Part I

Xianfeng Beijing

Chapter One: Xianfeng Beijing examines the remaking of Beijing through an overview of cultural policy in the capital city and explores shifting relations between art and politics through a translingual genealogy of xianfeng/avant-garde. A montage of ethnographic fragments organized around key art institutions—academy, palace, village, and museum—demonstrates their shift from sites of revolutionary communism and nationalism to ones of culture industry formation. Bringing gender to the analysis heightens awareness of the relationship between avant-gardism and nationalism, and thus the need to deconstruct the avant-garde myth of originality as a repressive and colonizing technology whose professed faith in renewal and innovation masks its power plays.