Imagine the Old Town of Lijiang: Contextualising community participation for urban heritage management in China

Ji Li (Corresponding author), Sukanya Krishnamurthy, Ana Pereira Roders, Pieter J.V. van Wesemael

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The UNESCO 2011 Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) states community participation is a pivotal tool for integrating heritage practices into sustainable urban development. While community participation is significant but limited in China, various participatory methods have been developed, tested and evaluated worldwide. For example, inspired by HUL, the Ballarat Imagine in Australia has successfully used public engagement in the development of a community vision for local conservation and development. This paper aims to contextualise community participation in China, by testing and adapting a community participatory method, the (Ballarat) Imagine. Imagine was tested in the Old Town of Lijiang as an academic scoping exercise, to critically examine its viability and potential for contextualisation to the Chinese context. During the fieldwork, three workshops were organised with residents in Dayan, Shuhe and Baisha, which are the three housing clusters constituting the World Heritage property. In the workshops, residents responded to three sets of questions focussing on their feelings about local historic urban landscape as well as their ideas about future public engagement in local heritage management. This paper discusses the contextualised approach of community participation tailored to the management of the Old Town of Lijiang, and also China as a whole, seeking to find a balance between top-down and bottom-up processes. This academic exercise confirmed that the community participatory method, the Imagine, can be further adapted to the Chinese context. Further research could test it in other cities, to better face the challenges of rapid urbanisation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102321
Number of pages11
JournalHabitat International
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


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