Cultural Heritage Tourism and the Ancient Tea Horse Road of Southwest

Professor Gary Sigley, University of Western Australia

21.Oct.2010 09.00 - 10.30
LT16, Roger Stevens Building - Leeds


Thirty years of 'reform and openness' have brought great changes to the People's Republic of China. On the positive side, the living standards of a vast proportion of the population have dramatically improved and China has now realised the long cherished dream of the 20th Century to become 'rich and powerful' (fuguo qiangbing). On the negative side, China has experienced the same forms of environmental and cultural destruction that all nation-states undergo as they 'modernise'.

In terms of 'cultural heritage' China has in recent decades lost a great deal of tangible heritage as the bulldozers of urbanisation 'destroy the old to make way for the new' (pojiu lixin). In terms of intangible cultural heritage, whilst there has been a major revival in some areas after the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), many traditional cultural practices have begun to disappear from everyday life and are in danger of becoming 'museum relics' or vanishing altogether.

This paper examines the possible role tourism may play in the cultural heritage preservation of China's 'Ancient Tea Horse Road' (chama gudao). It is argued that whilst tourism can play an important role in socio-economic development and cultural heritage preservation it can also be a very destructive force in its own right.


Professor Gary Sigley is Professor in Asian Studies at The University of Western Australia. He coordinates various units on contemporary Chinese politics, culture and society and Australia-Asia issues, as well as supervising postgraduate research projects with a China focus. Gary's research interests are broad but with a particular focus on government, community and poverty alleviation in the Chinese context. A research project investigating the development of ecological community-based tourism in southwest China along the 'Ancient Tea Horse Road' (chama gudao) is underway. Recent publications include articles and book chapters on 'Chinese governmentality', 'suzhi', culture and globalisation, policing pornography, and the changing discourse of governance.

This presentation is part of the Worldwide Universities Network Contemporary China Center (WUN CCC) virtual seminars series, which this year focuses on:

  • China's Changing Urbanities
  • China Business: Green Opportunities
  • Class and Class Consciousness in China

The series allows audiences around the world to hear from leading scholars in contemporary China studies and to engage in dialogue with one another across geographic boundaries. Each seminar includes an interactive question and answer session across all sites.

If you wish to attend the lecture from a WUN member university other than Leeds, please consult your local WUN coordinator for details of where the seminar is being held.

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