How does Modern China Remember its Past? The Remote and the Recent

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

China’s emerging status as a global power cannot be understood without a deep comprehension of how its past shapes Chinese visions of national identity. In addition to its rich cultural heritage in the Imperial period, the major historical events that have influenced the country through the last 120 years, such as the second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45), the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) and the Economic Reform (1978–), have played crucial roles in determining the nation’s governance and diplomatic relations. This talk will focus on Chinese heritage practices and national attitudes towards China’s remote and recent past. What kinds of pasts are selected and interpreted for public discourse and display? How and why does the state turn historic events into ‘sites of memory’ for commemoration? Which kinds of local memories are edited or omitted and how might they differ from the official version of history? A close investigation of these questions will help us understand the mechanisms involved in commemorating the past – heritage, museums, memorials – and how they become the foundation of modern China as it shapes its identity in national, regional and global issues.

Dr Yujie Zhu is a Lecturer at the Centre for Heritage and Museum Studies, the Australian National University. For the past 10 years, he has been researching issues of the politics of cultural heritage, social memory, and cultural tourism. He is the author of Heritage and Romantic Consumption in China (2018), the co-author of Heritage Politics in China(Routledge forthcoming), and the co-editor of Politics of Scale (2018) and Sustainable Tourism Management at World Heritage Sites (2009). He has also published more than thirty articles that appeared in leading anthropology, tourism, and heritage journals, including American Anthropologist, Annals of Tourism Research, and International Journal of Heritage Studies. In addition, Yujie is the vice president of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies and the vice chair of the IUAES Commission on the Anthropology of Tourism.