Tag Archives: cultural heritage

Cultural heritage in China: contested understandings, images and practices

The conference is open to scholars who study the multifaceted and complex understandings and uses of cultural heritage and its everyday manifestations in contemporary China.

Conference at Lund University 17-18 June, 2015

In an increasingly diverse Chinese society there is today a multitude of actors that celebrate diverse identities, representations of the past and heritage sites. These actors include local governments, cultural heritage bureaus, tourism companies, the media, scholars, and different civil society groups and local communities. The official cultural heritage discourse is today contested through alternative understandings, although the different actors have different cultural, political and economic capital to make their voices heard and shape heritage policy, management and use. Local communities for example often celebrate local cultural and religious identities and traditions at heritage sites, or at sites not always recognized as such by the state. Negotiations and conflicts over the meaning and management of heritage sites and place-making occur in the interface of an authoritarian state, market forces, and globalization, where the Internet, social media, and film, play important roles in shaping and mediating the debates, images and celebrations.

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Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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Jiaju, a remote Tibetan village confronted with tourism

This picture was taken at the entrance of the Tibetan village Jiaju, located near Danba in the mountainous region of western Sichuan. A seeing spot has been set up with a glass railing so that visitors could admire, safely, the amazing view of the Tibetan village from above. The woman in the picture, dressed in a traditional Jiarong style, came two minutes after I, and three other Chinese visitors in their SUV, arrived. She gave a tight smile and started to pose, to the joy of some, and the unease of others…

Why all this orchestration in this remote and peaceful village?

In 2005, Jiaju was selected as the most beautiful village in China by the Chinese National Geographic Magazine.

A journalist wrote:

The village of Jiaju has no doubt benefited as a result of tourism – there are few signs of poverty and many villagers own new cars and sports utility vehicles. But tourism has also impacted the surrounding environment and changed the fabric of the village. Indeed, Jiaju embodies many of the issues China’s minority regions face as the country’s internal tourism industry grows.

He Ming, the director of Yunnan University’s Research Centre of Ethnic Minorities in China’s South-west Frontier, says increased tourism helps foster development of minority regions and increases local incomes. For Han tourists, the experience of visiting minority regions provides a valuable cultural exchange that promotes goodwill between China’s different ethnic groups.

But He says that governments at the federal and local level must take steps to protect the rights and interests of the minority cultures, rather than exploiting them to accommodate Han tourists.(( Mitch Moxley, Inter Press Service, 2010 ))

Thus, the local government’s choices will shape Jiaju’s future. However, it will also depend on the ability of the communities to make their own choices: to develop the image of the “most beautiful village of China” and spread it over the world, or to keep a slice of authenticity by preserving their local identity, practices and architecture from mass tourism and exploitation. Furthermore, if they decide to preserve the authenticity of this place, the next step is to define a way to proceed. Should the UNESCO intervene and impose its Western rules in terms of heritage conservation? Or should the local government create an new system, which combines some Western practices in terms of heritage conservation with new Chinese ones?



Oriane Pillet

Intern at the CNRS, UrbaChina project. M.A. in urban local development (IEDES, Paris); M.A. in international development studies (Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris - Utrecht University); B.A. in geography and law (Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris).

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Construction of Chongqing Industrial Museum, Dadukou district

The old industrial district of Dadukou, located in the south of Chongqing, is being revitalised after the Chongqing Iron and Steel Company Limited, Chong Gang, moved out 65km away from the inner-city in 2006. The project of urban renewal will preserve the site’s history with the construction of the Chongqing Industrial Museum, and will establish spaces for new creative industries and develop urban systems and services. The Chongqing Industrial Museum Company is in charge of the project with international architects and designers partners. For this occasion, the Statue of Chaiman Mao will be moved inside the museum.

A worker on the scaffolding prepares to move a statue of Chaiman Mao in Chongqing while two men are watching as cranes move the statue covered in red . This is the first time that the city moved a Mao Statue. The cement-made statue was built by a factory in the city in 1968 during the “cultural revolution” (1966-1976). It was abandoned when the factory moved in July 2012. The site around the statue is being rebuilt into a storage yard of a logistic company. The statue will be moved to the newly built Museum of Chongqing Industry, which showcases the city’s industrial history and achievements.[Photo/icpress.cn]

Chongqing moves Chairman Mao statue

Source: ChinaDaily

Oriane Pillet

Intern at the CNRS, UrbaChina project. M.A. in urban local development (IEDES, Paris); M.A. in international development studies (Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris - Utrecht University); B.A. in geography and law (Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris).

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Farmer smoking a pipe (Guizhou province)


Farmer smoking a “smoking pole” (hanyan gan – 旱烟杆) in Anshun city, Guizhou province, December 2013.

The smoking pole is becoming rare in China. In the provinces of Sichuan, Chongqing and Guizhou, it is still quite common to see villagers puffing at this long pipe. The smoking pole is usually made out of bamboo while different materials such as copper, iron, tin, or jade are used to create the bowl and the mouth. The length of the pole varies. For example, the Tujia ethnic group uses two-meter poles. The traditional smoking ritual involves roasting dried tobacco leafs, which are then crushed and pressed into the bowl. Only then can the smoker slowly start to inhale the smoke from the pipe.

To read more, click here:  www.tobacco.china.com.




Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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In China, ‘Once the villages are gone, the culture is gone’

Johnson, Ian. In China, ‘Once the villages are gone, the culture is gone’. The New York Times, February 1, 2014. [Retrieved February 28, 2014]. URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/02/world/asia/once-the-villages-are-gone-the-culture-is-gone.html?_r=0

BEIJING — Once or twice a week, a dozen amateur musicians meet under a highway overpass on the outskirts of Beijing, carting with them drums, cymbals and the collective memory of their destroyed village. They set up quickly, then play music that is almost never heard anymore, not even here, where the steady drone of cars muffles the lyrics of love and betrayal, heroic deeds and kingdoms lost.

The musicians used to live in Lei Family Bridge, a village of about 300 households near the overpass. In 2009, the village was torn down to build a golf course and residents were scattered among several housing projects, some a dozen miles away.

Now, the musicians meet once a week under the bridge. But the distances mean the number of participants is dwindling. Young people, especially, do not have the time.

“I want to keep this going,” said Lei Peng, 27, who inherited leadership of the group from his grandfather. “When we play our music, I think of my grandfather. When we play, he lives.”

Across China, cultural traditions like the Lei family’s music are under threat. Rapid urbanization means village life, the bedrock of Chinese culture, is rapidly disappearing, and with it, traditions and history.

“Chinese culture has traditionally been rural-based,” says Feng Jicai, a well-known author and scholar. “Once the villages are gone, the culture is gone.”

Read more on The New York Times

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Villa Basset: French Consul’s residence in Shanghai

Couverture ShanghaiMarie-Claire Bergère , Françoise Ged, Danielle Elisseeff and Jérémy Cheval (2013). La Villa Basset : Résidence du consul général de France à Shanghai. Paris: Editions Internationales du Patrimoine.Collection / Série : Résidences de France ; 11. . Translators: Ju Wang et Xiaoli Wei. Photography: Jonathan Leijonhufvud.

From the mid-19th century to just after the Second World War, the responsibilities of the French Consul in Shanghai were twofold. On one hand, he must protect French interests in the face of senior officials of the local Chinese authorities and the agents of major foreign powers represented in Shanghai. On the other hand, he must oversee the management of the French Concession and ensure compliance, security, public order, urban planning regulation, education and health in this semi-colonial enclave. The consular residence with its vast administrative annexes was the principal power centre of this flourishing cosmopolitan metropolis for a century1.

The villa Basset is returning to the limelight. Listed as a historical building of Shanghai since 1994, it has also been registered since 2003 in the largest of the 12 protected areas of the city, an innovative municipal measure in China at the time. With this classification, as with the rest of Shanghai, the stories of the people who lived in this residence are coming out of the shadows too2.

Built in 1921 by French architects from the Crédit Foncier d’Extrême-Orient (Far East mortgage bank) by order of Lucien Basset, the consular villa combines Asian and European influences. Its hybrid architecture elegantly combines neoclassical columns, Flemish roofing, Italian balconies, capitals and mosaics and Chinese landscaped and rock gardens. This “Mediterranean” or “Italian style” house, whose story keeps the print of its successive occupants, remains a historical witness of the distinctive architecture of the old French Concession3.

The visitor enters this beautiful residence through the north side, as ordinary citizens and suppliers from the Forbidden City did during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911); but here, the vegetation surrounding the porch allows us to imagine what lies beyond, south of the house. We can easily guess that this visit, as with all beautiful villas built in Shanghai by Europeans during the Republic, will end in the garden, living jewel of the property4.

For more information.

  1. p. 17, text by Marie-Claire Bergère. []
  2. p. 59, text by Françoise Ged. []
  3. p.105, text by Jérémy Cheval. []
  4. p. 127, text by Danielle Elisseeff. []

Aurélia Martin

Chargée de communications et des médias pour l'UMR Chine Corée Japon (CNRS)

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Cultural heritage politics in China

Blumenfield, Tami; Silverman, Helaine (Eds.) (2013),  Cultural heritage politics in China, New York, Springer verlag, XVIII, 297 p. 33 illus., 27 illus. in color.

This volume explores China’s cultural heritage ideology and policies from three interrelated perspectives: the State and World Heritage tourism; cultural heritage tourism at sites not designated through an international system; and the cultural politics of museums and collections . It also considers the broader implications of China as a heritage power as the nation mobilizes routes beyond its borders as essential components of its own patrimony. The volume is timely because a cultural heritage designation craze is underway in China. Officials at many levels now see heritage preservation as a means for commoditizing and developing their regions. They are devoting new resources and attention to national and international heritage designations, but contradictions and complications in the actual practices of designating and protecting heritage abound . Thus, addressing cultural heritage politics in a nation dedicated to designation is an important project, particularly in the context of a rapidly growing economy increasingly interested in asserting its cultural power beyond its borders. More information


Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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