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Rethinking Warring States Cities: An Historical and Methodological Proposal

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Unsatisfied with a rigid typology of Warring States cities based on static configurations of city walls, this paper approaches different urban forms during this period as linked phenomena in a broad sociopolitical movement. Through reexamining the expansion of several important cities such as Xue, Linzi, Xinzheng (Xiadu), Wuyang, and Qufu, the author argues that the most important feature of Warring States cities was not stability (as a necessary condition for a typology), but constant change (of the layout, enclosure, centers of administration and commerce, etc.). A study of these changes undermines the rigid division of cities into different types, and leads to the reconstruction of a city’s transformation as a dynamic historical process. This analysis also provides evidence for the historicity of the “ideal capital” ascribed in the “Kaogong ji” section of the Zhou li, an Eastern Zhou text.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Art History University of Chicago 5540 Greenwood Ave. Chicago, IL 60637, Email:


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