Conservation and Exploitation: Governance and Sustainability Issues: The Case of Lijiang

  • Luca ZanEmail author
  • Tao Wang
Part of the Creativity, Heritage and the City book series (CHC, volume 2)


This chapter focuses on Lijiang City, China, one of the most controversial heritage sites in China. This site suffers from an excess of mass tourism, where economic exploitation seriously undermines the conservation of the site. The difficulties in dealing with tangible and intangible aspects are investigated while also addressing the issue of institutional fragmentation. Indeed, the site is composed of three different villages, with no coordination among them. Focusing on the major two (Dayan and Shuhe), a tension between conservation and exploitation emerges, with an interesting articulation of the notion of conservation. Neither site is able to find an ideal balance between conservation of the material aspect (tangible) and the social fabric of local population (and the Naxi minority in particular). Attempts to achieve this balance have led to diverging approaches and results; one site protects the artifact but feigns the social fabric, while the other has created a new area in the village to deflect visitor attention, protecting the old town and its social and agricultural activity.


Management Institutional fragmentation Preservation and exploitation Mass tourism Over-commodification Trade-off 


  1. Bandarin, F., & van Oers, R. (Eds.). (2014). Reconnecting the City: The Historic Urban Landscape Approach and the Future of Urban Heritage. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  2. Caddison, A. C. (2007). Disappearing world. London: Collins.Google Scholar
  3. du Cros, H. (2006). Managing visitor impacts at Lijiang, China. In A. Leask & A. Fyall (Eds.), Managing world heritage sites. Butterworth-Heinemann.Google Scholar
  4. Guo, Y., Zan, L., & Liu, S. (2008). The management of cultural heritage in China. General trends and a micro-focus on the Luoyang municipality. Egea, Milano (available as print-on-demand at
  5. McKann, C. F. (2001). The good, the bad and the ugly: observations and reflections on tourism development in Lijiang, China. In C. B. Tan, C. H. Cheung, & H. Yang (Eds.), Tourism, anthology and China. Bangkok: White Lotus Press.Google Scholar
  6. Smith, J. (2010). Marrying the old with the new historic urban landscape. In R. van Oers, S. Haraguchi (Eds.) Managing historic cities, World heritage papers # 27.Google Scholar
  7. Unesco. (2007). Decision 32COM 7B.67 – Old Town of Lijiang (China) (C 811).
  8. Unesco. (2008) MISSION REPORT Old Town of Lijiang (China) (811), 10–19 January, WHC-07/31.COM/7B.Google Scholar
  9. Van Oers, R. (2010). Managing cities and the historic urban landscape initiative – An introduction. In R. van Oers, & S. Haraguchi (Eds.). Managing historic cities (World heritage papers, 27). Paris: UNESCO World Heritage Centre.Google Scholar
  10. Wang, Y. (2007). Customized authenticity begins at home. Annals of Tourism Research, 34(3), 789–804.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Wang, T., & Zan, L. (2011). Management and presentation of Chinese sites for Unesco World Heritage List. Facilities, 29(7/8), 313–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Yamamura, T. (2004). Authenticity, ethnicity and social transformation at World Heritage Sites: Tourism, retailing and cultural change in Lijiang, China. In D. Hall (Ed.), Tourism and transition, governance, transformation and development. Oxford: CABI Pub.Google Scholar
  13. Zan, L. (2011). Preservation and exploitation. Lijiang old town, China.
  14. Zan, L. (2014a). Cultural heritage in China between policies, development, professional discourse and the issue of managing. Public Archaeology Journal, 13(1–3), 99–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Zan, L. (2014b). New approaches to heritage administration in China. In C. Smith (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of global archaeology: Cultural heritage management section. New York: Springer.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ManagementUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly
  2. 2.Pritzker Chair of Asian ArtArt Institute of ChicagoChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations