The Walls and Gates of Peking
The Finnish-born Swedish art historian Osvald Sirén (1879-1966) has been several times in China during the first half of the 20th century. His obsessive attention to Chinese city gates and city walls prompted the publication of The Walls and Gates of Peking (1924): a monumental book containing 109 photographs (shown here with their original captions underneath each item) and 50 drawings. By placing these buildings under temporal arrest, such architectural photography preserved them for eternity, turning them into emblems of a different civilization, reifying the outdated idea of ‘picturesque China’. However, Sirén showed not only China’s magnificence through its intact edifices, but he also focused on its fragmented state by depicting ruins.