The trade town of Chikan, in the southern part of the Chinese region of Lingnan, is characterized by its arcaded streets built during the 1920s and 1930s – streets lined with buildings whose ground-floor shops open out onto a covered pavement, with dwelling spaces and stores above. Similar buildings exist throughout Lingnan and other parts of Southeast Asia, but they particularly flourished in Guangdong province, and are well preserved in Chikan, where redevelopment has not yet led to large-scale demolition. This article seeks to study Chikan’s arcade buildings as elements of an “architectural sociology” in which they are considered functionally, socially, aesthetically and culturally. It is an investigation of vernacular architecture that aims to reveal the significance of Chikan’s arcade buildings for the locals’ aspirations, identities and lives. It argues that the buildings have a civility or decorum that potentially reveals much about what a town could or should be.
- Arcade building
- Chikan ancient town