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Heritage tourism enhances cultural identity

Author  :  FU CAIWU     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2018-12-06

With China’s strong religious and cultural traditions of respecting Heaven and following the examples of ancestors, Chinese people’s admiration for ancestors and exploration of history is deep. The festivals and activities in memory of forefathers, cultural sages and national heroes thus have been handed down for generations, directing the way for all Chinese descendants to “come back home.” 

China’s return to heritage movement comes from the unique cultural bond and aesthetic psychology of Chinese people. Constantly asking themselves questions like “Who am I?” and “Where do I come from?” they deepen the national emotion and cultural identity. Today, heritage tourism, as an important way to enhance cultural identity by means of cultural consumption, has become an intellectual demand of Chinese people.

One representative example is the popularity of touring Great Pagoda Tree Village, Hongdong County, Shanxi Province. The village is considered the most influential origin of immigration in Chinese history. The family names of immigrants from the village are as many as one hundred. For nearly the past decade, the comprehensive proceeds and ticket proceeds of the travel destination have continued to grow at rates of 7.22 percent and 11.35 percent, respectively. At the same time, the food, accommodation, shopping and other relevant industries have been stimulated, with nearly 2,000 new jobs. 

In 2008, the State Council authorized the Yellow Emperor-Worshipping Ceremony in Xinzheng to enter the first batch of Extended Projects of the national Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Hometown of the Yellow Emperor, one of the legendary Chinese sovereigns, Xinzheng City, Henan Province, has developed a cultural and tourism brand centered on the worship of this historical ruler. Similarly, the site where the Mausoleum of the Yellow Emperor is located, Huangling County, Shaanxi Province, also attracts the multi-dimensional tourism focused on the Yellow Emperor.

Mianshan Mountain, 20 kilometers from Jiexiu City, Shanxi Province, as the origin of the Qingming Festival, has hosted eleven sessions of the Qingming Cultural Tourism Festival. During the Spring Festival in 2018, the scenic area received 286,600 tourists. This type of tourism has notably promoted the city’s cultural consumption. 

The Duanwu Culture Festival, the first national-level event of its kind, opened in Zigui County, Yichang City, Hubei Province, on June 16, 2010. Zigui County is regarded as the hometown of Qu Yuan, a Chinese poet known for his patriotism who lived during the Warring States period of ancient China. During the festival held in 2018, guests from both China’s mainland and Taiwan, descendants of the Qu Family, and local people gathered beside the bank of the Yangtze River in remembrance of Qu Yuan. These activities have become platforms for cross-Straits cultural communication, playing an active role in bolstering the influence and cohesion of traditional Chinese culture. The dragon boat race held during each year’s Duanwu Festival has also become an important cultural symbol to facilitate the local social economy.

The rise of heritage tourism along with the rural economy has laid a path for rural elites and intellectuals to return to their hometowns and rejoin the talent there. For example, according to incomplete statistics, people from Fujian Province living overseas have donated 24.2 billion yuan back to their hometowns in the four decades since the reform and opening up. At present, the region has a total of 56 investment projects started by rural elites and intellectuals, and the sum investment volume has reached more than 9 billion yuan. 

According to a survey conducted by a research team from Wuhan University on Xuzhiwan Village, Xinzhou District, Wuhan City, the rural elites and intellectuals of the village, after calling a village meeting and expounding on project plans and their vision for the village’s future, have guided local residents to gradually evolve their conceptions and revitalize the distinctive local industries. At the same time, as representatives for the rural residents, they made full use of their interpersonal relationships and invited urban designers from South Korea to conduct planning for the village.

In the era of rapid industrialization and urbanization, the rural culture preserving China’s tradtional roots is facing destruction or even extinction. Nowadays, heritage tourism, through utilizing distinctive rural culture and resources, fosters the revival of traditional refined culture and strengthens the general public’s cultural identity. 


Fu Caiwu is the dean and a professor of the National Culture Development Institute at Wuhan University.



(edited by BAI LE)

Editor: Yu Hui

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