Challenges in Archaeological Tourism in China

  • Qian Gao


Worldwide archaeological tourism, or tourism to sites with archaeological significance, has been rapidly growing and has attracted increased academic attention in recent years. China is an outstanding case in this field. In fact, its government has been actively promoting tourism and archaeological tourism for the last three decades. The understanding of the challenges that Chinese archaeological tourism is currently facing is the focus of this article. Four aspects will guide the discussion: the dilemma between site preservation and economic profitability, unregulated tourism development, the influence of UNESCO World Heritage designation, and authorities’ sensitivity towards ethnic issues in archaeological tourism.


Archaeological tourism China Cultural heritage World Heritage sites 



I would like to deliver my deepest gratitude to my supervisor, professor Margarita Díaz-Andreu, for her constant support, invaluable guidance, and great inspiration. My sincere acknowledgement and appreciation go to Professor Paul Taçon (Griffith University) and Professor Robert E. Murowchick (Boston University), for their precious help, support and suggestions. I also feel very grateful to Professor Magnus Fiskesjö (Cornell University) and Professor Selia Jinhua Tan (Wuyi University), whose comments and advices have greatly improved this paper. In addition, I would like to thank my friends Panayiotis Panayides, Dr. James Walker, and all the members of GAPP (Grup d’Arqueologia Pública i Patrimoni). Your support and advices have encouraged me enormously in my pursuit of PhD research.


  1. Agnew, N. (ed.) (1997). Conservation of Ancient Sites on the Silk Road: Proceedings of an International Conference Held at the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang, Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  2. Allen, T. B. (1996). The Silk Road’s lost world: mummies with Caucasian features recall a culture that thrived in Xinjiang 3,000 years ago. National Geographic 189: 44–51.Google Scholar
  3. Bowers, J. (2014). Tourism, archaeology, and ethics: a case study in the Rupununi region of Guyana. In Smith, C. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology, Springer, New York, pp. 7352–7355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brook, T. (1998). The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China, University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  5. Chang, K. C. (1981). Archaeology and Chinese historiography. World Archaeology 13: 156–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chow, W. S. (1988). Open policy and tourism between Guangdong and Hong Kong. Annals of Tourism Research 15: 205–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Clarke, M. E. (ed.) (2013). Handbook of China’s Governance and Domestic Politics, Routledge, New York.Google Scholar
  8. Comer, D. (2012). Tourism and Archaeological Heritage Management at Petra: Driver to Development or Destruction? Springer, New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Comer, D. C. (2015). Archaeology as global public good and local identity good. In Soderland, H. A., Biehl, P. F., Comer, D. C., and Prescott, C. (eds.), Identities and Heritage: Contemporary Challenges in a Globalized World, Springer, New York, pp. 11–26.Google Scholar
  10. Comer, D. and Willems, W. J. H. (2012). Tourism and archaeological heritage. Driver to development or destruction? In Gottfried, C. and Sanchez, H. (eds.), Heritage: A Driver of Development: Proceedings of the 17th ICOMOS General Assembly Symposium, ICOMOS, Paris, pp. 506–518.Google Scholar
  11. Debaine-Francfort, C. (1999). The Search for Ancient China, Thames and Hudson, London.Google Scholar
  12. Díaz-Andreu, M. (2007). A World History of Nineteenth-Century Archaeology: Nationalism, Colonialism, and the Past, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  13. Edward, R. (2011). Another stop on a long, improbable journey. New York Times, Feb. 20, p. C1.Google Scholar
  14. Feng, Jicai. 冯骥才 (2010). Qing buyao: yizhi gongyuan hua请不要:遗址公园化 (Please stop turning archaeological sites into parks). Baokan huicui报刊荟萃 10: 14–15.Google Scholar
  15. Forbes, A. D. W. (1986). Warlords and Muslims in Chinese Central Asia: A Political History of Republican Sinkiang 1911–1949, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  16. Gao, Q. (2013). The Huashan rock art site (China): the sacred meeting place for the sky, water and earth. Rock Art Research 30: 22–32.Google Scholar
  17. Global Heritage Fund. (2010). Vandalism, unsustainable tourism threaten the Great Wall of China [Online].
  18. Goldstein, M. C. (1991). A History of Modern Tibet, 1913–1951: The Demise of the Lamaiste State, University of California Press, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  19. Goode, J. (2007). Negotiating for the Past: Archaeology, Nationalism, and Diplomacy in the Middle East, 1919–1941, University of Texas Press, Austin.Google Scholar
  20. Gruber, S. (2007). Protecting China’s cultural heritage sites in times of rapid change: current developments, practice and law. Asia Pacific Journal of Environmental Law 253: 253–301.Google Scholar
  21. Halewood, C., and Hannam, K. (2001). Viking heritage tourism: authenticity and commodification. Annals of Tourism Research 28: 565–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hamilakis, Y. (2007). The Nation and Its Ruins: Antiquity, Archaeology, and National Imagination in Greece, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  23. Herrera, A. (2015). Archaeology and development: ethics of a fateful relationship. In Haber, A., and Shepherd, N. (eds.), After Ethics: Ancestral Voices and Post-Disciplinary Worlds in Archaeology, Springer, New York, pp. 39–53.Google Scholar
  24. Hoffman, T. L., Kwas, M. L., and Silverman, H. (2002). Heritage tourism and public archaeology. SAA Archaeological Record March: 30–32, 44.Google Scholar
  25. Huang, Jinhuo.黄金火 and Chen, Xiuqiong. 陈秀琼 (2005). Wo guo gonggong ziyuan lei lvyou jingqu beiju de boyilun tantao我国公共资源类旅游景区悲剧的博弈论探讨 (Analyzing the tragedy of common pool tourism resources in China through game theory). Ziyuan kexue资源科学 (Resources Science) 27: 180–186.Google Scholar
  26. Humphrey, C. (1994). Remembering an “enemy”: the Bogd Khaan in twentieth-century Mongolia. In Watson, R. S. (ed.), Memory, History and Opposition under State Socialism, School of American Research, Santa Fe, pp. 21–44.Google Scholar
  27. Jimura, T. (2011). The impact of World Heritage site designation on local communities: a case study of Ogimachi, Shirakawa-mura, Japan. Tourism Management 32: 288–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Leask, A., and Fyall, A. (eds.) (2006). Managing World Heritage Sites, Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford.Google Scholar
  29. Leech, K. (2004). The ravage of India. Blueprint 218: 86–91.Google Scholar
  30. Li, Fang. 李舫 (2010). Jingti wenwu baohu beihou dichan chongdong警惕文物保护背后地产冲动 (Be cautious to the real estate impulse behind cultural heritage protection). People’s Daily, Oct. 22.Google Scholar
  31. Li, Haiyan. 李海燕 and Quan, Dongji. 权东计 (2007). Guoneiwai da yizhi baohu yu liyong yanjiu zongshu国内外大遗址保护与利用研究综述 (The review of the protection and utilization of Great Sites in both domestic and international contexts). Xibei Gongye Daxue Xuebao (Shehui Kexue ban) 西北工业大学学报 (社会科学版) Journal of Northwestern Polytechnical University (Social Sciences) 27(3): 16–20.Google Scholar
  32. Li, M., Wu, B., and Cai, L. (2008). Tourism development of World Heritage sites in China: a geographic perspective. Tourism Management 29: 308–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Li, P., Sullivan, S., Altenburg, K., and Barker, P. (2010). Visitor surveys at Mogao: pioneering the process, 2002–2004. In Agnew, N. (ed.), Conservation of Ancient Sites on the Silk Road: Proceedings of the Second International Conference on the Conservation of Grotto Sites, Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang, People’s Republic of China, June 28-July 3, 2004, Getty, Los Angeles, pp. 143–151.Google Scholar
  34. Liu, L., and Chen, X. (2012). The Archaeology of China: From the Late Paleolithic to the Early Bronze Age, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Liu, Kecheng. 刘克成 (2009). Jieshuo Daminggong guojia da yizhi baohu zhanshi shifanyuanqu ji yizhi gongyuan zongti guihua解说大明宫国家大遗址保护展示示范园区暨遗址公园总体规划 (Explanation of the general planning on the protection and exhibition representative area of Daming Palace National Great Site and heritage park). Zhongguo Wenhua Yichan中国文化遗产 (Chinese Cultural Heritage) 4: 112–119.Google Scholar
  36. Liu, Xinsui. 刘心随 (2010). Daminggong yizhi, shi da jingguan beihou de zhengyi 大明宫遗址, 十大景观背后的争议 (Daming Palace heritage site, the disputes behind the ten human-made features). Shijie xinwenbao-Jianshang Zhongguo 世界新闻报•鉴赏中国 (World News Journal: Appreciation of China), Dec. 8.Google Scholar
  37. Lu, T. (2008). Some issues on the management of archaeological sites in mainland China. Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites 10: 353–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lu, Jiansong. 陆建松 (2005). Zhongguo da yizhi baohu de xianzhuang, wenti ji zhengce sikao中国大遗址保护的现状、问题及政策思考 (The current status, issues and strategies of the protection of Great Sites in China). Fudan xuebao (Shehui kexue ban) 复旦学报 (社会科学版) Fudan Journal (Social Sciences) 6: 120-126.Google Scholar
  39. Luo, Jiaming. 罗佳明 (2007). Difang zhengfu ji hangye zhuguan bumen zai shijie yichan guanli zhong de zuoyong bijiao地方政府及行业主管部门在世界遗产管理中的作用比较 (Comparison of the functions of Regional Government and Administrative Department in the Management of World Heritage). Qiu Suo 求索 2: 58–60.Google Scholar
  40. Lv, Shaogang. 吕绍刚 (2009). “She yi ren” qing shenxing “申遗热” 请慎行 (Be cautious of the overheated passion for World Heritage Designation). People’s Daily, Aug. 24.Google Scholar
  41. Malisius, U. (2003). Tourism development with obstacles: the case of Bolivia. Trialog 79: 32–37.Google Scholar
  42. Meskell, L. (1998). Archaeology Under Fire: Nationalism, Politics and Heritage in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, Routledge, New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Mortensen, L. (2009). Copán past and present: Maya archaeological tourism and the Ch‘orti’ in Honduras. In Metz, B. and Mcneil, C. (eds.), The Ch‘orti’ Region, Past and Present. University Press of Florida, Gainesville, pp. 246–257.Google Scholar
  44. Needham, J. (1959). An archaeological study-tour in China, 1958. Antiquity 33: 113–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Nyíri, P. (2011). Scenic Spots: Chinese Tourism, the State, and Cultural Authority, University of Washington Press, Seattle.Google Scholar
  46. Pwiti, G., and Ndoro, W. (1999). The legacy of colonialism: perceptions of the cultural heritage in Southern Africa, with special reference to Zimbabwe. African Archaeological Review 16: 143–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rawski, E. S. (1996). Presidential address: reenvisioning the Qing: the significance of the Qing period in Chinese history. Journal of Asian Studies 55: 829–850.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. SACH (State Administration for Cultural Heritage). (2006). “Shiyiwu” qijian da yizhi baohu zongti guihua “十一五” 期间大遗址保护总体规划 (Master Planning on the Protection of “Great Sites” during the 11th Five-Year Period). Government Document, Beijing (2006) No.43.Google Scholar
  49. SACH (State Administration for Cultural Heritage). (2009). Wenwu baogu jingfei baozhang gaige kaifang 30 nian 文物保护经费保障改革开放30年 (The History of national funding on cultural heritage protection in the last 30 years since the “Reform and Opening”). In SACH (ed.), Zhongguo wenwu shiye gaige kaifang 30 nian中国文物事业改革开放30年 (The History of China’s Cultural Heritage in the Last 30 Years since the “Reform and Opening”), Wenwu Publishing House, Beijing, pp. 45–56.Google Scholar
  50. Shackley, M. (ed.) (2000). Visitor Management: Case Studies from World Heritage Sites, Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford.Google Scholar
  51. Shao, Xiuying. 邵秀英 and Huang, Yongsheng. 黄永胜 (2009). Shenyi hou weihe lvyou shouru hui xiajiang? -- yi wutaishan shenqing shijie wenhua yichan weili申遗后为何旅游收入会下降?——以五台山申请世界文化遗产为例 (Why the tourism revenue has reduced after World Heritage designation? -- A case study of Mount Wutai). Zhongguo jingji zhoukan中国经济周刊 (China Economic Weekly) 33: 34.Google Scholar
  52. Shepherd, R. J., and Yu, L. (2013). Heritage Management, Tourism, and Governance in China: Managing the Past to Serve the Present, Springer, New York.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Shi, Junhui. 石俊会 (2014). “Meiyijian wenwu chutu, dou shi quanqiu shouying” kaogu bu chansheng GDP, queshi yizhong wenhua hanyang “每一件文物出土, 都是全球首映” 考古不产生GDP, 却是一种文化涵养 (“The discovery of each archaeological object is its international debut’ archaeology doesn’t produce GDP but provides cultural connotation”). Xinkuaibao 新快报 (New Express), Sept. 2.Google Scholar
  54. Slick, K. (2002). Archaeology and the tourism train. In Little, B. (ed.), Public Benefits of Archaeology, University of Florida Press, Gainesville, pp. 219–227.Google Scholar
  55. Stark, M. T., and Griffin, B. (2004). Archaeological research and cultural heritage management in Cambodia’s Mekong Delta: the search for the “Cradle of Khmer Civilization.”. In Rowan, Y., and Baram, U. (eds.), Marketing Heritage: Archaeology and Consumption of the Past, Altamira, Lanham, MD, pp. 117–141.Google Scholar
  56. State Council. (2013). Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo wenwu baohu fa (2013 xiudingban) 中华人民共和国文物保护法 (2013 修订版) (the Law on Protection of Cultural Heritage in People’s Republic of China, 2013 revision) [Online]. Available:
  57. Svensson, M. (2006). In the Ancestors’ Shadow: Cultural Heritage Contestations in Chinese Villages, Center for East and Southeast Asian Studies, Lund University, Media-Tryck, Lund, Sweden.Google Scholar
  58. Timothy, D. J., and Boyd, S. W. (2006). World Heritage Sites in the Americas, Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Timothy, D., and Nyaupane, G. P. (eds.) (2009). Cultural Heritage and Tourism in the Developing World: A Regional Perspective, Routledge, New York.Google Scholar
  60. Trigger, B. G. (1984). Alternative archaeologies: nationalist, colonialist, imperialist. Man 19: 355–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. UNESCO. (2008). Site of Southern Yue State [Online].
  62. UNESCO. (2012). Site of Xanadu [Online].
  63. UNESCO. (2013a). Archaeological Sites of the Ancient Shu State: Site at Jinsha and Joint Tombs of Boat- shaped Coffins in Chengdu City, Sichuan Province; Site of Sanxingdui in Guanghan City, Sichuan Province 29C.BC-5C.BC [Online].
  64. UNESCO. (2013b). Western Xia Imperial Tombs [Online].
  65. Walker, C., and Carr, N. (eds.) (2013). Tourism and Archaeology: Sustainable Meeting Grounds, Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, CA.Google Scholar
  66. Wang, X. (2003). China in the eyes of Western travelers, 1860–1900. In Lew, A. A., Yu, L., Ap, J., and Zhang, G. (eds.), Tourism in China, Haworth Hospitality Press, London, pp. 35–51.Google Scholar
  67. Wang, Ziqi. 王子奇 (2012). The present state of the Daming Palace National Heritage Park. In Research Center of International Cultural Resources Kanazawa University. (ed.), Research on Cultural Resources in Kanazawa University Volume 3, Kanazawa University Publishing House, Kanazawa, pp. 62–69.Google Scholar
  68. Willems, W. J. H. (2014). The future of World Heritage and the emergence of transnational heritage regimes. Heritage and Society 7: 105–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Xi’an. (2012). Wangyou pingxuan Xi’an zui buzhidequ shida jingdian da tang furongyuan jushou网友评选西安最不值得去十大景点大唐芙蓉园居首 (As Internet users choose the Top 10 most unworthy tourist spots in Xi’an city, the Tang Paradise ranks first) [Online].
  70. Xiao, Li. 肖莉 (2010). Rang chengshi shouhu lishi, rang lishi shouwang weilai, da yizhi baohu yu kaogu gongyuan jianshe让城市守护历史, 让历史守望未来, 大遗址保护与考古遗址公园建设 (Let the city guard history, and let history guard the future: the protection of Great Sites and the development of archaeological heritage park). Zhongguo wenhua yichan 中国文化遗产 (Chinese Cultural Heritage) 1: 32–47.Google Scholar
  71. Xiao, Yue. 小月 and Chen, Fang. 陈芳 (2003). “Shen yi” bushi lvyou chouma “申遗” 不是旅游筹码 (World Heritage application should not be used as tools for tourism). Dangjian wenhui: Xiabanyue ban党建文汇: 下半月版 (Collected Writing of Party Building: The Second Half Month) 9: 23.Google Scholar
  72. Yang, Hong. 杨洪 (2002). Zhongguo nanbu changcheng — Miaojiang changcheng de lvyou kaifa yu baogu 中国南部长城--苗疆长城的旅游开发与保护 (Tourism development and preservation of “the South Great Wall -- The Miao Frontier Great Wall” in China). Redai dili 热带地理 (Tropical Geography) 22(1): 62–65.Google Scholar
  73. Yang, Shi. 杨仕 and Yue, Nan. 岳南 (2007). Dingling dongkai zhihou de eyun 定陵洞开之后的厄运 (The tragedy after the excavation of Dingling). Wanbao wencui 晚报文萃 11: 40–41.Google Scholar
  74. Zan, L., and Lusiani, M. (2011). Managing Machu Picchu: institutional settings, business model and master plans. Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development 1: 157–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Zhang, Wenju. 张文菊 and Yang, Xiaoxia. 杨晓霞 (2007). Woguo lvyou menpiao yanjiu zongshu我国旅游门票研究综述 (A summary of the study on tourism entrance tickets in China). Renwen dili 人文地理 (Humanity Geography) 2: 58–62.Google Scholar
  76. Zhang, Yinglan. 张颖岚 (2013). Wenhua yichan di guanli duice yanjiu — yi Qin shihuangdi ling weili文化遗产地管理对策研究--以秦始皇帝陵为例 (Research on the Management Strategy of Cultural Heritage sites -- A Case Study of the Tomb Complex of the First Emperor of Qin). Science Press, Beijing.Google Scholar
  77. Zhang, H. Q., Chong, K., and Ap, J. (1999). An analysis of tourism policy development in modern China. Tourism Management 20: 471–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Zhang, G., Pine, R., and Zhang, H. Q. (2000). China’s international tourism development: present and future. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management 12: 282–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Zhao, Yingmei. 赵英梅 (2011). Kaogu lvyou jingqu kafazhong de liyi xiangguanfang chongtu guanli考古旅游景区开发中的利益相关方冲突管理 (The Conflict Management of Stakeholders in the Tourism Development of Archaeological Sites). Master’s thesis, Shandong University, Jinan.Google Scholar
  80. Zheng, X. (2011). Rural tourism in Lijiang, China, and its impact upon the local minority communities. Journal of Tourism Challenges and Trends 4: 169–185.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Prehistory, Ancient History and ArchaeologyUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

Personalised recommendations