Event Detail


The Chinese: Building Southeast Asia

Ronald Knapp
Tuesday, 4 Oct 2011
Function room, Ladies' Recreation Club, 10 Old Peak Road, Mid Levels
We welcome Professor Ronald Knapp , geographer and China specialist whose expertise in cultural and architectural geography is shared with us in this lecture.

RGS HK Members and LRC Members HK$100, non members HK$150

Drinks (cash bar) from 6.30 pm lecture starts 7.30 pm

In this lecture, Prof. Knapp describes how the Chinese diaspora who immigrated to Southeast Asia built some of the finest buildings in Asia. In a lecture illustrated by beautiful photography, Prof. Knapp shows how the Chinese immigrants built architecturally eclectic shophouses, bungalows, villas and mansions, often combining Chinese with European colonial and local architecture.

The Chinese buildings of Southeast Asia are the story of these hybrid architectural forms, built under different social and geographical environments from China, and thus the products of cultural fusion. Superb examples of these buildings exist in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Prof. Knapp visited not only wellknown residences but tracked down many others that had remained hidden from view, finding nearly a hundred buildings of Chinese sojourners and settlers in those six countries.

Prof. Knapp's lecture presents a fascinating account of early architectural multiculturalism. Illustrating this are stunning colour photographs of thirtyfive residences built from the late eighteenth into the early twentieth century, revealing both the entrepreneurial spirit of the immigrants as well as the social and economic circumstances in which they lived. Many of the residences shown are stunningly beautiful, while others are eclectic confections of the nouveaux riches.

Prof. Knapp discusses how these buildings echo the architectural patterns found in the home regions of the migrants, principally in Fujian and Guangdong provinces, while integrating features from European and local traditions. In addition, he shows interior designs which came not only from China but also from Britain, Italy, Holland, Portugal, France and Japan. He also looks at the impact of colonial building styles, identifying some of the components adopted from patterns characteristic of British, Dutch and Portuguese styles, including pilasters, front columns, gables, cornicing, fulllength windows and plaster moldings.

Prof. Ronald Knapp read Geography and History at Stetson University, Florida and received his doctorate in geography from the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has been carrying out research on the cultural and historical geography of China's countryside for some three decades, analysing and promoting understanding of China's domestic architectural heritage through his writings and lectures. From 1968 until 2001 he taught at the State University of New York, where he was the Chairman of the Department of Geography and is now a Distinguished Professor Emeritus. He is also an adjunct professor at Columbia University. Prof. Knapp is the author, editor or contributor to more than 20 books, including China's Traditional Rural Architecture, Chinese Houses: The Architectural Heritage of a Nation, which won ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year and the Henry Glassie Award, Chinese Bridges, Things Chinese and most recently Chinese Houses of Southeast Asia: The Eclectic Architecture of Sojourners and Settlers, published in 2010. Prof. Knapp lectures worldwide on the architecture of China.

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