The Bartlett School of Architecture


Yiming Liu

Image: Yiming Liu


Not So Difficult, Not So (De)Colonial: Postcolonial Heritage in Shanghai since 1949 

First and second supervisors


The objective of this research is to explore the relationship between colonial history, decolonisation, and the process of heritage-making in Shanghai's urban landscape. The study aims to identify the characteristics of coloniality and decoloniality present in the built heritage, as well as in the socio-political and cultural fabric of postcolonial Shanghai. To achieve this, the research will employ a wide range of sources, including literature, fieldwork, media, and interviews, while incorporating perspectives from Chinese academia to promote academic autonomy and decoloniality. The research seeks to affirm the sovereignty of historiography and to understand the epistemic and aesthetic constitution and reconstitution that occurred before, during, and after the period of semi-colonialism in Shanghai. 

In China, colonial urbanism is evident in the port-town systems, architecture, and infrastructure, which served as instruments of order, control, oppression and discrimination by European nations in the "silk worm eating leaf" (Canshi) project of colonial occupation. This research project explores the cultural and political factors that have led to a lack of public recognition of the colonial past embodied in this heritage, and argues for decolonising approaches and strategies to be implemented and examined in the discourse and management of Shanghai's historic built environment. Furthermore, through an innovative interdisciplinary method that involves autoethnography combined with archival research and critical literature review, the project aims to investigate the researcher's positionality and reflexive self and societal awareness in examining the postcolonial and decolonial circumstances of Shanghai colonial heritage.


Yiming obtained his undergraduate degree in Architecture from the University of Sheffield. He subsequently enrolled in the MA Architecture and Historic Urban Environments program at Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, where he earned a distinction. He is now pursuing a PhD in Architecture, specializing in History and Theory, at BSA, UCL, and is affiliated with the Centre for Critical Heritage Studies. 

Previously, Yiming worked as an architectural designer at Tongji Architectural Design and has shared his expertise by lecturing at Soochow University, Ningbo University, and Shanghai Institute of Visual Art. Yiming is also conducting independent research on anachronism, architecture, and ruin theory, specifically drawing inspiration from the works of Sir John Soane, Giovanni Piranesi, and English neoclassicism. 



Image: by Yiming Liu