Edited world heritage: a study on the role of television representation in the communication of a world heritage site in China

Wang, Qing (2022). Edited world heritage: a study on the role of television representation in the communication of a world heritage site in China. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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The study addresses the mediation, through television, of a World Heritage Site: the Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu, China. Previous studies have indicated that the exposure of heritage sites through both factual and fictional film and television programmes has resulted in an increase in the number of visitors, along with challenges for the management of these sites. The majority of studies have focused upon ‘over-tourism’ and the issues generated by the wide exposure of the heritage sites through film, within a framework of neo-liberal production and popular consumption. However, few studies, particularly in a Chinese context, have looked at the implications of representation for the heritage sites themselves, their management and the values and meanings they have for their wider communities. Moreover, there has been little emphasis on the way that World Heritage Sites are communicated through visual media, though there appears to be a common assumption that somehow their UNESCO designated status changes and privileges the ways in which they are represented.
In China, despite recent, rapid technological changes, television remains an important medium, both in terms of entertainment and education. This, together with the fact that the World Heritage Site of Qufu, because of its connections with Confucius, has a powerful resonance in Chinese culture, makes it an interesting case to explore in relation to how its meanings are communicated to a wider public in China and beyond. This brings into focus the relationships between media production and heritage and the issues surrounding the ways that heritage sites are portrayed.
In this thesis I examine the factual and fictional television programmes that have featured the World Heritage Site of Qufu. This involved de-constructing the visual imagery and the narratives of the programmes to identify their key messages and the selective production choices that they embody; choices that largely lie outside the managers of the site. Understanding the processes and motivations behind these programmes allowed me to understand the disconnection that exists between an ‘official’, authorised representation of Qufu and the daily realities of its management as a heritage site with links to the local community.
Through interviews with key stakeholders engaged with site management, in addition to those engaged in the portrayal of Qufu through the medium of television, I explore how the media is bypassing the meanings of the place as a heritage site, along with the complexities of its conservation, visitor management and community engagement, in favour of an essentially historical narrative focusing mainly on the symbolism of Confucius. My findings highlight a rupture in the understandings between heritage and the media and raise questions regarding how these relationships are, and can be, shaped. In the case of Qufu, as with other World Heritage Sites, the power of the media is recognised but does yet appear to be effectively managed for mutual benefit. My work reveals limited media management on the part of the heritage site, partially as a function of the system of governance that shapes heritage-media relations. Particularly with the advent of social media and the co-production power of locals and visitors to represent heritage/World Heritage Sites, it is important to understand the evolving issue of media management and how this can be practised within different systems of governance.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage (IIICH)
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/12790


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