City of Virtues
Nanjing in an Age of Utopian Visions
University of Washington Press 2015
Nineteenth-century Nanjing was a “city of virtues,” the raw material out of which a series of communities in China built the time and space of their utopian visions. Chuck Wooldridge‘s beautifully written and thoughtfully composed new book City of Virtues: Nanjing in an Age of Utopian Visions (University of Washington Press, 2015) uses Nanjing as a lens with which to explore some critical questions. Why did utopian movements proliferate in the nineteenth century? What tactics did utopians use to make their actions in the city seem to resonate in empire and cosmos? What kinds of urban change resulted? What does this nineteenth century story tell us about the emergence of the ideals of republicanism and citizenship in the twentieth century? Adherents of different utopian visions made aspects of the past available for use in the present through a combination of three practices: construction, writing, and ritual. The first chapter lays a foundation for the rest of the study by helping readers understand the forms of space created by the Qianlong Emperor during his six tours of southern China in the eighteenth century and the ways that those tours helped inaugurate an age of utopian visions in the century that followed. The book then traces utopian projects by literati and others before, during, and after the Taiping occupation of Nanjing. It’s a focused, disciplined, clearly argued, and beautifully wrought study of an important topic.