Chapter nine, Comparative Urbanism, city and culture is looked at in two different perspectives. Those two perspectives are civic culture and that the city is not an entity unto itself. Under civic culture, there are many different people that find appropriate forms of public behavior that allows them to get along well with one another.
Peking, the place we know as “Beijing” has an over 3,000-year old history and contains fragments over its past. Location wise, Peking is established in the northeastern part of China. The reason for its location is to protect the country from invaders from the North. It was not until before the birth of Christ when Beijing grew into a city. Emperor Yuan (Mongol) ruled during the thirteenth century and during his time Kublai Khan transformed Beijing into a capital city. In 1368 the Ming Dynasty overthrew Yuan. The Emperor Yung Lo had no trouble turning the city into a monument to all of Chinese Culture and then named himself the symbolic head of that culture. To symbolize the important things in Chinese life, they looked at the design of the city and used that for the symbolizing. In area, the city was about 25 square miles and was made up of two different sections. The southern section was known as the Outer City or Chinese City whereas the northern section was known as the Tartar City or Inner City. The southern city contained most of the city’s population, which in the fifteenth century was about one million people. The northern area was surrounded by a 50-foot wall. The city of Athens is at the center of the Golden Age. During 2000 B.C.E., because of the “aristoi” (the aristocracy) the Greek peninsula came under the control of feudal overlords. “Aristoi” means the best people. Those “best” people were in charge of a lot of hundred independent Greek city-states, known as “poli.” The population of that area had about 350,000 people. The best way to really understand the life of Athenians during the Golden Age is the celebration of human possibilities. An important Greek ordeal is to favor the many instead of the few. In the Athenians democracy, the city-states that preceded the Golden Age were considered independent units. These units were so independent that they each pursued their own ends and believed that no one had the right to dictate. The democracy was a smart innovation. Citizens were all able to afford all free citizens participation in government. The system seemed very transparent. The citizens had the right to live as one chose to within the overarching system.
With its temples and altars as religious symbols, Beijing was based on elaborate Chinese cosmology. The North Star was considered the center of the heavens. The Chinese believed that everything revolved around the “Son of Heaven,” which was the emperor. Because the North Star gave off a purple like look to it, the name Purple City was given. For symbolism, the colors and height of all buildings had specific cultural meanings. Peasants could only live in houses with one floor and could only paint their roofs with a bad shade of gray. On the contrary to signify higher statues, they were allowed to paint their roofs green, red, or purple and depending on the role. Beijing was a symbolic world. The city was built on the cultural themes of harmony with nature and power. To us, the symbolism probably does not seem as important, but to the city’s inhabitants, we could only imagine how much they valued their symbolism.
A downfall of the capitalist city is that there is more focus on the profits. Some other downfalls include merchants trying to gain power and then there is competitive economic activity. A more efficient and ecological approach is a grid pattern for property lots. Real-estate people, builders, and developers benefit tremendously from the uniformity. Rectangular building lots became the standard design for individuals lots when expanding the city. Sometimes instead of a grid pattern some areas benefited from a zigzag pattern to help facilitate moving up and down the terrain, like it is in San Francisco. The curved streets of the medieval city was replaced by straight vistas of the same featureless buildings and shops.