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Scenic Spots

Chinese Tourism, the State, and Cultural Authority

Twenty years ago, commercial tourism in the People’s Republic of China hardly existed. Today, China has a burgeoning tourist industry, characterized by a unique style with deep roots in traditional Chinese culture. Scenic Spots is an engaging exploration of why Chinese tourists pursue certain kinds of experiences, what they make of them, and how their experiences and interpretations are shaped by the state.

Working from within a Chinese cultural framework, Pál Nyíri argues that China’s brand of tourism is distinct from the traditions of both Western bourgeois tourism, which values authenticity, and Soviet tourism, with its emphasis on rugged and selfless experience. In China, tourism development is guided by the state, and “scenic spots” (jingdian) and theme parks are used to demonstrate China’s heroic past and as tools of patriotic education and modernization – or as forms of “indoctritainment.” The tourist site is perceived as a product, and, as such, it is bounded, approved, rated, and consumed.

In a style both straightforward and provocative, Nyíri argues that the uniformity and undisguised commercialism of Chinese tourist sites are a direct result of the state’s ultimate authority to determine the meaning of landscape and to control culture. Scenic Spots serves as a lens through which to explore mechanisms of cultural control and resistance in a highly commercialized sphere of everyday life in contemporary China.

About the Author

Pal Nyiri is director of the Program in Applied Anthropology at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.


"In Scenic Spots, Pál Nyirí provides a highly readable overview of the emergence of commercial tourism in China's reform era. . . . I would certainly recommend Scenic Spots as an introduction to contemporary tourism in China. It also points the way for future research on Chinese tourism at home and abroad."—Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Scenic Spots is a fascinating and cogently written short introductory book on Chinese tourism that brings up many questions for further study. . . . a timely book."—Canadian Journal of History

"This book is a welcome and timely analysis of the shape tourism has taken on in China.. the book comprehensively illuminates the state's various roles on a local level, and the provided comparison with tourism in different nation-states is a useful contribution to comparative studies of the development of nation-states."—China Quarterly

"A timely analysis of the significant increase in domestic tourism in China over the past decade and the role this plays in an ongoing state project of nation building and modernization. [A]n excellent introduction to an exciting field of study, organized and written in a way that makes the information accessible to nonspecialists and appropriate to undergraduate courses in contemporary China as well as to tourism studies."—American Anthropologist

"A useful insight into the complexities of the sociopolitical quagmire that is global tourism and a useful addition to the canon on tourists and tourism. Anthropologists cannot ignore tourism, and those not familiar with this particular intellectual terrain will find this book a useful introduction."—American Ethnologist

"Nyiri has undertaken a valuable comparison of Chinese with overseas tourism. He provides a useful methodology for the understanding of Chinese tourism today."—The China Journal

"Nyiri examines the growth of domestic tourism, the state's cafeful stewardship, and the cultural implications of the places that Chinese tourists are most willing to visit.. Scenic Spots.. provides a culturally informed look into an ever-growing industry in China."—Asian Affairs


"Scenic Spots offers an elegant combination of theory and data on an increasingly important topic. It makes useful comparisons (like to Russia) that probably no one else in the field could do, and it is presented in a way that makes it plausible for undergraduate use."—Robert P. Weller, Boston University

"Scenic Spots will be of great interest in tourism studies, the China field more generally, and to non—China specialists with interests in cross—cultural perspectives on tourism, the cultural economy, and even landscape studies. It will be central to a nexus of topics currently being taught."—Tim Oakes, University of Colorado at Boulder

9780295985886 : scenic-spots-nyiri
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Paperback / softback
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