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The Chinese Grand Canal World Heritage Site: living heritage in the 21st century?

Tang, Jie (2018) The Chinese Grand Canal World Heritage Site: living heritage in the 21st century? PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

The Chinese Grand Canal, contrived in the late thirteenth century to provide a safe route to the capital Beijing from the south of China for the imperial grain tribute, during the sixteenth century became the main trade artery. This canal consisted of a linear network of linked rivers and lakes, often improved to enable barges to pass and interconnected with sections of canals. In order to pass the undulating topography the watercourses were adapted with sluices of various kinds, and over its existence the main challenge was to negotiate droughts and flooding that often required new courses to be adopted and/or innovative methods in order to preserve water or circumnavigate flood damaged areas. During the twentieth century it had gradually fallen in disuse and became neglected. Yet during the Mao era sections were revived for shipping coal and were re-made sometimes on the course of the old canal, sometimes elsewhere. Other sections were removed and materials quarried for other uses. Remarkably at the same time the concept of the Grand Canal was also celebrated. By the time the Canal was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Register in June 2014 there was little left of the historic fabric. In the years running up to this nomination there had been efforts to re-create some of the heritage, with the government focussing on the canal as a tourist destination. When it was finally inscribed the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) expressed concerns about the state of the original fabric and the ‘modern’ heritage created. However, the state government still holds a rose-tinted view of the various issues relating to the condition of the canal, and the propaganda and economic initiatives by the government have made it very difficult to voice criticisms. As a result canal heritage continues to be treated inappropriately with little respect for the final fragments of original fabric that still survive. This thesis aims to identify the values of the Grand Canal through a critical assessment of its historical development, and surveys the various issues relating to the heritage using the Shandong section as a case study and then explores the appropriateness and effectiveness of the current methodologies and approaches, as to whether the canal meets the criteria as a World Heritage Site; whether perhaps other designations would be more suitable; and that perhaps the canal heritage should form the basis for an alternative development methodology, addressing a new agenda regarding sustainability, climate change and mounting health problems.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Landscape (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.752597
Depositing User: MS Jie Tang
Date Deposited: 20 Aug 2018 10:05
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2018 09:55
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/20989

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