Cultural identity of ancient town endangered by tourism
Updated: 2014-11-05 16:36
Cultural heritages of the ancient town Pingyao in Shanxi province is under threat due to the rapid development of tourism.[Photo by Jiangdong/Asianewsphoto]
The local customs and cultural heritage of the ancient town of Pingyao in Shanxi province is under threat due to the rapid development of tourism.
In the 17 years since the 2,700-year-old town was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List, it has seen tourism develop at a meteoric pace, with its tourism revenue growing from 12.5 million yuan (2.04 million U.S. dollars) in 1997 to 5.416 billion yuan in 2013.
Business opportunities afforded by the blossoming of tourism has resulted in the transformation of traditional dwellings along the town's main drag into hostels, souvenir shops, eateries and bars.
Many tourists complain that the ancient town is losing its serenity and unique style.
Zhang Peng, an associate professor of architecture with Tongji University in Shanghai, said the future of a heritage site should be based on the collective willingness of all interest groups. However, in Pingyao, local residents often feel disenfranchised.
Every ancient town should find a development pattern that is in accordance with its own characteristics, and the local governments should control commercial activities deemed to be against the traditional characteristic of the town, he said.
Hou Shijun, head of the tourism bureau of Pingyao County, said: "Some businesses may indeed damage the traditional cultural heritage. The government is currently working on the issue of market access, and we should not allow the ancient town to become a cultural hodgepodge."
Unreasonable demographic structure is also a threat to the cultural heritage of Pingyao.
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