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A special issue of China Perspectives was published that may be of interest to many:


China Perspectives 2021 3 front cover




Cultural Values in the Making: Governing through Intangible Heritage


Florence Padovani • Guillaume Dutournier


Christina Maags

ABSTRACT: Can traditional cultural practices thrive if they are commercialised? Or should the state protect them from “the market”? This study investigates these questions by studying the marketisation of traditional handicrafts in the tourism sector of Nanjing municipality (Jiangsu Province, China). Building on Boltanski and Esquerre’s (2020) work on the “enrichment economy,” I find that state-led marketisation efforts have simultaneously raised and distorted the value of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) commodities in China. Many ICH inheritors are stuck in the middle: although they benefit from enhanced recognition and valorisation of ICH products, they face difficulties in competing with “fake” and luxury ICH commodities. ICH commodities are thus characterised by an “in-between” status – between the enriched and the mass economy.

KEYWORDS: China, intangible cultural heritage (ICH), commodities, markets, luxury, fake.

Aurore Dumont

ABSTRACT: Oboo cairns are sacred monuments worshipped by minority peoples in Inner Mongolia. The inclusion of oboo worship on China’s national list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2006 has caused negotiations and innovations in different social and ritual strata of local societies. Going from provincial decision-making to the local interpretation of heritage classification, this article examines how the indigenous intelligentsia and ordinary people appropriate oboo to make them valuable and powerful sacred monuments.

KEYWORDS: Inner Mongolia, ethnic group, oboo, worship, intangible heritage, intelligentsia, competition, appropriation, politics.

Junjie Su

ABSTRACT: Authenticity is a concept that is not seen in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) discourse but is emphasised in Chinese ICH official discourse. An analysis of the origins, discourses, and practices of the notion of authenticity of ICH, as well as the difficulties generated from this concept, illustrates the creation of ICH in China, which mediates between local and international ideologies. This paper adopts historical and critical heritage discourse perspectives to examine cases in Yunnan Province, China, including the understandings, discourses, and practices of the idea of “authenticity” and related original ecology in regard to experts, officials, and ICH practitioners. Through the lens of authenticity, the paper illustrates the history of the complicated relationships between authenticity and ICH in the last 20 years, revealing the dynamism and difficulties in the integration of authenticity and ICH as an official discourse, and the possibilities and restrictions of reconceptualising authenticity in the current contexts of integrating culture and tourism, as well as the reform of cultural governance, in contemporary China.

KEYWORDS: Intangible cultural heritage (ICH), authenticity, Yunnan, authorised heritage discourse, integration of culture and tourism in China.

Lia Wei • Michael Long

ABSTRACT: From medieval times to the present, calligraphy has been theorised as a product of “spirit” rather than of the hand, and has b­een situated atop the Chinese aesthetic hierarchy. Recognising calligraphy as a key aspect of national identification, the People’s Republic of China applied for its recognition to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Through the process of constructing calligraphy as Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), a simplified calligraphic canon emerged, which epitomises the “correct spirit of tradition.” Building on art historical and anthropological questions of transmission and authentication of the classical tradition of calligraphy, this paper challenges this idealised conceptualisation by investigating how a contemporary Chinese ICH regime has worked to “entextualise” calligraphy into present social and political circumstances.

KEYWORDS: calligraphy, rubbing, Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), entextualisation, spirit.





An interesting and quick read at the Anoxfordhistorian.com blog:

The Ashmolean Cast Gallery - do 'fakes' matter?

"Continuing the Museumcraft series, we take a look at the Ashmolean Cast Gallery and the questions it raises about 'authenticity, education and experimentation in the world of museums."




Two of the presenters at our March 2021 conference recently published their materials, have look!

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Touched by the Past? Re-Articulating the Longxing Temple Sites as Community Heritage at Qingzhou County, China

Li Tao & Qiaowei Wei 

Archaeologies (2021) 


Springer Article Link

Community heritage usually reveals bottom-up celebrations of multi-dimensions of social life, which negotiate meaning to certain places, sites, or even monuments under practices of heritage. In 1996, excavations and restorations of the Longxing Buddhist temple at Qingzhou County, hundreds of precious Buddhist statues, gained attention from the general public and all Buddhist communities. With the rebuild of the new Longxing Buddhist temple at Qingzhou County, actually motivated by Xia Jingshan, an eminent Buddhist figure painter, the religious and local community collaborated to express their voices in heritage discourse. A number of factors influence the reinterpretation of Longxing Temple sites: the desire to advocate Qingzhou County as an important city in ancient China, to depict Qingzhou County as having a rich cultural and religious diversity, and to attract tourists and religious communities to visit Qingzhou.

Le patrimoine communautaire révèle habituellement des célébrations initiées localement quant aux multiples dimensions de la vie sociale, lesquelles confèrent une signification à certains endroits, sites ou même des monuments conformément aux pratiques du patrimoine. En 1996, les travaux de fouille et de restauration du temple bouddhiste de Longxing dans le Comté de Qingzhou, comptant des centaines de précieuses statues bouddhistes, ont attiré l'attention du grand public et de toutes les communautés bouddhistes. Avec la reconstruction du nouveau temple bouddhiste de Longxing dans le Comté de Qingzhou, initiée de fait à l'initiative de Xia Jingshan, un éminent peintre figuratif bouddhiste, la communauté religieuse et locale a collaboré pour exprimer sa voix dans le discours sur le patrimoine. Une variété de facteurs influent sur la réinterprétation des sites du temple de Longxing: le désir de promouvoir le Comté de Qingzhou comme une cité importante dans la Chine ancienne, de dépeindre le Comté de Qingzhou comme étant doté d'une riche diversité culturelle et religieuse et d'attirer les touristes et les communautés religieuses pour une visite de Qingzhou.

El patrimonio comunitario generalmente revela celebraciones de abajo hacia arriba de múltiples dimensiones de la vida social, que negocian el significado de ciertos lugares, sitios o incluso monumentos según las prácticas del patrimonio. En 1996, con las excavaciones y restauraciones del Templo budista Longxing en el condado de Qingzhou, cientos de preciosas estatuas budistas llamaron la atención del público en general y de todas las comunidades budistas. Con la reconstrucción del nuevo Templo budista Longxing en el condado de Qingzhou, en realidad motivada por Xia Jingshan, un eminente pintor de figuras budistas, la comunidad religiosa y local colaboró para expresar sus voces en el discurso del patrimonio. Varios factores influyen en la reinterpretación de los sitios del Templo Longxing: el deseo de defender el condado de Qingzhou como una ciudad importante en la antigua China, representar al condado de Qingzhou con una rica diversidad cultural y religiosa y atraer turistas y comunidades religiosas para que visiten Qingzhou.


This conference aims to break down barriers between art forms and explore the vigorous intermedial dialogue in Qing imperial art practices.

About this Event

In the history of Chinese art, Qing imperial art stands out as a unique type that speaks to the spirit of innovative creativity and systematic order. Facilitated by the development of new technologies as well as new visual and material trends within and outside of China, imitations of various media, ranging from ancient bronzes to organic precious stones, frequently took place in art-making practices at the Qing court. At the same time, appropriations of designs and styles from earlier art forms originating in China and those introduced from other parts of the world were also favoured by Qing imperial patrons. 

The current conference has invited scholars from different parts of the world to share their research on the interplay between various material forms, pictorial images, and relevant discursive repertoires of values and beliefs in art practices at the Qing court. Through this event, we hope to unveil a series of historical moments, when intermedial dialogues in the production of Qing imperial artworks led to the creation of innovative art forms, the vigorous practice of cross-media imitation/appropriation, as well as the generation, alternation and loss of meanings. 



(scheduled in British Summer Time) 

13th May 2021

13:00-14:00. Keynote Lecture 

Speaker: Dr. Yu-Chih Lai, Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica

Title: Making Likeness Paradigm: A Representation Turn in the Qianlong Court 

14:00-14:30 Q&A Session


14th May 2021

12:00-12:30 Welcome and Opening Remarks

Dr. Stacey Pierson, SOAS, University of London

Chih-En Chen and Kexin Ma, SOAS, University of London



Chair: Stacey Pierson

12:30-12:40 Introduction by Session Chair 

12:40-13:05 ‘(This is) Not a duplicate’, the Creation and Standardisation of Representing Materials in the Qianlong`s Court Painting— A Case Study of the Depictions of the Emperor`s Costumes in the Huangchao Liqi Tushi

Haoyang Zhao, University of Glasgow

13:05-13:30 The Qianlong Emperor’s Pictorial Stelae

Gillian Zhang, Ohio State University

13:30-13:55 Across Time and Media: The Application and Transformation of Ancient Painting Pattern in Kesi (緙絲) at the Qing Court

Yanzhe Zhao, Beijing Fine Art Academy

13:55-14:25 Q&A Session with All Speakers 




Chair: Chih-En Chen

14:25-14:35 Introduction by Session Chair 

14:35-15:00 Opening the Black Box: A Case Study of Qing Enamels Referencing Japanese Lacquer

Julie Bellemare, Bard Graduate Center

15:00-15:25 Pink: The Semiotic power of Colour at the Qing Court

Helen Glaister, SOAS, University of London

15:25-15:50 Reception and Appropriation of Rococo Chinoiserie Style in the Qing Court: A Case Study of the Flying Serpent Hairpin 

Yen-Tzu Pai, National Taiwan University

15:50-16:20 Q&A Session with All Speakers


15th May 2021


Chair: Kexin Ma

12:00-12:10 Introduction by Session Chair 

12:10-12:35 The Tomb of the Qianlong Emperor: Intermediality in Two Registers

Nixi Cura, SOAS, University of London

12:35-13:00 Constructing the Image of a Sage ruler through Sound Events—Analysis of the Album of Magnificent Record of Longevity for Emperor Kangxi’s Sixtieth Birthday (Wanshou Shengdian Chuji)

Yung-Fang Hsu, The Courtauld Institute of Art

13:00-13:25 Qianlong Emperor and His “Su Shi” Inkstones

Yan Weitian, University of Kansas

13:25-13:55 Q&A Session with All Speakers



Chair: Julie Bellemare

13:55-14:05 Introduction by Session Chair

14:05-14:30 Qianlong’s Garden of the Clear Ripples: The Architectonic Appropriation of the Song-dynasty Pictures of Tilling and Weaving

Roslyn Lee Hammers, University of Hong Kong

14:30-14:55 Positioning the Self: Emperor Qianlong’s Glass Mirror Table Screens

Yan Jin, University of Chicago

14:55-15:15 Q&A Session with All Speakers



Chair: Rachel Harris, SOAS, University of London

15:15-15:25 Introduction by Session Chair

15:25-15:50 Uzagaku: Ryukyuan Musical Tradition, or “Mere” Imitation and Appropriation?

Travis Seifman, University of Tokyo

15:50-16:15 European Catholic Music in Qing Period: Its Transformation and Appropriation through The Years

Maria Isabel Forcada, University of Seville

16:15-16:35 Q&A Session with All Speakers



In hopes of providing a vibrant and broadly accessible platform for our participants to share their findings with a wider audience around the world, we have decided to hold the conference virtually via Zoom. The conference is free and open to the public, but registration is necessary. The Zoom meeting link will be sent to those who have registered via Eventbrite prior to the conference. By registering the event, you are authorising us to collect your email address for delivering updates about the conference.

If you have any further queries, please feel free to contact us via email (intermediality2021@gmail.com).


EVENTBRITE LINK: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/imitation-or-appropriation-intermediality...

An upcoming talk the touches upon issues of identity in relation to museum collections, and may be of interest to those working on the similar nexus of questions that surround "authenticity" as a construct.

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APRIL 7 @ 1:15 PM - 3:00 PM
Speaker: Sarah Laursen, Alan J. Dworsky Associate Curator of Chinese Art, Harvard Art Museum

The Harvard Art Museums’ database identifies over 6,600 objects in the collection as “Chinese.” But are they really? At least one third of China’s dynastic history—from its unification by the first emperor in 221 BCE until the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1912—took place under foreign rule. Even when an emperor could claim Han Chinese ancestry, his domain was frequently home to sizeable non-Chinese populations. This talk will explore the identities of so-called “Chinese” objects in the collection that might more rightly be associated with groups like the Xianbei. The logic behind the categories of “culture” and “place” in museum metadata will also be considered, along with possibilities for increasing the visibility of the ethnic minorities all too often erased from Chinese art history.

To register for the Zoom link, visit:



Dr Stefan Gruber, who recently presented in our "Understanding Authenticity in China's Cultural Heritage" conference, will be discussing related themes in an upcoming talk. Check it out!

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Faculty Online Seminar – ‘Human Rights, Enforcement, and Compliance in Heritage Protection in Asia’ by Dr. Stefan Gruber

DATE: 30 Mar 2021
TIME: 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm HKT


Cultural heritage is a binding force within all societies, while also being one of the elements that most clearly distinguish communities from each other at international, national, and local levels. The protection of cultural heritage endorses the survival of cultural identities, backgrounds, practices, and traditions in Asia, promotes cultural diversity, and functions to improve the quality of life. In addition, it is also essential for the protection of human rights and intergenerational justice. Present decisions regarding the conservation or abolishment of cultural heritage and diversity will be made on behalf of future generations without their consultation and must therefore be made with utmost care and consideration. However, cultural heritage is significantly under threat in wide parts of Asia, as the continent not only features many significant cultures, but it is also the most rapidly developing region, placing countless heritage sites, intangible assets, and landscapes at risk of vanishing when for example political interests collide, funds and expertise are lacking, or developers’ interests are given priority over local stakeholders. While there has been a strong push towards the strengthening of cultural heritage protection law, policy, and related authorities throughout Asia in recent decades, most of the relevant regulations do not provide for an adequate level of public participation and recognition of rights in related decision-making. The authority to identify, manage, protect, or even discard heritage continues to belong primarily to the states. However, as heritage can be a very individual concept, conserving heritage through broad participation of relevant stakeholders and ensuring their ability to challenge relevant decisions by the authorities in court are important aspects of that process. The same applies to matters of enforcement and compliance. The seminar will highlight several international treaties and national laws and discuss relevant case studies from several Asian countries, including China, Afghanistan, Vietnam, and Japan.

About the Speaker:

Dr Stefan Gruber is a Hakubi Researcher of Kyoto University and an Adjunct Researcher at the Institute for Advanced Social Sciences of Waseda University in Tokyo. Previously, he was an associate professor at Kyoto University and taught at the Faculty of Law of the University of Sydney. He further held visiting positions inter alia at Goethe University Frankfurt, the University of Hong Kong, the University of Ottawa, and Renmin Law School of China in Beijing. Recent overseas teaching engagements include courses by Duke University, Seoul National University, and Wuhan University. Stefan is further active as a consultant, legal practitioner, and member of the World Commission on Environmental Law. He was educated at the Universities of Sydney, Frankfurt, Mainz, and at Harvard Law School, and holds degrees in law, philosophy, and political science.

Stefan’s regional focus is on East and Southeast Asia and particularly China. His current research concentrates on the protection of cultural heritage, sustainable development and environmental protection, international law and politics, and compliance, ethics, and human rights. Another major focus is on the illicit trafficking of cultural property, forgery, and other forms of art crime, their prevention and prosecution, and the restitution of illegally exported objects.


For further information and to register, see: https://www.law.cuhk.edu.hk/app/events/faculty-online-seminar-human-righ...