Typographic landscape, indexicality and Chinese writing: a case study of place-making practices in transitional China

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This article seeks to fill a research gap in current scholarship by exploring the role of typography in place-making practices in transitional China. Based on fieldwork conducted in an aspiring new town in an underdeveloped city, I observe that a diversity of typographies from both the tradition of calligraphic writing and novel digital design are applied in making the new town. Drawing on the emergent field of typographic landscape and notions of indexicality and enregisterment in sociolinguistics, I investigate the potential historical, social, cultural and political meanings of various typographies of emplaced signage across the town. Through a culturally sensitive analysis of signage found in historical parks, government-authored promotion boards and commercial streets, I further demonstrate how patterned and value-laden typographic choices are made across the three domains and shed light on the ideologies which shape these choices in situated place-making practices. Lastly, it will be argued that the new town can be read as a heterotopia comprised of different spaces that are incompatible due to their differing world views and place-making positions. The implications of this constructed heterotopia for its relocated residents framed by wider themes of socialist civil education, market-driven economy and tourism development will also be briefly discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-277
Number of pages22
JournalSocial Semiotics
Issue number2
Early online date28 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

This article is part of a research project investigating linguistic landscapes and Chinese writing in transitional China, funded by Research Grants Council of Hong Kong (project code: LU 2360121).


  • China in transition
  • Linguistic landscape
  • indexicality
  • typography
  • urbanization


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