Understanding Authenticity in China's Cultural Heritage Conference

What we deem to be genuine or fake is not an objective determination, but something that we agree upon as communities. Debates about authenticity, moreover, are often intimately bound to the question of who owns the past and its representation. The “Understanding Authenticity in China’s Cultural Heritage” conference this March will explore these issues and more. From contesting narratives about the mother trees of Big Red Robe tea, to the restoration of Qin terracotta soldiers; from the experience of visiting a replica Eiffel Tower in Hangzhou, to US-China diplomatic tensions over "originality" and "shanzhai 山寨 (imitation)” – "Understanding Authenticity in China's Cultural Heritage” brings together specialists from a broad range of fields and backgrounds, to explore how questions about “authenticity” impact their work on objects, texts, and intangible cultural heritage in China.

Please join us online March 16th-20th, 2021, for a discussion on the construction of “authenticity,” both historically and today, in relation to China’s cultural heritage. Registration is free, attendance is open to all, via submission of a short survey HERE

If you are experiencing difficulties with signing up or if you have any question, please contact Drs Chris Foster & Anke Hein at: understandingauthenticity@gmail.com.



The conference will be hosted virtually via the Zoom platform. The keynote by Prof. Lothar von Falkenhausen will be live. Video recordings of all other presentations will be made available ~1 week prior to the start of the conference. Attendees are expected to view these recordings beforehand. The live panel sessions will then be dedicated solely to questions & discussion on each of the presentations. Please see the full schedule below.


16 March, 2021

14:00-15:30 GMT Keynote Lecture

Prof Lothar von Falkenhausen (UCLA): The Irresistible Allure of Patina and Pedigree: A Case Study


17 March, 2021, 13:00 GMT

13:00-13:20 GMT     Opening Remarks

Dr Christopher Foster (University of Oxford)

Dr Anke Hein (University of Oxford)


Session 1: Art and Material Culture

Chair and Discussant: Prof Craig Clunas (University of Oxford)

13:20-13:40    David Scott (UCLA): Constructions and Deconstructions of Authenticity in Chinese Art

13:40-14:00    Celia Carrington Riely (Independent Scholar): The Two Versions of Dong Qichang’s River in Mist and Piled Peaks and the Impact of High-Resolution Photography on the Question of Authenticity

14:00-14:20    Zhang Yanzhuang (Gillian) (Ohio State University): Authenticating Su Shi’s Snowy Wave Stone in Premodern China

14:20-14:40 Coffee break

14:40-15:00    Jean DeBernardi (University of Alberta): The Modern Invention of Big Red Robe Tea: History, Story, and Performance

15:00-15:20    Robin Wilson (University of Oxford): Karamono (Chinese Things): Authenticity, legitimacy and mimetics in the production and use of Chinese-inspired Japanese ceramic tea utensils, past and present

15:20-15:40    Gao Xuyang (University of Oxford): Problems of authenticity: reflections on contemporary zisha teapot-making techniques

15:40-16:00 General discussion


18 March, 2021, 13:00 GMT

Session 2: Texts and Manuscripts

Chair and Discussant: Dr Dirk Meyer (University of Oxford)

13:00-13:20    Paul Goldin (University of Pennsylvania): The Spread of Virtue and the Fallacy of Authenticity in Classical Chinese Aesthetics

13:20-13:40    Kevin (Kuan-yun) Huang (City University of Hong Kong): Authenticity and the Authenticating of Ancient Chinese Texts

13:40-14:00    Nick Vogt (Indiana University): The “Real” Life (and Death) of King Wen: Biography as Authentication in the Yizhoushu

14:00-14:20    Corina Smith (University of Oxford): Venerated Documents: What are shu, and what is at stake?

14:20-14:40    Coffee break

14:40-15:00     Rachel McVeigh (Peking University): (Mis)remembering the Tang? The attribution of the ‘Twenty Four Categories of Poetry’ to Sikong Tu

15:00-15:20    Timothy Thurston (University of Leeds): Multiple Authenticities of the Tibetan Gesar Epic

15:20-16:00 General discussion


19 March, 2021, 13:00 GMT

Session 3: Museums, Collections, and Displays

Chair and Discussant: Prof JP Park (University of Oxford)

13:00-13:20    Li Xiuzhen (Janice) (University of Oxford): Revisiting Authenticity: Restoration and Conservation of the Qin First Emperor’s Terracotta Army

13:20-13:40    Gao Qian (University of Stirling): Authenticity and Heritage Conservation: Seeking Common Complexities beyond the ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ Dichotomy

13:40-14:00   General discussion

14:00-14:20    Cornelius Holtorf (Linnaeus University), Ma Qingkai (Hangzhou Normal University), Chen Xian (Zhejiang University), and Zhang Yu (Zhejiang University A&F): Paris, China. Some thoughts about the value of simulated heritage

14:20-14:40    Coffee break

14:40-15:00    Patrycja Pendrakowska (University of Warsaw): Can a copy deliver an authentic experience? An interdisciplinary approach to fieldwork conducted in Southeast China

15:00-15:20    Jennifer Kreder (Northern Kentucky University): Shanzai and Fuzhi Tensions in U.S.-Chinese Diplomacy

15:20-16:00 General discussion


20 March, 2021, 13:00 GMT

Session 4: Cultural Heritage Management

Chair and Discussant: Dr Yitzchak Jaffe (University of Haifa)

13:00-13:20    Tao Li (Shanghai Normal University): Attraction or Distraction? Exploring the Influence of Tourism on the Interpretation of Cultural Heritage at the National Archaeological Park of the Qi Capital Site, China

13:20-13:40    Wei Qiaowei (Shanghai University): Touched by the past? Re-articulating the Longxing temple sites as community heritage at Qingzhou County, China

13:40-14:00 General discussion

14:00-14:20 Coffee break

14:20-14:40    Jie Hao (University of Birmingham): Who decides? The Authenticity of Traditional Rural Settlement Heritagization Practices: A Case Study of a Chinese Traditional Village

14:40-15:00    Stefan Gruber (Kyoto University): Socio-legal Perspectives on Authenticity in China’s Cultural Heritage

15:00-16:00 Final discussion


Presentation available for viewing over the course of the conference, Q&A via e-mail:

Phillip Grimberg (University of Erlangen): UNESCO World Heritage and the Problem of Authenticity – The Case of “Built Structures” and China's Tangible Cultural Heritage