The Temple & the Mastheads of China Heritage, 2016-2024

The Tower of Reading



Today, 10 February 2024, is the first day of the first month of the Lunar New Year, the jiachen Year of the Dragon 甲辰龍年. We are replacing the masthead of China Heritage with an image that reflects the tenor of our new series The Tower of Reading 念樓, launched today (see Introducing The Tower of Reading).

This photograph by Lois Conner, long-time collaborator and dear friend, was made at The Temple, formerly The Pearl of Wisdom Temple 智珠寺, a 600-year-old complex at Shatan on the northeast edge of the Forbidden City in Beijing that was refurbished from 2009 to 2012 as a high-end hotel, restaurant and exhibition space also known as Dongjingyuan 東景緣. (Over the years, before the buildings were converted into a temple in the Qing dynasty, they had housed a printery in the Ming era. The temple was later used as the residence of a Living Buddha and it was eventually closed to worshippers in the 1950s. Before the recent renovation, the dilapidated buildings had even housed a TV factory.)

Lois’s photograph of the old temple and the spectral images glimpsed through and on the glass of a window evoke something of the ineffable spirit of our new project.

The Temple at Shatan in Beijing 北京沙灘東景緣 replaces another photograph made by Lois Conner that featured The True Face 真面目 entrance to the Temple of the Confluence at Mount Lu in Jiangxi province 江西廬山海會寺. Made during a research trip that Lois and I made to Mount Lu in July 2004 in the background of that photograph the Peaks of the Five Old Ones loom over the scene obscured by the mist and clouds. For an essay on the significance of that photograph, see The True Face of Mount Lu, 1 January 2022.

Lois Conner’s ‘The True Face’ was the pictorial motif of Xi Jinping’s Empire of Tedium, a series launched on 1 January 2022. It was extended for another year in 2023. Although we will continue to add material to that series in 2024, our main focus now turns to The Tower of Reading and the work of Zhong Shuhe (鍾叔河, 1931-), a celebrated publisher, editor and writer.


Lois Conner’s art has featured both in my life and in my own work for over a quarter of a century. It has also been integral to China Heritage. Below we revisit works by Lois that have been used as mastheads since the inception of this publication in 2016. (For an essay on the history of our collaboration, see The Affinities of Art 藝海因緣).

I am immensely grateful to Lois for the constancy of her friendship as well as her unstinting support, insight and inspiration.

Callum Smith, scholar and our digital guide, designed the China Heritage website. Even as he pursues other interests, Callum continues to maintain and enliven the site, as well as the maze-like archive of material that we have built up over the years.

— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage

The First Day of the First Month of
The Jiachen Year of the Dragon



Selected Work by Lois Conner in China Heritage:

The Mastheads of China Heritage

Photographs by Lois Conner, website design by Callum Smith


China Heritage, 2016-2018

This image was the leitmotif of the site from our launch in December 2016 as we introduced readers to New Sinology, through 2017 when we inaugurated our New Sinology Jottings and during 2018 when the focus of China Heritage Annual turned to Watching China Watching. It was also during late 2018 that we began work on what would develop into the Xu Zhangrun Archive.


A New Sinology Reader, 2016-2017

A New Sinology Reader was conceived of as being a stand-alone site connected to China Heritage. Although the draft site is still accessible, its ever-evolving contents can be found in Readings in New Sinology.


China Heritage Annual, 2017

In 2016, China Heritage Annual was planned to be another stand-alone site connected to China Heritage. The theme of the inaugural issue was the city of Nanking/ Nanjing. It was a continuation of a series in China Heritage Quarterly (presently offline) that had focussed on Chinese cities. These included Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Hangzhou. China Heritage Annual, which focussed on a different theme each year, was soon incorporated into China Heritage itself. The themes of each issue are listed under Topics in the menu bar of the site.


China Heritage, 2019-2020

This period saw the continuation of our work on Xu Zhangrun and a focus on the uprising in Hong Kong featured in Hong Kong Apostasy. The theme of China Heritage Annual in 2019 was Translatio Imperii Sinici. For an essay on this masthead, see Pine Breeze, Wisteria Moon.


China Heritage, 2020-2022

The theme of China Heritage Annual from February 2020 was Viral Alarm, a title inspired by the prescient work of Xu Zhangrun on what would become the COVID pandemic. In 2021, under this same masthead, we launched a series titled Spectres & Souls: Vignettes, moments and meditations on China and America, 1861-2021.


China Heritage, 2022-2024

Lois Conner’s photograph of the temple at the foot of Mount Lu in Jiangxi province was the masthead for the two-year ‘annual’ devoted to Xi Jinping’s Empire of Tedium.


China Heritage, 2024-

This is the masthead for The Tower of Reading, published on 10 February 2024.


Self-portrait, by Lois Conner. Manhattan, New Year’s Eve-New Year, 2023-2024