Yang Yang Jing). Jing). b) b) Central Central Palace Palace scheme scheme of of Guangxu Guangxu years years (redrawn (redrawn from from a a Yangshi Yangshi Lei Lei drawing drawing provided provided by by Li Li Jiang Jiang and and Yang Yang Jing). Jing). c) c) The The Fragrant Fragrant Hill Hill Protectory, Protectory, Republican Republican period period (redrawn (redrawn from from the the entire entire map map of of the the Jing Jing Yi Yi Garden Garden by by Chen Chen Anlan). Anlan). d) d) 1957–1978 1957–1978 Former Former Fragrant Fragrant Hill Hill Hotel Hotel (redrawn (redrawn from from archival archival drawings drawings provided provided by by Liu Liu Shaozong Shaozong and and Pei Pei Architects). Architects). e) e) Diagram Diagram of of trees trees preserved preserved at at the the Fragrant Fragrant Hill Hill Hotel Hotel since since 1982 1982 (redrawn (redrawn from from a a diagram diagram provided provided by by Wang Wang Tianxi). Tianxi). f) f) The The general general plan plan of of the the courtyard courtyard planting planting of of the the Fragrant Fragrant Hill Hill Hotel Hotel since since 1982 1982 (redrawn (redrawn from from a a plan plan provided provided by by Liu Liu Shaozong). Shaozong). A 1920 photograph of the Girls’ School of Protectory. Provided by (Qian and Zhang 2020). 8 X. WANG AND X. LI Figure 7. (Continued). Fragrant Hill as well as the greening project. On 5 Park reported to the Landscape Bureau the fact of September, the Beijing Municipal Infrastructure cutting down 245 trees during the construction of the Commission replied: according to the layout of the Fragrant Hill Hotel, including more than 70 trees aged design scheme, 31 cypress and tulip trees could be over 100 years old.” (Fragrant Hill Park Administration cut down within the hotel site, and the others should 2001, 34-37) be preserved as far as possible. On 19 May 1980, a In contrast to the case of trees being cut down and meeting was held at Fragrant Hill to study issues relating to the protection of trees and the construc- replanted, I.M. Pei remade the Qianlong years’ Water tion of the new hotel. On 25 June 1982, Fragrant Hill Maze (流觞曲水 ) in its original form in the design of JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 9 Figure 10. Map of the preserved trees at the Fragrant Hill Hotel, copyright © Box 138, Folder 6, I.M. Pei Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Figure 8. A 1920 photograph of the Girls’ School of Protectory. Provided by (Qian and Zhang 2020). Figure 11. The original state of the former Fragrant Hill Hotel, provided by Liu Shaozong, Tan Xin 1983. Figure 9. Architecture in the west compound of Protectory. Provided by Yang Jing 2022. the Fragrant Hill Hotel. As it was recorded by Cannell (1995, pp. 316–317): Figure 12. The general plan of the courtyard design of the Fragrant Hill Hotel, provided by Liu Shaozong 1983. “The relics left on the Fragrant Hill site included a gray marble platform, known as a liu shui yin, carved with a compose a poem in the seven or so minutes it took serpentine channel. According to legend, poets floated the slow-moving current to carry a glass to the end of wineglasses down the Water Maze in the moonlight. the 165-foot passage. This particular liu shui yin, one of They were permitted to drink only if they could 10 X. WANG AND X. LI Figure 15. Water Maze in Pei-designed Fragrant Hill Hotel. photograph by Zhang Nan Figure 13. Schematic diagram of the preservation of trees and walls, provided by Wang Tianxi 1981. interpretation and idealization of Chinese architectural traditions rather than on the restoration of historical accuracy. 4.3. Site layouts I.M. Pei utilized the southeastern corner of the site, the east-road courtyard in the Qianlong scheme, with four original Sandhills (砂山 ). In the restora- tion plan of Yangshi Lei, a combined courtyard was proposed for the southeast corner, reducing the number of Sandhills to two. However, the four Sandhills are still visible on the map of the former Fragrant Hill Hotel site, which indicates that the revisions made during the Guangxu years have not been conducted. Figure 14. Water Maze in the Girls’ School of Protectory, According to I.M. Pei’s Complete Works (Jodidio and copyright © Beijing Experimental School History Library online archive. Strong 2008, 183), “I.M. Pei reversed the traditional Chinese entry from the south to maximize the main garden within existing retaining walls. Combining clas- five left in all of China, was damaged by workmen sic Chinese axiality and spatial sequencing that alter- mixing cement, so Pei ordered a replica cut from a nately expands and contracts (not unlike the thousand-year-old quarry outside Beijing. He posi- Forbidden City), the hotel radiates out from the central tioned it as an island in an ornamental pond inhabited atrium with guestroom wings shifted asymmetrically by goldfish.” to preserve the site’s many trees.” However, if we look at the plans of the five periods, we find inaccuracies in From the photo of the Republican period (Figure that description. The East Palace Gate should be the 14), it is clear that the courtyard of the Water Maze main gate among all the original ones. During the occupied a prominent position in the spatial lay- Republican era, the main entrance to the Protectory out. However, the drawings of site conditions pro- had been reversed from the east one to the north one. vided by the Pei archives at the Library of People entered the main road of the campus through Congress and Beijing Landscape Bureau respec- the North Gate, while the East Gate and the South Gate tively diverged graphically. In the former drawing, were the secondary entrances. I.M. Pei adopted the the Water Maze was still enclosed within the court- main entrance on the north side and made no mod- yard, while the latter shows that there were only ifications. In addition, the map of the preserved trees in two walls remaining. the archives of I.M. Pei papers shows the original site The Water Maze has undergone the most funda- before the construction of the Fragrant Hill Hotel mental revision in I.M. Pei’s design (Figure 15). It was (Figure 10). As it shows, the original central garden transformed from an enclosed, relatively private space was located on the south side and consisted of three into a public art and sculpture, which is displayed in an parts: a cross-shaped square, the Water Maze and open courtyard. I.M. Pei’s choice embodies a modernist Sandhills. reinvention. It was in some ways based on his own JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 11 speeches compiled by Gu Mengchao, a total of 11 4.4. Site functions experts mentioned the issue of “site.” The argu- The differences among the site’s functions during its ments centered on three aspects. (1) The hotel is transformation are particularly noteworthy apart from too far from the city to reach conveniently. (2) The the differences in the architectural layout. It evolved sizable volume will disfigure the landscape. (3) from a garden to a school, and then from a guest Building in a scenic area will lead to an extensive house to a high-standard international hotel. The two investment in the infrastructure of water, electricity larger volumes designed by I.M. Pei are located in the and sewage discharge, which is not economical former canteen of the Protectory and the central court- (Figure 16). yard of the Jing Yi Garden, which respectively function In contrast, there were only four references to “I.M. as cafeteria and lobby at present. Influenced by the Pei’s reconstruction of the Fragrant Hill Hotel occupying American “international style,” I.M. Pei probably the ancient Jing Yi Garden,” and three of these state- instinctively assumed that a modern, high-standard ments were brief. As Liu Kaiji emphasized, “The site was hotel would necessarily accompany a grand lobby inappropriately chosen. Leave aside the occupation of and a full-service restaurant. It inevitably increased the ancient gardens by the Fragrant Hill Hotel, it is also the footprint of the concentrated volumes, which is difficult to attract foreign tourists due to the hotel’s difficult to reconcile between the site and function. distance from the city, its inaccessibility, and the lack Combining a hotel and a Chinese garden also over- of facilities for tourists.” According to a written state- extended the interior circulations. The original Jing Yi ment by Li Daozeng and Guan Zhaoye, “Trespassing on Garden is a grouping of single units according to the public gardens has harmed the environment to some organization of traditional Chinese courtyards: “A ‘Jian degree. It shows mainly accomplishments in the (间 )’ is the unit that forms a single building, a single destruction of the landscape, which is all the more building forms a courtyard, and a courtyard forms unfortunate as the Fragrant Hill Park is a famous scenic various groups.” (Huang 1983, 67) I.M. Pei has deliber- spot evolving from the former imperial garden of the ately used the meandering volumes to enclose court- Qing Dynasty.” Ma Mingyi, on the other hand, noted yards of different sizes. Still, most of them are linked by from a technical perspective that “The building site, interior corridors subordinated to an integrated build- which was originally the Jing Yi Garden and the ing rather than by an architectural group consisting of Protectory, has undergone several manual leveling and several sequences. The extension of the internal circu- transformation, resulting in volatile lithology and lation leads to a corresponding increase in energy uneven soil quality.” (Gu 1983a) consumption and a decrease in management effi - Only Fu Xinian in the Symposium emphasized the ciency. The 1982 Symposium kept criticizing repeat- effect of the reconstruction. From the perspective of edly: “It is difficult to guarantee the quality of service as historical heritage conservation, he affirmed the afore- it is about three hundred meters from the rooms at the mentioned experts’ criticism that the Fragrant Hill end of the passage to the main service desk. ”(Guo Hotel “is a good building built in an inappropriate 1983, 68) location.” He also stressed that the occupation of the ancient gardens was the main reason for its “inappro- priateness.” In addition, Fu Xinian’s presentation refer- 5. Two contexts of the site discourse enced the site’s original appearance and conservation If the chronological tracing of the site has given a value: comprehensive context of the design, then the hori- zontal comparison of the five plans will further reveal “After its destruction by the British and French forces in 1860, only a few remnants of the Jing Yi Garden the historical reference of I.M. Pei’s spatial treatments. survived. However, the original site is still identifiable, Given the Fragrant Hill Hotel was the catalyst of an and the archives possess maps of the original state. architectural controversy around 1983, the attitudes The low-standard buildings built in the Republican era towards the “site” were somewhat divergent in the are easy to remove, and the restoration conditions are Chinese and American contexts. better and less expensive than those of the Yuan Ming Garden. If gradually rebuilt, it is good news for the capital since an important historical garden could be 5.1. Criticism of the site in the 1982 Symposium restored afterward. However, the new-built Fragrant Hill Hotel, a building with a different style and tone, By reading the 1982 Symposium on the Fragrant has damaged the original Chinese landscape and the Hill Hotel critically, we find that the issue of “site” atmosphere of the monuments, making it extremely contributes largely to criticism inside of the coun- difficult to reconstruct the Fragrant Hill.” (Gu 1983a, try. However, the critics mainly took the economic pp. 61-62) practicality as the main reason for that criticism, which to some extent undermined the information In the early years of China’s reform and opening up, of “reconstruction”. In a summary of 17 experts’ experts and scholars usually chose relatively cautious 12 X. WANG AND X. LI Figure 16. An aerial photograph of the Fragrant Hill Hotel. The building’s color and massing are distinctly different from its surroundings, which Chinese experts in the Symposium widely criticized. Photograph by Yang Jing. rhetoric for the semi-public symposiums, trying to Ouyang (1983), the architect of the Beijing Institute approach the collective goal of “modernization.” It of Architectural Design, examined the historical nature led to examinations of economic practicality out- of the site. He pointed out the role of the site from a weighing concerns about the site’s history in the garden to a reconstruction of the former Fragrant Hill Fragrant Hill Hotel Symposium. Roskam (Li 2017) Hotel. As for its role as a garden, he argued that the once praised I.M. Pei’s courage in experimenting with Fragrant Hill Hotel resulted from I.M. Pei’s extremely “localness” in the design of the Fragrant Hill Hotel, liberal approach to choosing the site, which did not arguing that “for Chinese people who have just experi- match the general reality of the Chinese architectural enced the Cultural Revolution, it is sensitive to talk profession. Therefore it was out of typical significance. about history and tradition. People will reflexively In terms of its role as a reconstruction, he criticized that associate them with the remnants of feudalism.” It is “The remains should be reconsidered in the light of the debatable whether this assessment is appropriate for I. overall planning of the Jing Yi Garden. There is no M. Pei, who has lived in the United States and has been good reason why it must be rebuilt on an expanded away from China for dozens of years. Still, perhaps scale from the original.” experts and scholars in China were even more empa- The architectural commentator Gu (1983b) gave a thetic. However, it is noteworthy that four more articles further critical comment. “The designers overthought discussing the occupation of the ancient gardens were how the small environment of the ‘precious land and published in the same issue of the Jianzhu Xuebao that trees’ of Fragrant Hill would benefit the hotel. They did recorded the symposium. not pay enough attention to the larger context of the Landscape architects Liu and Tan (1983) noted city’s master plan. As a result, the design cast a poor that the original buildings of the Jing Yi Garden did choice of location and hence made the mistake of not exist anymore on the site, but that “the present occupying the old site of the Jing Yi Garden, bringing road system and remnants of the site reflect the about many conflicts in the protection of monuments, original pattern.” Professor Zhu (1983) of Tsinghua hotels, and park management. The architects were also University mentioned that the former Fragrant Hill responsible for the inappropriate site choice and the Hotel was damaged after the Tangshan Earthquake hotel standard.” Different from most critics, Gu did not in 1976. In terms of the site reconstruction, “it was seem to attribute the disadvantages of the Fragrant originally a good opportunity to renovate the classi- Hill Hotel entirely to I.M. Pei’s design failures. He cal garden,” but instead, “the pattern of the garden weighed the site’s legitimacy objectively, implying was irreparably damaged by the construction of the that planning decisions are also responsible for the new Hotel.” disadvantages. JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 13 currently mentions the site’s originality as an imperial 5.2. Overlap between the two discursive types in garden. the American context The site descriptions in several English-language The above criticism was made in the absence of I.M. biographies of I.M. Pei primarily relied on accounts Pei. It would trigger our curiosity about Pei’s response from 1983. Descriptions of “Fragrant Hill” often appear if he were present. In the three interviews of the 1980s in the context of I.M. Pei’s famous refusal to build a given by I.M. Pei in the Chinese context, neither the high-rise in the center of Beijing, which was followed history of the site nor the reconstructive nature of the by his first visit and choice of Fragrant Hill. It was project was mentioned. It is only in Beijing Daily (Wang mainly described as a “former imperial hunting park” 1982) that Pei mentioned something about the afore- versus the less frequently mentioned “existing deterio- mentioned two items. In the newspaper, he spoke of rated hotel” (Wiseman 1990, 190; Cannell 1995, 304). his love for the natural scenery of Fragrant Hill and Of particular note is a 1996 interview with I.M. Pei by iterated that his first intention was “not destroying the Janet Adams Strong, who held the position of Director stunning scenery but preserving the beautiful trees”. of Public Relations at I.M. Pei’s office (Jodidio and The beauty of the natural landscape and the his- Strong 2008, 350): tory of the “imperial hunting park” almost define the site’s identity in American critiques. Fewer critics “The fact that such privileged land could be secured mentioned the existence of a “deteriorated hotel” ‘was nothing short of miraculous,’ said Pei. ‘It was on the site. Only one critic mentioned the Jing Yi occupied by a cheap hotel with outdoor plumbing. Garden, but no one ever mentioned the influential Terrible! Nature was so beautiful and the man-made buildings were a disgrace. As soon as I saw those Protectory in the Republican era. The earliest magnificent trees, I knew this was where I wanted to description came from a report by the journalist build.” Wren (1982) published in The New York Times a week after the opening of the Fragrant Hill Hotel: As I.M. Pei rarely wrote personally, we can hardly “The hotel, which the Chinese say cost about $25 retrace his words from resources except for the writ- million, covers 397,000 square feet on the site of an ings of journalists, critics and biographers. Conversely, old imperial hunting lodge.” The architecture critic the terms of I.M. Pei and his architects turned into the Goldberger (1983) also commented in The New York most important sources about the Fragrant Hill Hotel Times: for Western authors. This leads to an intriguing phe- nomenon. That is, I.M. Pei’s words helped construct the “He chose to build a new hotel at Fragrant Hill Park, a Western authors’ writings, so that the discourses from rural area near Peking that had long had a small and rather primitive resort hotel. . . . It is a site of magnifi - these two identities overlapped greatly. As it appears, cent trees, many of which are quite old, and it is the site description in English is mainly around three nestled in a cradle of mountains.” points: the beautiful natural surroundings and trees, the former imperial hunting park, and the existing A month later, Connoisseur published a lengthy review deteriorated hotel. In contrast to the overwhelming by Thomas Hoving (1983, pp. 72), former director of emphasis on the first point, the latter two are only the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, record- attached to the scenario in which I.M. Pei chose ing I.M. Pei’s typical description of the site: Fragrant Hill as a perfect site. The Fragrant Hill Hotel was awarded the Honor “‘Then we went to a place that intrigued me,’ he con- Award by the American Institute of Architects in tinues. ‘It was a great public park in Fragrant Hill, a park which was once an imperial hunting preserve. The 1984. Regardless of the ambiguity over whether the people revere it. There are thousands of trees there Fragrant Hill Hotel is a Chinese architecture or an —some of them centuries old. It was perfect. There American one, there presents a rare “architect’s state- was a deteriorated old hotel that could come down. I ment” under the Jury Comment: “The hotel is located felt certain the Chinese would want a building that on a 30,000-square-meter walled site within the would not destroy the green.’” Fragrant Hill Park. . . . This park is famous for its beauti- ful scenery. Once a part of the Imperial hunting In April, William Walton (1983, p. 182), a close friend of grounds, it contains many well-known temples.” I.M. Pei, mentioned: “The region is soaked in historical This quotation can be regarded as I.M. Pei’s most associations. The hotel occupies a corner of a national straightforward description of the site. However, I.M. park, Jingyiyuan, meaning Park of Tranquility and Rest, Pei’s description obviously contradicts criticism in the site of a palace built in 1186. All of it, like so many Chinese context, the facts of the construction process, choice sites in China, was once an Imperial garden.” and the widely known history of Fragrant Hill in the Although it is difficult to define why Walton would following three points. He exceedingly appreciated the date Jing Yi Garden back to 1186 (indeed it took trees on the site and promised to preserve them to the shape and got its name in the 18th century), Walton’s possibly greatest extent, but in the end, hundreds of description is the only English-language critique that 14 X. WANG AND X. LI them still died. In addition, he made very few references nature of the classical garden system. Therefore, it to the existence of a deteriorated hotel on the site, but seems untenable to suggest I.M. Pei just followed the Chinese scholars claimed that the garden pattern was Western knowledge of Fragrant Hill as hunting still clearly identifiable. Most importantly, it’s pretty grounds. unfamiliar to describe the Jing Yi Garden as “former When faced with a site, an architect’s emotions and imperial hunting grounds” in the Chinese context. intuition often prevail over the precision of historical Suppose we suspend the inconsistent testimony in the facts. It is perhaps inconsequential to dwell on the first two points, namely the beautiful trees, and the terms “hunting grounds” and “imperial garden.” existing deteriorated hotel and then we consider the Nevertheless, if we consider that the Fragrant Hill third point, that is, the former imperial hunting park Hotel is a project that has been extensively “debated,” from a historical perspective. Fragrant Hill was indeed it remains intriguing to reflect on I.M. Pei’s reticence a hunting park in Liao and Jin dynasties. But the about the site remnants in the Chinese context, and Western Hills of Beijing, including Fragrant Hill, had the many contradictions in his American expression. evolved into imperial gardens that functioned as tem- The phrase “former imperial hunting grounds” is per- ples and palaces in Qing Dynasty. Meanwhile, major haps more of strategic rhetoric than the fact of “recon- hunting activities have shifted to the Mulan Hunting struction on the site of an imperial garden and existing Ground (木兰围场 ) near the Mountain Resort in buildings.” On the one hand, it obscures the site’s Chengde (承德避暑山庄 ). (Siu 2013, 205) Thus the existence as a built rather than a natural environment Fragrant Hill is usually described as part of the imperial for at least the last three centuries. On the other, it gardens, a scenic area with a collection of famous subtly transgresses the ethical criticism involving monuments, without any deliberate emphasis on damaging the original appearance of a historical site. being hunting grounds in most Chinese discourses. I.M. Pei’s expression of the site’s history might be Why would I.M. Pei pass over its nearer history of considered a trick to avoid or blur the focus on its being an imperial garden and describe it as the hunting originality, and this consideration seems to reflect pre- grounds whose history dates back to an older period? cisely his self-contradiction in the design. I.M. Pei advised the Chinese government “not to build high- rise buildings near the Forbidden City” in 1978, and 5.3. The hidden self-contradiction in the site famously refused the design commission for a high- discourse rise hotel on Chang’an Avenue. He has mentioned proudly on several occasions that if he had moved From the existing research on Fragrant Hill in English, it the government in any way toward the new policy appears that the term “hunting grounds” may be a (which refers to the guidelines for future construction more common Western concept of Manchu nomadic in Beijing), it was “my major contribution to China.” gardens. It can be traced back to Malone’s book (1934), (Wiseman 1990, 191) In several lectures to Chinese “History of Peking Summer Palaces under the Ch’ing architecture students, I.M. Pei earnestly reminded (Qing) Dynasty.” However, I.M. Pei should have known them that “a new form, a new creative path for modern that the site used to be the former Qing imperial Jing Yi Chinese architecture must emerge precisely from Garden when he designed the Fragrant Hill Hotel, as China’s own traditional architectural pattern.” He also inferred from Walton’s article. Besides, I.M. Pei con- emphasized that the design of the Fragrant Hill Hotel sulted several experts during the design process. He was “to find a way to nationalize Chinese architectural was close friends with the garden expert Chen creation (Wang 1990, pp. 253–255).” However, in his Congzhou, who visited the site together with Pei on practice, I.M. Pei demolished a site with such a rich several occasions. (Wiseman 1990, 201) It is clear that I. history and built it almost totally by his own design. M. Pei had the opportunity to be well informed about Hundreds of trees were cut down because of the the history of Fragrant Hill from a Chinese academic reconstruction, despite Pei enthusiastically praising context. In addition, the Sandhills, the Water Maze, the and promising to preserve them. surrounding traditional pavilions, and several terraces We are not meant to be critical or accusatory with should still be present before the 1980s’ reconstruction the benefit of hindsight. As Liu (2009) points out, “The according to the metric map (Figure 10). Therefore, it Fragrant Hill Hotel may have accomplished a compre- can be inferred that what Pei saw was not just a “cheap hensive attempt to be so-called ‘Chinese yet new,’ but hotel,” but an identifiable garden pattern. Moreover, I. it may not be a thoroughgoing ‘base’ experiment in M. Pei retained the Water Maze in his design. He never Fragrant Hill. This is one of Pei’s regrets. When the withheld the fact that it was a site relic, rather, he vision is too high, it always drifts into vagueness; featured it as a symbol of the literati tradition. When when the ‘culture’ is not implemented into the site, it the Water Maze was inadvertently damaged during the always drifts into universality.” I.M. Pei was perhaps reconstruction, he spared no expense in restoring it more concerned with the higher value of the project, and positioned it in the center of the central garden. rather than the design of a hotel on the site of Fragrant The Water Maze demonstrates the self-explanatory JOURNAL OF ASIAN ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING ENGINEERING 15 Hill. For I.M. Pei, this project will bring about two kinds Hotel as a reconstruction project. More unfortunately, of self-fulfillment: his cultural vocation as an overseas the critical voices of Chinese experts, who were once Chinese, and his professional ambition as an architect. legitimately outraged by the reconstruction of the site, Once these two kinds of self-fulfillment have come were slowly drowned in the dusty archives of the time. together to construct I.M. Pei’s design intention, the “site” is no longer an actual design condition and 6. Discussion physical space, but an imaginary reference to Pei’s concept of “China.” Taking the “site” of the Fragrant Hill Hotel as a theore- Jing Shuping, who was a classmate of I.M. Pei at St. tical perspective for conducting architectural criticism, John’s University and later became a famous banker, this paper explores the duality of the Hotel as a design once said: “People of our generation in China had for project and a discursive system in both Chinese and so long felt humiliated by foreigners, whether British, American contexts. The paper challenges the discur- American, French, or Japanese. We always secretly sive analysis of the Chinese perspective that began thought that we should stand up for China, because with the Fragrant Hill Hotel Symposium in 1982. In her culture was so old. When l.M. and I got together, I addition, it contests the heroic narrative of “I.M. Pei’s sensed this feeling in him. . . . When Ieoh Ming told me return to China” and its implied sense of novelty from about Fragrant Hill, I knew it was more than just a hotel an American perspective. for him. Every Chinese is very proud of our ancestry, Historical archives and resources are keystones in and he said that he wanted to develop some kind of analyzing the site’s transformation. The research looks architectural language to leave to our descendants.” for historical connections across a wider chronological (Wiseman 1990, pp. 191–192) range in order to explain several arguments that have Imagine I.M. Pei when he first saw Fragrant Hill. The remained unclear in earlier studies. The formal analysis twice-burned garden ruins and the deteriorated hotel makes significant observations about choices such as: may have stimulated him to change the site so that it the extensive tree cutting, the postmodern interpreta- would become a contribution to his imaginary “China.” tion of historical allusions like the Water Maze, the His nationalist sentiments as a Chinese and the instinct hotel’s new boundaries, the challenges posed by the as a modernist architect possibly far surpassed his hotel’s enormous scale and occupation of the original historical sensitivity at that moment. To some extent, gardens, as well as the difficulties with circulation I.M. Pei in 1978 was being empowered by the Chinese caused by the new volumes. government to practice “reform” through his reputa- When examining the discursive formation of the tion and talents in design. Because international hotels Fragrant Hill Hotel, one central problem is the subjec- crucially characterized China’s modernization in the tive perspective of architectural criticism. In the 1980s, early years of reform and opening up by symbolizing Chinese and American critiques of the Fragrant Hill the image and strength of the country. Thus, rather Hotel revealed vast differences in the perspectives than being attentive to the stylistic character and strat- they chose to criticized a work. This is due to the egy of the new design, the government was more long isolation before. One of the most significant dif- concerned with proving its ability to invite such a ferences was that Chinese critics tended to focus on renowned Chinese-American architect as I.M. Pei to the ways and means of modernizing Chinese architec- design an international hotel. The corresponding pro- ture, while American commentators tended to observe paganda and political significance conveyed the deter- China’s reform and opening up through I.M. Pei’s mination of the government and showed the brand return. new appearance of the country under the policy of Recent Chinese studies can be divided into two economic reform. The motive and act of maintaining groups: one focuses on the Fragrant Hill Hotel historical sites, which were usually presented in an Symposium; the other takes the English biographies ambiguous manner, were largely replaced by the of I.M. Pei as a source and encapsulates the Fragrant undeniable “progress”. Hill Hotel in the discussion of postmodernism. We But at any rate, the Fragrant Hill Hotel is an archi- argue that these two forms of writing kept the dichot- tecture interwoven with conflicts. It was claimed to be omy between Chinese and American critical discourse a modern exploration out of Chinese tradition and of the 1980s. This reduced the Fragrant Hill Hotel to an culture, but the authenticity of its site is obscured in undefined symbol and a misinterpreted discourse by the actual treatment at the outset of the design. Pei both the Oriental and Western camps, while critiques kept reticent in the Chinese context to conceal the of design remain elusive. conflict while opting for strategic rhetoric in the This research has potential limitations. Although our American context. For this reason, most Western inference regarding I.M. Pei’s cultural identity is sup- authors who have not visited the Fragrant Hill Hotel ported by a range of evidence and reasoning, it relied mainly on I.M. Pei’s statements, and hence had remains a generalized speculation because I.M. Pei no way of knowing the historical narrative behind the never explicitly explained the design specifics of the 16 X. WANG AND X. LI site during his lifetime. To ensure the relative neutrality Professor Yang Jing of Tianjin University offered valuable advice. Sincere appreciation to the reviewers for their enligh- of the inference, we draw attention to the discrepan- tening comments. cies between Pei’s design and his rhetoric through the analysis of archives, texts, and images, and place his words in the context in both China and the United Disclosure statement States. No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author(s). The paper focuses on two periods when criticism of the Fragrant Hill Hotel reached its climax: 1982–1983, following the hotel’s completion, and 1990, following I. Funding M. Pei’s announcement of his retirement from PCF and This work was supported by the National Social Science Fund the release of multiple biographies in English. Two of China - Art Major Program under Grant [20ZD11]. further areas of study need particular consideration if the chronological frame is stretched: (1) The contradic- tions of viewing the Fragrant Hill Hotel as a modern or Notes on contributors postmodern architecture in the context of China and the Wang Xuerui is now a visiting scholar at GTA, ETH Zurich and United States. (2) The recent-proposed views on the a PhD candidate at the College of Architecture and Urban nationalism and regionalism of I.M. Pei’s cultural identity. Planning, Tongji University. This paper is based on her cur- atorial research for the 2023 I.M. Pei exhibition at M+ Museum, Hong Kong. 7. Conclusion Li Xiangning is now the dean and professor at the College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Tongji University. Taking the “site” as a narrative thread, this paper attempts to explain the complex entanglement between the historical background of the Fragrant ORCID Hill Hotel and I.M. Pei’s cultural identity. For this pur- Xuerui Wang http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7506-9860 pose, it combined discursive analysis and formal ana- lysis, which have been proven to be two critical methodologies in the field of Architectural History, References Theory and Criticism. The proposed methodology Cannell, M. 1995. I.M. Pei: Mandarin of Modernism. Danvers: employs a comprehensive examination of the site’s Clarkson Potter. transformation and the various discourses underlying Chen, A. (2017, October 6). I. M. Pei’s Groundbreaking the Fragrant Hotel’s reception in both the American Fragrant Hill Hotel, Revisited. Retrieved from https:// and Chinese architectural milieus to achieve the histor- www.mplus.org.hk/en/magazine/i-m-peis-ground-break iographical criticism of I.M. Pei’s design. ing-fragrant-hill-hotel-revisited The contradictions that entwine the Fragrant Hill Chen, F., and C. 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Journal

Journal of Asian Architecture and Building EngineeringTaylor & Francis

Published: Sep 3, 2023

Keywords: Fragrant Hill Hotel; Ieoh Ming Pei; Jing Yi Garden; Fragrant Hill Protectory; site reconstruction

References