Chinese Cultural Heritage and Ancient Tombs
Cultural heritage has become a crucial issue in Chinese political rhetoric since the beginning of the 1960s. Initially, the function of this discourse was essentially centered around the socialist and revolutionary ideology, but a paradigmatic shift has occurred since the late 1980s, where the culture of ethnic minorities was considered and used to promote narratives about harmony and unity of the Chinese society. This recent process led to the emergence of the protection of a specific category of buildings: “ancient tombs” 古墓. Among these burials, various historical or legendary figures gained the status of heroes of the nation through an institutionalized sanctification. Previously used as places for “popular religion” and often labeled as “illegal” 非法宗教 or “superstitious” 迷信 practices by the Chinese authorities, these places are being reclaimed through patrimonialization, resulting in many structural and ideological changes. This heritage requalification raises the question of reception on practitioners, who use those places for religious purposes and who strive to find new ways to manage alongside this political discourse.
Launched in October 2015, this doctoral research is a four-year project, which explores the way in which different agents appropriate and use heritage to compete in specific power scenarios. Indeed, heritage discourses and practices are approached as defining specific political arenas within which power relations are reconfigured. In order to analysis this mechanism, this research will combine, on the one hand, in a discourse analysis of the policies, regulations and decrees promulgated by the Chinese authorities on cultural heritage and religion. On the other hand, this research will focus on two ethnographies, one in Guangzhou (Guangdong Province) and the other in Quanzhou (Fujian Province), where three important Muslim tombs have been recognized and classified as national cultural heritage sites.
These two analytical approaches will provide an analysis of the constructed heritage as being produced, identified and valued within specific logic and value system. Indeed, cultural heritage organize different fields of forces and dynamics, where political actors, stakeholders and as well as commoners are themselves engaged in numerous arenas and discourses to shape those sites, which are continually under negotiations. This issue will highlight the changes between state, society and religion.
For more information please contact the project's main researcher Pascale Bugnon.
Bugnon, P. (2016). « L’art d’accommoder les ancêtres de la nation. Analyse du processus patrimonial en Chine à travers la catégorie des "tombes antiques" ». In Blog Scientifique de l’Institut Confucius, Université de Genève.
BUGNON Pascale, « Being a good Muslim »: Reflecting on Media and Religion in Xinjiang (China), The International Association for Media and History, University Panthéon-Assas and the French Press Institute, July 10-13 2017.