Oriental orientalism : Japanese formulations of East Asian and Taiwanese architectural history
In the West architectural historiography, or writing on architectural history, can be considered as a modern practice. Its emergence accompanied with the development of modern nation states. Architecture’s reflection on its historical texts came to find particular expression in the search for the origins of architecture. The formation of oriental architectural history tended to follow this pattern. Oriental architectural historiography was initiated by a Japanese scholar, Chūta Itō. In his formulation, the origins of Japanese architecture were linked not only with Chinese and Indian architecture, but also with Classical Greek architecture. In addition, Itō’s theoretical formulation of architectural history was also followed by other Japanese scholars, and it informed those later scholars who studied Taiwanese architectural history. That is, the formulations and classification systems that Itō set out for Japanese architecture framed subsequent scholarship on the architecture of other parts of East Asia, including Taiwan. The system that Itō established has been widely regarded as being based on modern and scientific academic research. This thesis investigates Itō’s system, its significance for architectural scholarship in other parts of East, as well as its claimed scientific basis. The thesis pays particular attention to the architectural history of Taiwan in the Japanese colonial period. The thesis hypothesises that the historiographical tradition that Itō’s work established was based on an unbalanced colonial relationship of power and uneven structure of authority, It explores how authenticity in East Asian architecture was authorised, and how hidden ideologies and methodologies lie behind these historiographical practices. This is the first ambition of the thesis. The examination of Japanese construction of oriental and Taiwanese architectural history in this thesis pays particular attention to the context of Japanese colonialism. In doing so it draws on a range of contemporary postcolonial theoretical perspectives. In addition, the particular kind of oriental colonialism, as a materialised colonial medium, Japanese writing on oriental and Taiwanese architectural history provides an additional perspective on that current and recent postcolonial criticism expressed through such concepts as Edward Said’s orientalism, Homi Bhabha’s hybridity and Gayatri Spivak’s strategic essentialism. At a theoretical level, the thesis argues that since these concepts emerged from the colonial/anti-colonial operation and negotiation between the west and its colonies, a refined analysis is required for thinking through Japanese colonialism. To this end, the thesis supplements postcolonial theory with the idea of oriental orientalism as developed by Yuko Kikuchi. In so doing, the thesis aims to contribute to an enriched discussion of contemporary postcolonial criticism in general, and as it applies to East Asian in particular. The exploration of architectural history as the subject of a wider colonial operation and the revision of the core conceptual tools of postcolonial criticism in the context of Japanese colonialism in East Asian, and Taiwan, provides further possibilities for the the construction of identity in those formerly colonised subject in places such as Taiwan. A postcolonial reading of Japanese writing on architectural history shows both the limitation of postcolonial criticism, and to question the framework of architectural discourse in the discipline. This project has to be based on an inquiry into the way in which the other’s architecture has been formulated and constructed in the discipline of architecture in the light of postcolonial criticism. Without such an inquiry, we are unable to open the metaphorical ‘space’ to negotiate the self-writing of Taiwanese subjects on their own architecture and architectural history.