The Commercial Street as “Frozen” Festival: A Study in Chinese Mercantile Traditions

Yun Gao, Nicholas Temple, Yan Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Amidst the skyscrapers of many contemporary Chinese cities, commercial streets have emerged in traditional Chinese styles that serve as places to host festive celebrations and to satisfy everyday leisure and commercial needs. Buildings along these streets operate at one level as ritual “encasements” that frame the festival processions, and thereby “speak” of ceremonial meanings. These framing devices constitute material remnants of past festival events, periodically re-activated as public spectacles or during momentary episodes of individual/collective recollection. This study explores themes relating to these intersections between building and festive occasion through an examination of two traditionally designed commercial streets in China. It argues that architecture in these two cases presents in different ways a “foregrounding” of festivals, in which participants are reminded of previous events. Architectural elements and their details serve as substitutes for words, re-capitulating the verbal and gestural meanings of festivals through design language.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-421
Number of pages11
JournalArchitecture and Culture
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sep 2018

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