You are kindly invited to this lecture by Zhejiang University PhD student, Qingkai Ma.

Abstract: This lecture explores the indigenous discourse and practice of cultural heritage in cultural heritage sites related to Mencius (372 B.C.-289 B.C.) in Zoucheng, Shandong Province in northern China. Mencius was regarded as the “other sage” in pre-modern China, second only to Confucius (551 B.C.-479 B.C.). Mencius saved Confucianism from decline and developed it during the Warring States Period (475 B.C.-221 B.C.) for which he was honoured by the successive dynasties since the Song Dynasty (960 A.D.-1279 A.D.). The Temple of Mencius was constructed in the era of Northern Song Dynasty (960 A.D.-1127 A.D.). Mencius’ direct descendants were granted titles by emperors from the Ming Dynasty (1368 A.D.-1644 A.D.) until the first half of the 20th century. The Temple of Mencius, the Mencius Family Mansion where the direct descendants lived, and the cemetery of Mencius and his descendants are all in Zoucheng city in Northern China. The direct descendants of the Meng lineage, like that of the Kong lineage, took the responsibility for conserving and managing the heritage sites for hundreds of years. Through interpreting the local gazetteers, the archival records of this family lineage and the ethnographic data, this study sheds light on the indigenous discourse of heritage and ways of practicing heritage in this family lineage before the 1950s. Confucian scholars did not regard cultural heritage as having innate value. Cultural heritage sites were valued for their contribution to the edification of people rather than for their fabric. To achieve this goal, the dilapidated cultural heritage sites were constantly restored and rebuilt. I also investigate how this tradition has been transformed. All these sites were put under the management of heritage agencies in the 1950s. Influenced by what is termed ‘Authorized Heritage Discourse’ (Smith, 2006), an overemphasis is given to the materiality of these sites rather than their cultural meanings, leading to the evacuation of cultural meaning from this place (Herzfeld, 2006). This study aims to diversify the discourses of heritage and reactivate the tradition of using heritage for cultural transmission.

Qingkai Ma is a PhD candidate from Zhejiang University, China. His research interests include critical discourse studies and critical heritage studies. He is particularly interested in the diversification of conceptualizations and practices of cultural heritage. He has participated in two heritage projects. One was in Zoucheng, Shandong province where Mencius (372 B.C. -289 B.C.) was born, aiming to narrate meanings of the old town of this city. Another was conducted in Hangzhou, studying the boat people on the Grand Canal of China, which was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2014. In these projects, he strives to critique the mainstream material-centric discourse of cultural heritage and give voice to the marginalized communities in heritage conservation. He uses ethnographic data and historical records to demonstrate cultural meanings of these heritage sites, which are often regarded as supplementary in institutionalized heritage practice in China. He has published in a few Chinese academic journals and English journals, including International Journal of Heritage Studies, Discourse & Communication.