Accepted paper:

The Future of the Past: The Interplay of Imaginaries Shaping Heritage Spaces of Xi'an


Yujie Zhu (Heidelberg University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines heritage development of Xi'an. It explores three main questions: what impact does heritage have as a soft power in urban regeneration; what kind of imaginaries are produced and negotiated by actors involved, and how do these imaginaries shape the heritage spaces of Xi'an?

Paper long abstract:

This project builds on eight years of ethnographic research and consultancy experience on heritage tourism development in urban China. The development of heritage tourism in historical cities of China is regarded as a vital ingredient of urban regeneration by state and local governments. In Xi'an, the imperial capital of thirteen dynasties of Chinese history, the construction of a modern landscape catapulted the city from an isolated entity to the globalized world system. Guided by a fifty-year governmental city plan, the densely populated inner city (including the Muslim Quarter) of Xi'an is currently being transformed into a functioning replica of the Tang-era Imperial City to reconstruct the glorious past of Chinese civilization. This study will examine the impact of heritage as a soft power in urban regeneration; the multiplicity of imaginaries that are produced and negotiated by actors involved in heritage tourism, and the way these imaginaries shape the heritage spaces of Xi'an. It will involve the topics of heritage governance, tourism production and consumption, social practices of the Chinese middle class, and the representation of local identity. The research will have broad relevance to the issues of political and social change, and the classification of social spaces in China. This study will also clarify the role of culture heritage in the rapidly shifting urban landscape of China, by zooming in on China's efforts to embrace globalization and modernization and to implement nationalism through defining and legitimizing heritage consumption and commercialization.

panel SE09
Living heritage in China today