Uses of the past: negotiating heritage in Xi’an

Yujie Zhu*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    39 Citations (Scopus)


    The recent urban development in Xi’an illustrates how local authorities are rebuilding an imagined and ancient capital of China which is tied to the remote Tang dynasty, a symbol of the glorious Chinese civilization. Based on instrumental uses of the past, the municipal government has implemented heritage plans to create an aesthetically pleasing and economically valuable destination for display and consumption. This study contributes to an understanding of the contested nature of heritage in the rapidly shifting urban landscape of contemporary China. Rather than fully following the official script, participants in the heritage industry have different responses to the changing social and living environment in Xi’an. Despite the nation-state’s overwhelming involvement in people’s daily lives, I suggest that there is still space where individuals may challenge the dominant narrative. While such challenges might not replace the existing official discourse, people adapt, negotiate and contest these heritage discourses and practices to pursue their own interests.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)181-192
    Number of pages12
    JournalInternational Journal of Heritage Studies
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2018


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