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The Shaping of “New Gentry” Discourse in the Context of China’s Rural Revitalisation and Heritage Conservation Strategy

Ruyu Tao, Pinyu Chen and Nobuo Aoki
p. 45-55

Abstract

The Chinese government now considers the conservation and reuse of cultural heritage important in revitalising the countryside and narrowing the gap between urban and rural development. We highlight the development of a “new gentry” concept, arguing that in this process the government has appropriated and transformed the concept of “gentry” from the traditional Chinese farming society of the imperial period. Heritage conservation allows the new gentry group to act as official agents to reinforce grassroots management and establish an elitist and capital-oriented authorised heritage discourse while erasing the class narrative. We propose that this is not equivalent to a general “gentrification” process, but is a policy tacitly supported by officials with a clear agenda.

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Editor’s notes

Manuscript received on 2 February 2022. Accepted on 21 September 2023.

Excerpt

Full text document will be published online on June 2025.

Outline

Introduction
Literature review
Research context and method
The shape of new gentry discourse
Revitalise the countryside: The introduction of a modern gentry-oriented system
Revival of traditional culture in the authorised harmony heritage discourse
Xixinan Village: A case study
Implementation of the new gentry notion in Xixinan
Rooted in the countryside: The responsibility of creating a harmonious society
Discussion: Beyond the official narrative
Conclusion

First lines

Introduction

Rural revitalisationhas been formulated as a national strategy in China in recent years,and underextensive experimental discussion aims to achieve balanced development between rural areas and cities in the context of rapid urbanisation and continuous decline of rural areas.

The redevelopment or reuse of cultural heritage sites in rural areas has become a potentially viable strategy for rural revitalisation lately, and is consistent with UNESCO’s principles for the sustainable development of cultural heritage. With the redevelopment of cultural heritage and revitalisation of traditional culture, professional and official voices in China have increasingly reintroduced the concept of a particular group, “gentry” (xiangshen 鄉紳or xiangxian 鄉賢),in anticipation of its role in rural development, tracing back to the imperial period (Wittfogel 1955: 404-5; Zhang Z. 1955; Watson 1982). The rationale for this concept stems from the significant role of local gentry groups and elites ...

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References

Bibliographical reference

Ruyu Tao, Pinyu Chen and Nobuo Aoki, The Shaping of “New Gentry” Discourse in the Context of China’s Rural Revitalisation and Heritage Conservation StrategyChina Perspectives, 137 | 2024, 45-55.

Electronic reference

Ruyu Tao, Pinyu Chen and Nobuo Aoki, The Shaping of “New Gentry” Discourse in the Context of China’s Rural Revitalisation and Heritage Conservation StrategyChina Perspectives [Online], 137 | 2024, Online since 01 June 2025, connection on 21 July 2024. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/chinaperspectives/16817; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/11y7l

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About the authors

Ruyu Tao

Ruyu Tao is a PhD candidate at both City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, and Tianjin University, No. 92 Weijin Road, Nankai District, Tianjin, 300072, China (taoruyu1@gmail.com).

Pinyu Chen

Pinyu Chen is Lecturer and Outstanding Young Scholar in the School of Social Science at Soochow University, No. 199 Ren’ai Road, Suzhou Industrial Park, Suzhou, Jiangsu, 215123, China (pychen66@suda.edu.cn).

Nobuo Aoki

Nobuo Aoki is Professor at the School of Architecture at Tianjin University, No. 92 Weijin Road, Nankai District, Tianjin, 300072, China (nobuoak@gmail.com).

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Copyright

The text and other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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