Place and Memory in the Singing Crane Garden
"Well written, carefully structured, and beautifully focused on the importance and values associated with memory and remembering. Vera Schwarcz emphasizes the interest in exploring a garden whose materiality has been lost but whose spirit endures, and does so creatively and with grace."—Peter Jacobs, University of Montreal
"This book presents the complex history of a Beijing garden built by a Manchu prince in the nineteenth century. . . . Its story includes more than 100 years of classical artistic vision, political struggle, and suffering, including the 1860 Anglo-French war in China, which destroyed it, and the outrages of the 1960s Cultural Revolution. Schwarcz uses this garden's ruin as a vehicle for exploring trauma and memory, leading to the spiritual revival of both individuals and cultures. . . . [An] eloquently and well written volume."—Choice
The Singing Crane Garden in northwest Beijing has a history dense with classical artistic vision, educational experimentation, political struggle, and tragic suffering. Built by the Manchu prince Mianyu in the mid-nineteenth century, the garden was intended to serve as a refuge from the clutter of daily life near the Forbidden City. In 1860, during the Anglo-French war in China, the garden was destroyed. One hundred years later, in the 1960s, the garden served as the "ox pens," where dissident university professors were imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution. Peaceful Western involvement began in 1986, when ground was broken for the Arthur Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology. Completed in 1993, the museum and the Jillian Sackler Sculpture Garden stand on the same grounds today.
In Place and Memory in the Singing Crane Garden, Vera Schwarcz gives voice to this richly layered corner of China's cultural landscape. Drawing upon a range of sources from poetry to painting, Schwarcz retells the garden's complex history in her own poetic and personal voice. In her exploration of cultural survival, trauma, memory, and place, she reveals how the garden becomes a vehicle for reflection about history and language.
Encyclopedic in conception and artistic in execution, Place and Memory in the Singing Crane Garden is a powerful work that shows how memory and ruins can revive the spirit of individuals and cultures alike.
Vera Schwarcz is Mansfield Freeman Professor of History and East Asian Studies and Director of the Center for East Asian Studies at Wesleyan University. She is author of several books, including Bridge Across Broken Time: Chinese and Jewish Cultural Memory, a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award.