The Great Mall

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War craft: Mass production, not individual artisanship, created the terracotta warriors

The South China Mall in Dongguan, a manufacturing hub in Guangdong province, is the world's largest shopping center. Opened in 2005, it's a gaudy monument to the breakneck ascent of Chinese capitalism — 7 million sq. ft. (650,000 sq m) of leasable space, with wings designed to mimic Venice and the Champs Elysées. But, as Anthony J. Barbieri-Low notes in Artisans in Early Imperial China, the concept behind these new mainland megamalls (four of the globe's 10 biggest are in China) is quite old news. As in two millenniums old.

Near the...