Sunday, August 1, 2010

Architectural Contrasts

Carrying on a point made at the blog Royal World on the Heartbreaking Contrast between the monuments of the monarchist vs. republican eras, I submit the following examples:
The Palace of Heavenly Purity in the Forbidden City of Beijing, the primary imperial residence under the Ming and the primary audience hall under the Qing Dynasty. Contrast this with...
The Great Hall of the People, center of power of the Chinese Communist Party. I would also add that this is far from the worst example one could use of atrocious Red Chinese architecture.

The Vienna State Opera house, built by the Hapsburg Emperors of Austria. A gorgeous building worthy of the beautiful works performed in it penned by some of the greatest composers in history, many of them under the patronage of the Emperor of Austria. Compare this to...
The "People's Theatre" of East Berlin. Actually built during the monarchist era but destroyed during World War II and rebuilt by the communists of East Germany. The contrast says it all.

The mausoleum, inside a magnificently laid out tomb that cannot be shown in a single photograph, of Emperor Minh Mang of Vietnam, second emperor of the Nguyen dynasty. Compare this elegant but modest tomb of the most powerful Nguyen emperor to this...
The Mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, first president and communist dictator of Vietnam. As is fairly obvious by the design it was built by imported Soviet architects. Every morning after the flag raising in the adjacent square troops of the Vietnamese People's Army march by and salute their late founder but all the pomp and ceremony cannot add lustre to such an eyesore of a structure, especially when compared to the elegant, harmonious tombs of the emperors outside Hue.
Observe the monuments left behind by governing systems based on belief in a higher power versus those left behind by atheist regimes who recognize no power higher than themselves. It makes one wonder how there can even be any debate about which is preferable.


  1. I went to Beijing in summer 2006 and saw the two places you feature. At the time, there was renovation work going on at a few of the buildings within the Forbidden City. As for the Great Hall, there was a count down clock for the summer Olympics on the main entrance.
    I enjoyed visiting Xi'an though--I got more out of that ancient city!

  2. TO be fair this only compares Chinese Archetectural feats. While I think in Europe the same s generally true and the Republican or Democratic era we liv ein doens't produce fine buildings or arts, I think we shoudl consider non-comunist nations as well. Some of Americss Buildigns aren't as drab for instance, though they also seem to have a certain sterility to them. IE, the Congress building or Supreme Court building.


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