This paper examines three critical episodes of Chinese spatial planning in the context of the country’s urbanization and modernization process from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. It focuses primarily on the significance of the diffusion and assimilation of borrowed ideas and techniques in planning applications for the construction of urban landscape. The multitude of channels that transferred this planning knowledge base to China – which ranged from the translation of imported techniques into local operations, and direct implantation of imaginary physical identities, to the interpretation of spatial planning as a component of macro-economic development and resource allocation – have all contributed to form the hybrid layering of the spatial and social fabric of urban neighborhoods in Chinese cities, and to record changes in urban history.