Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Anne Mosher


China, Heritage Tourism

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


With the massive infusion of external (foreign) capital into the Chinese economy since the 1980s, some historical villages in Huangshan city have been largely transformed for heritage tourism. Preservation restrictions on altering structures are in place to keep intact the architectural and morphological integrity of the sites. Questions arise on the roles played by various governments and private sector enterprises, and their influence on local residents

In the summer of 2013, I conducted field work including interviews, participatory observation and archival research on three adjacent villages in Huangshan city: Hongcun, Chengkan, and Xucun. They were at three different tourism development levels and in different jurisdictions.

As a World Heritage Site, Hongcun attracts more tourists than the other two historical villages. To put Hongcun on display, a private sector enterprise authorized by local county government constructed not only infrastructure for tourism but also heritage. Heritage construction for tourism includes selection of historical sites for display and reinventions of historical stories for the staging of an ongoing pageant play performance to attract tourists. Successful tourism, however, has fostered conflict within the local community and largely transformed local villagers' lives.

Seeing Hongcun as the benchmark in heritage tourism, Chengkan imitates Hongcun by introducing external private sector enterprises and by implementing the strict Cultural Relic Preservation Law. The Chengkan Tourism Company has tried many innovative marketing strategies to compete with Hongcun, such as place-branding and place construction to demonstrate its feng shui authenticity. As such, Chenkan's residents face strict enforcement of the Cultural Relic Preservation Regulation while getting small benefits from tourism development. Also, some of them try to make their own heritage, which is different from the hegemonic heritage made by the tourism company.

Xucun serves as yet another story in that it does not take any measures to lure tourists. Knowing it is impossible to compete with other villages, Xucun's local government prefers social stability and security to economic growth. Thus, they broke their contract with the private sector tourist company and protected local villagers' property rights. In this way, the three cases suggest that the state plays varying roles in encouraging tourism development and local autonomy in implementing tourism development. Also, issues of representation by private sectors and local community's identity and property rights vary markedly at the village scale.

My thesis contributes to the literature of heritage tourism studies undertaken from a political economic perspective. It uses this perspective to understand landscape in the Chinese context. My work also illustrates various avenues of future research on Chinese cultural geography.


Open Access



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