for years, whenever in Beijing, I would visit a hole-in-the-wall eatery
that served my favorite cumin mutton. One summer day in 2003, the
waiter handed me a freshly printed business card. The whole row of
houses was about to be razed, and the card bore a map indicating the
restaurant’s future location. The card drove home for me that I, like
many who live in China’s rapidly changing cities, have been keeping a
mental map of places that no longer exist and of new spaces that will
soon appear. Navigating the city is also a journey across times. This is
a study of such journeys, taken by residents, planners, and filmmak-
ers. This book is dedicated to all those who strive to preserve the city’s
multiple temporalities.
Creating better cities is a joint e√ort, and the same is true of my
book. Many people generously contributed to this project. I was en-
couraged by the willingness of prominent filmmakers, theater profes-
sionals, and artists to talk at length and provide materials: Cao Fei,
Arthur Chu, Feng Jicai, Feng Mengbo, Feng Xiaogang, Gao Yiwei,
Han Yuqi, Huang Jianxin, Jia Zhangke, Stan Lai, Li Longyun, Li Shao-
hong, Lin Cheng-sheng, Lou Ye, Ning Ying, Ou Ning, Peng Xiaolian,
Ren Ming, Sheng Qi, Shu Yi, Song Dong, Su Shuyang, Tian Zhuang-
zhuang, Wang Haowei, Wang Xiaoshuai, Wang Zheng, Wu Nien-jen,
Wu Qiong, Wu Tianming, Xie Fei, Xu Dawei, Yang Lina, Yu Kanping,
Zhang Ding, Zhang Yang, Zhang Yuan, Zhao Liang, Zheng Dongtian,
and Zhou Xiaowen. Their insights, especially into how movies and
stage plays are influenced by negotiation with decision makers, have
changed my way of thinking about what it takes to visualize and envi-
sion the city.
I encountered an even steeper learning curve when inquiring into
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