The recent heritage boom in China is transforming local social, economic, and cultural life and reshaping domestic and global notions of China's national identity. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork conducted largely by young anthropologists in China, Grassroots Values and Local Cultural Heritage in China departs from the dominant top-down UNESCO-influenced narrative of cultural heritage preservation and approaches the local not as a fixed definition of place but as a shifting site of negotiation between state, entrepreneurial, transcultural, and local community interests. The volume takes readers along an unusual trajectory between a disadvantaged neighborhood in central Beijing, metropolitan centers in Anhui and Sichuan, Quanzhou in the southeast, and Yunnan in the southwest before finally ending at the great Samye Monastery in Tibet. Across these sites, the contributors converge in apprehending the grassroots as an arena of everyday life and belonging underpinning ordinary social interactions and cultural practices as diverse as funeral rituals, Tibetan Buddhist pilgrimages, and encounters between young contemporary artists and the Bloomsbury Group. In examining the diversity of local cultural practices and knowledge that underpin ideas about cultural value, this volume argues that grassroots cultural beliefs are essential to the liveability and sustainability of life and living heritage.
Harriet Evans is professor emerita of Chinese cultural studies at the University of Westminster and visiting professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics.
Michael Rowlands is professor emeritus of anthropology and material culture at University College London.
List of Figures
Introduction: Grassroots Values: Issues, Questions and Perspectives on Local Heritage
Harriet Evans & Michael Rowlands
Chapter 1: What and Whose is Local Heritage? Perspectives from Everyday Lives in an “Old Beijing Neighborhood”
Chapter 2: Encountering Virginia Woolf in Dashalar: Heritage Quests and Local Efficacies
Chapter 3: Rediscovering “Huangshan” in a Heritage Context: Spatial Strategy and Invisible Locality
Chapter 4: ‘Slave(s)’ to the Great Museum: Heritage, Labor and Ethics in the Jianchuan Museum Complex
Chapter 5: Between State and Local Residents: Heritage Perspectives and Their Combination in Quanzhou, Southern Fujian
Chapter 6: Naming the Living Heritage in Quanzhou
Chapter 7: Commitments to the Past: Cultural Transmission in a Naxi Village
Peter Guangpei Ran
Chapter 8: Threads of Time in a Small Naxi Village; Women, Weaving and Gendered Dimensions of Local Cultural Heritage
Chapter 9: Destruction, Devastation and Reinvented Tradition in Heritage Construction in Dukezong, Shangri-La
Chapter 10: From “Cultural Relics” to “Sacred Objects”: A Case Study of Local Heritage Protection in a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery
About the Contributors
China’s vast economic transformation has ushered in a “heritage boom,” in which state actors, economic elites, and ordinary people struggle over how the material sediments of the past might be preserved, refurbished, commodified, authorized as signs of the nation, or tended as the soil of lived attachments to place. In this conceptually rich volume, scholars based in China collaborate with researchers from the UK to interrogate a diverse variety of heritage projects, from Beijing’s alleys and Anhui’s mountains to the temples and tea plantations of Fujian, and from museums and minority ethnic communities in the southwest to Tibet’s oldest monastery. These essays interrogate heritage work from a “grassroots” perspective, analyzing its contradictions, revealing its many forms of violence, and thinking through alternative ways that the preservation of the material past might coexist with local worlds where the past is a lived reality.
A timely book on heritage in China with special attention for grassroots values and the connection of the local with economy, politics and international heritage regulation. A wide variety of excellent case-studies from seven different regions of China, written by renowned specialists in their fields, makes the book a standard work for many years to come. In China's 'heritage boom,' the local appears as a site of negotiation with national and international points of view, processes, and tensions. Heritage has influenced the local immensely, as the rich case-studies clearly show. It fundamentally challenges dichotomies such as male-female, the local-the global, the official-the non-official. With an introduction by editors Harriet Evans and Michael Rowlands and an Afterword by Wang Mingming, the framework of the book is solidly defined. With both the empirical examples as well as the analytical framework the editors have produced an extremely important book. For specialists in the field of heritage and for people working on grassroots values, this book is an absolute necessity to read.
This book makes a timely and wholly distinctive contribution to anthropological studies of cultural heritage in China. It represents a compelling assessment of how people at the grassroots engage with cultural heritage projects in regions throughout China. These essays deal primarily with the enabling capacity of cultural heritage, offering first-hand insights into how the heritage boom in China is played out in communities in their everyday lives, as expressed through their strategizing and entrepreneurialism. Questioning how the local is constituted as a site of negotiation, this book is a must-have addition to the growing literature on the complexities of heritage in Asia.