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This article explores social processes contributing to the reinvention of tourist destinations using ethnographic data collected at the case study site in Lashi Hai, a rural area in north-west Yunnan, China. Rather than reducing the reinvention process to marketing strategies or official development plans, the article shows that it may in fact reflect deeper social tendencies and is not only limited to the changing demands of visitors. Representing “local” identity, the reinvention of touristic places also becomes subject to negotiation among resident populations, contesting the values and symbolic statements applied to represent their “own” culture. It will be demonstrated that there are various important players involved in this process of reinvention, ranging from a strong central government, official development agencies and private investors to local cooperatives and finally individual residents – all with a stake in shaping and creating what is perceived as the “local” identity and culture.

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  • 1 Quotation marks are used here, as “they” – the local residents – of course do not really represent (...)

1Touristic places are constantly being reinvented by various actors connected to the highly complex industry that is tourism (Low, 2000). In this article, I argue that these processes of reinvention cannot be reduced to a simple adaptation of marketing strategies by tourism agencies or a new arrangement of the physical environment by official actors. Rather, I suggest considering such reinvention as a process of contestation and negotiation between a wide range of actors with different interests, hopes and wishes regarding the future touristic development of the destination in question (Cartier, 2005, p. 4). Besides the many official and public agents involved, local residents are very much concerned by the outcomes of such processes and thus have an important stake as well. Not only are their business and daily life often dependent on tourism-related activities, but the place that is sold as the touristic product serves as a stage on which to present “their” local identity and culture (MacCannell, 1973).1 So, when tourist places are being reinvented, representations of “local” culture and identity are reinvented at the same time (Adams, 2004). This paper will explore this process of reinvention, which reflects profound social issues related to changing values, new perspectives, ideas and desires regarding an “own” identity among the local population as well as with the visitors (Notar, 2006, p. 4; Kobi, 2016, pp. 6, 10).

I. Methodology

  • 2 Lashi Hai: 拉市海
  • 3 Quotation marks are used here as cultures and identities are not considered to be bound to physical (...)

2In this article, I refer to research conducted in the course of working on my PhD dissertation in Lashi Hai, north-west Yunnan.2 The data presented was collected during several periods of ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2016 and 2018. Participant observation was used as the main methodological approach, allowing me to examine “what people do as well as what they say. It thus enables an insightful examination of any discrepancies between thoughts and deeds” (Herbert, 2000, p. 552, emphasis original). When it comes to place-making and the question of how local identity and culture should be represented, it is clear that related social processes result in the material as well as the social construction of a place (Low, 2009). Methodologically, my research has aimed at understanding both aspects – material productions as well as social constructions of places. Therefore, on the one hand it analyses social processes that result in the physical arrangement of place (Low, 2000). For this purpose, semi-structured and open key informant interviews as well as participant observation were conducted, with a focus on the material aspects of the place (cf. Kusenbach, 2003). On the other hand, to investigate processes involved in the social construction of place, I focused on the practices of individuals, as well as narratives, memories and stories that contribute to creating a shared sense of place (Feld and Basso, 1996). As identity is best observed when being performed by individuals (Holland et al., 2001, pp. 4-7), this research mainly considers ethnographies of the particular (Abu-Lughod, 2008, p. 58) – thus the ways in which people present, enact and talk about their ethnic or “local” identity and culture (Okamura, 1981).3 In this sense, place is not conceived as having one single, coherent identity, but rather it is processual and situational as well: “what gives a place its specificity is not some long internalized history but the fact that it is constructed out of a particular constellation of social relations, meeting and weaving together at a particular locus […] instead then, of thinking places as areas with boundaries around, they can be imagined as articulated moments in networks of social relations and understandings”. (Massey, 1994, p. 262)

3This article examines the reinvention of the local place as a tourist destination as part of a continuous place-making process. In order to understand the particular moment of intersection in “the network of social relations and understandings” (Massey, 1994, p. 262), socio-economic as well as political and historical circumstances are taken into account too, and are briefly described in the next section. Furthermore, my own long-term engagement and personal relations with residents of Lashi Hai’s villages have permitted me to gain a deep insight to their everyday lives. This has facilitated a better understanding of certain social processes related to place-making and the reinvention of the local place as presented below (cf. Herbert, 2000).

II. Case Study: Lashi Hai in North-West Yunnan

  • 4 Jade Dragon Snow Mountain: Yulong Xueshan, 玉龙雪山
  • 5 Lijiang Old Town, Lijiang Gucheng, 丽江古城

4Lashi Hai is a wetland area situated around a lake and including several villages. It is located at the foot of forest-covered hills leading up to the snow-capped peaks of the well-known Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.4 With its high altitude, being on an offshoot of the Himalaya, the region enjoys a mild and pleasant climate throughout the year – one of many reasons it attracts huge numbers of domestic tourists. The most important draw for tourists to Lashi Hai, however, is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lijiang Old Town,5 only a half-hour drive away. Lijiang is one of China’s most popular tourist destinations and visitor numbers have exploded since it received heritage status in 1997. Yet, at the same time, Lijiang is frequently named as an example when it comes to demonstrating the negative effects of tourism and is often criticised for being inauthentic, like a theme park and completely overcrowded – especially in Western travel literature as well as guide books and reports (McKhann, 2001; Su, 2011). In order to deal with the huge quantities of visitors thronging the narrow streets of the old town, the local government decided to develop alternative offers of tourist activities in the surroundings of Lijiang. Today the entire plateau, including neighbouring villages as well as various parts of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain range, are accessible to tourists; there are cable cars leading up into the mountains and organised bus tours to visit the villages and other scenic spots nearby.

5One of the options is a day trip to Lashi Hai, my case study site. A visit to Lashi Hai is either part of a pre-booked package with a tour group, or it is arranged via your guesthouse owner or through one of the countless travel agents located in the old town. A typical trip includes transport, conveniently collecting the guest at their hotel in the old town and taking them to one of the innumerable reception centres in Lashi Hai. Once there, the usual activity consists of a horseback jaunt into the hills behind the villages, from where you can glimpse scenic views over the wetlands and lake. The horse ride is followed by a meal of typical local hotpot, some tea and, for those who wish, a boat trip on the lake. Recently, the reception centres in the villages have become more creative in order to satisfy tourists’ needs, often building parks and leisure areas on the shore where visitors can relax and take pictures.

III. Ethnic Minorities in Lashi Hai

  • 6 The campaign ‘to Open up the West’: Xibu Da Kaifa, 西部大开发

6Lashi Hai is home to several of China’s officially classified ethnic minority groups, most importantly there are Naxi and Yi people residing in the area. These groups were classified by the Chinese Communist Party as part of a huge undertaking with the aim of determining the different groups within the country, in order to have a representative of each group in the first convention of the National People’s Congress (Mullaney, 2011). The project was finalised in 1954; today, those categories are fixed and printed on identity cards and so have become an integral part of people’s lives (Yeh, 2013, p. 41). One’s ethnic status can be beneficial apropos measures introduced by the central government so as to foster education and economic development in ethnic minority regions (Chio, 2014, p. 33). Among other things, this includes regulations granting easier access for ethnic minority youth to higher education and positions in the public sector. As the country’s economic boom following the economic reforms in 1979 initially affected urban centres along China’s east coast, for a long time provinces like Yunnan, Sichuan or Guangxi in the west did not profit much from the economic development. Those provinces are also home to many different ethnic minority groups. Hence, in order to increase living standards as well as the diversity of economic activities in these regions, the central government introduced a campaign to ‘Open up the West’, which started around the turn of the millennium (Kobi, 2016, p. 34; Harwood, 2013, p. 25).6 Most importantly, this included immense infrastructure projects, in order to connect them to electricity, drinking water and mobility networks. Roads, railways and airports were built with incredible speed, aiming to integrate remote areas within the country’s economic system (Chio, 2014; Goodman, 2004).

7An important aspect of fostering economic development in these areas is the introduction of tourism (Oakes, 1998; Schein, 2000). In Yunnan, in the beginning there were mainly Western tourists, fascinated by the colourful ethnic minority populations and the stunning landscapes, which range from exotic rainforests in the south to rough mountain peaks in the northwest (Notar, 2006, p. 26). Within Chinese society, though, rather negative stigmas have long existed about these borderland regions and their peoples. The locals were seen as barbarian, wild and backward, lacking culture, dirty, some of them even dangerous (Harrell, 1995; Chao, 2012). During the Cultural Revolution most practices related to ethnic cultures – festivals, religious activities, rituals, songs, dances and so on – were prohibited and severely persecuted (Mueggler, 2001; Byrne, 2014). The arrival of tourism led to a definite shift in the government’s attitude towards minority groups. Oakes speaks of the ‘Cultural Turn’ in Chinese policy-making, describing the moment when the potential of cultural elements in the touristic sector, but also as a soft power instrument, was recognised (Oakes, 1998, pp. 58-62).

8Since around the turn of the millennium, folkloristic images of ethnic minority cultures have been pushed hard in the tourism market as well as in national television productions, official shows and the music business (Chio, 2014; Davis, 2005; Harrell, 1995; Notar, 2006; Oakes, 1997; Swain, 2005). So, next to the negative stereotype of backwardness and poverty, another image evolved for ethnic minority people: They are happy, friendly, hospitable, honest folk, living in harmony with each other and with nature. If one believes the countless adverts for ethnic tourism destinations, people in these places are always wearing colourful costumes, dancing and singing in their fields among the blooming flowers. Yet, as Bruner states: “Narratives are not only structures of meaning but structures of power” (Bruner, 2004, p. 21). Considering that this picture is part of a state-led discourse, it tends to reduce entire population groups to folkloristic elements, paired with a sense of the infantile, implying a lack of responsibility and an inability to care and speak for themselves (Harrell, 1995; Coggins and Yeh, 2014; Vasantkumar, 2014).

9Concern over borderland regions inhabited by ethnic minority groups has troubled many emperors who have ruled over the territory (or parts thereof) comprising today’s China (Chio, 2014, p. 25; Harrell, 2012, p. 36). The Communist Party has a strong interest in firmly controlling such areas as well, as these regions are rich in natural resources and key water lines – the Mekong, Yangtze and Salween rivers for example (Davis, 2005, p. 171 citing Mao Tse-tung). Most recently, ethnic minorities and the natural landscapes themselves have turned out to be valuable attractions in the tourism market. At the same time, tourism serves as legitimation for the central government to build roads and railways, going hand in hand with the consolidation of power and control (Swain, 1989; Oakes, 1993; Davis, 2005). With this ‘gift of development’, the government further intends to increase a sense of gratitude among the population (Yeh, 2013). The touristic image, moreover, is used as a soft power instrument to strengthen nation-building and illustrate the idea of a harmonious multinational Chinese state (Chio, 2014, pp. 88-91; Silverman and Blumenfield, 2013, p. 4).

IV. Tourism in Lashi Hai

10In contrast to many other tourist destinations in China, in Lashi Hai tourism has not been officially introduced and implemented by a development company. Quite a common strategy is to ‘open up’ a place for tourism, usually using an official development company which establishes a touristic concept for the place, including branding, naming, planning and constructing infrastructure such as roads, car parks, gates, ticket booths and fences (Nyíri, 2006, p. 49ff). Unfortunately, this has a side-effect that in the end many places look quite similar to each other, as the same rentable concepts are applied to many different places (Davis, 2005, p. 40; Nyíri, 2006, p. 18). So far, in Lashi Hai no such universal concept has been implemented – yet it is probably on the edge of becoming part of a larger touristic development project too. During my fieldwork, I was able to observe the processes of reinventing territories in different ways and by different actors. In order to offer a better understanding of the current situation, I will describe below how the place has been reinvented in the past and how tourism development has found its way to the remote villages of Lashi Hai.

  • 7 Interview with a horse guide in Junliang Village, 2 May 2017.

11Many of my informants, who in this case were usually middle-aged men working at the reception centres, either as horse guides or in administrative positions, remember how tourism got going in Lashi Hai: “There was a person who had two horses, and he let them graze on the shore of the lake because there was a lot of grass. Whenever the tourists saw this, they would ask if they could ride the horses and take pictures. The horse owner then started requesting money; if they went a bit further, he would ask for a little more. In the very beginning, it was like that.”7

  • 8 Interview with a horse guide in Junliang Village, 2 May 2017.

12Some people I talked to recalled how at first tourists would just stop off on their way to Lijiang (the main road passes along the western shore of Lash Hai) in order to take pictures and look at the villages. Some of them would ask residents if they could ride the horses grazing in the fields. Slowly the horse-riding business evolved. Villages started to organise themselves into cooperatives, where each family willing to participate bought two or three horses. Decisions were taken together, profits shared equally among the members. The horse guide cited above recounted further: “When we were just starting out, we all discussed everything together – about which other families could join, where to rent land, how much money each family had to invest, how many horses each household should buy. We shared the work and the profits”.8

  • 9 Interview with the founder of one of Lashi Hai’s first horse-riding places in Junliang Village, 26 (...)

13Visitor numbers began to explode, private horse-riding centres were established, prices dropped and tour buses could suddenly be observed blocking the narrow roads that connect the villages around the lake. The atmosphere between different horse-riding outfits became tense, as they were stealing each other’s ideas and customers. This is how the area gained a reputation as chaotic, even dangerous – reinforcing the negative stereotypes about ethnic minorities mentioned above. Yet many people still visit Lashi Hai, as it remains one of the cheaper options near Lijiang, and so it often attracts younger visitors with a tighter budget. Today, though, horse riding is a mass product: Group after group is taken a little way up into the hills to visit one of the “scenic spots” (Nyíri, 2006). My informants explained that, previously, visitors would spend the entire day with them. They would cook on an open fire somewhere high in the mountains, tell them stories about their life and culture, and even welcome them into their homes afterwards for a cup of tea. Both host and guest were satisfied, and the guides would receive a good fee with generous tips for their services.9 But they say that tourists now are stingy, they do not value the local services so much and they never have enough time. With their tour buses, they are always rushing from one place to another so that nobody is interested in hearing their stories anymore.

V. Reinventing Representations of the “Local”: Roses and Plastic

14During my field visits I also conducted interviews with tourists. Usually, I only got to ask a set of short, standard questions, to which I generally received rather short, standard answers. It was true that most of the people I met were in something of a hurry – busy enjoying themselves. Regarding my question about whether they were interested in the local culture – to my surprise – most replied that they were not. Rather, they enjoyed the beautiful natural landscapes and the fresh air. All they really wanted was to relax a bit, enjoy themselves and – very importantly – take a lot of pictures.

15This changing attitude among their clientele has been recognised by the local tourism operators and external investment companies as well. The process of reinventing a local destination and adapting it to the changing needs of tourists has, in Lashi Hai, led to a drastic severing from the traditional touristic imaginary of the typical local place. Rather than representing folkloristic ethnic minority culture and archetypes of rural landscapes, there are new sorts of place evolving in Lashi Hai: Agricultural fields have been turned into a “Rose Manor” and huge colourful plastic sculptures have been positioned among the flowers (see document 1). Here, wooden bridges and walkways lead from one platform to another, from where one gets splendid views over the sculptures and the sea of roses. There are plentiful pavilions and benches for the visitors to rest, as well as tea rooms and snack stalls, even massage chairs with a nice outlook. One can further find “styling corners” where visitors may rent fancy dress and are provided with professional make-up and hairstyling – so the pictures taken in the fantasy landscapes become even more fantastical.

Document 1: Plastic sculptures at the “Rose Manor” in Lashi Hai.

Document 1: Plastic sculptures at the “Rose Manor” in Lashi Hai.


16This recently opened attraction enjoys huge success and has swiftly become the most visited

17reception centre in Lashi Hai. In the short time that followed, many other reception centres in Lashi Hai tried to follow the example of the Rose Manor. They have created areas on the shore of the lake, decorated with a lot of phantasy, where people get to relax, drink tea, take pictures, stroll around. Horse riding is still offered to tourists but is now a mere sideshow. Interaction between local residents and visitors has shrunk to a minimum. At best, locals function as service providers in the tourism sector. Residents state that whereas, previously, they were their own bosses and got to decide how to run the business of the cooperatives, today the sector is dominated by external investors and decisions are taken by people who have never actually been to the place, but run their companies from afar. The Rose Manor was designed and built by a company from Shenzhen, which initially had installed such sceneries as backdrops for wedding photo shoots. The concept has now become a popular strategy for designing entire tourism destinations – as it has happened in Lashi Hai.

18For local entrepreneurs it has become very hard to compete with those big players (see also Chio, 2013, p. 154). I was told many stories of young people in Lashi Hai trying to start their own businesses, like their fathers did back in the day, but then failing with huge losses in the face of the new business model. The big outside companies possess everything that local residents lack: huge networks of connections to tourism agencies and government agents as well as private businesses on the national and regional level, in addition to capital, experience and knowhow. For the younger generation, participating in the tourism business has thus become a rather frustrating issue. The only thing left for them is low-payed jobs with low social status and no decision-making power.

19Conversely, many families living in Lashi Hai have profited from tourism over the last two decades and their living standards have increased significantly (Hürlemann, 2014). Among other things, they have been able to afford better and higher education for their children. Today there are many families in Lashi Hai who proudly state that their youngsters are well educated, even graduating from universities. These young adults are far from willing to work as horse guides or in similar service positions in Lashi Hai’s tourism sector. As it is difficult to be successful in that business, they often leave to find better jobs in towns and cities. Meanwhile, the lower status jobs are increasingly taken up by migrant workers and Yi people, who tend to live in even more remote villages high up in the mountains and now find wage labour in Lashi Hai’s tourism industry.

VI. Shifting Desires: Modernity Replacing Nostalgia and Tradition

  • 10 Interview with a female friend in her mid-twenties, who grew up in Lashi Hai and had graduated from (...)
  • 11 Interview with a female friend in her mid-twenties. She grew up in Lashi Hai, studied in a big city (...)
  • 12 Ibid.

20Fences, ticket booths and entrance gates ensure that the domain of entertainment is clearly separated from Lashi Hai residents’ everyday lives. Local culture is apparently represented within the gated area by plastic objects amid rose fields and by professional dance troupes performing to pop music. Visitors seem to be satisfied with this reinvention of the place. Yet the question remains as to how residents interpret this new way of presenting local identity and culture to the tourists. For a start, it has nothing to do with their daily lives and lived cultures. But nor is it much related to the manifold stereotypes surrounding their ethnic minority status. Rather than representing backward, rural societies, these places provide modern infrastructure, new ideas, progress. These are values that local residents prefer to be identified with, as opposed to folkloristic, infantile images or the stigma of dirtiness, poverty and low moral standards (see also Schein, 2000; Oakes, 1998; Chio, 2014 for similar accounts). Even the younger generation of Lahshi Hai’s residents, not directly involved in tourism business, is confronted with such stereotypes in their daily lives: “There were fellow students who really thought that in Yunnan, we all wear those traditional dresses every day, or walk around bare breasted10. Another friend recalled from her time at University: “They would ask me if at home I had to help to cut grass or slaughter the pig. They would say, your live is certainly very bitter, your parents are living on the very lowest level, right?11 For both of them, it is very important, that their appearances do not correspond to prevalent stereotypes about minority people. Similar to exterior markers of their individual appearance, such as clothes or hairstyle, they are concerned about the looks of her home village in Lashi Hai: “All the roads that are full of holes at the moment should be turned into cobble stone roads, like in other famous touristic old towns. There should be lights in the streets, flowers and decorations. All the horses have to be washed, and everything needs to be very clean.”12 For many residents the most important thing about reinventing tourist places actually is not to represent certain values – those related to predominant stereotypes of ethnic minority people for example.

  • 13 Generation of the 1990s: jiu ling hou, 九零后

21The prevalent touristic imaginary about the local residents and their culture clearly did not represent their own perspective on their cultural identity, nor was it linked to their daily life and habits. Rather, it should be considered as part of a government-led discourse, a constructed narrative with specific intentions and goals (Silverman and Blumenfield, 2013, p. 4; Chao, 2012, pp. 7-8). The folkloristic image of ethnic minorities serves as a soft power instrument to underline the picture of a ‘harmonious multinational state’ (Mullaney, 2011, p. 2). Touristic narratives essentialise ethnic minority culture to certain elements that aim to attract visitors (Davis, 2005, p. 72). The cultural elements considered suitable, such as festivals, colourful costumes and dances, have been polished and pimped up for the tourism market – and always in a similar way, regardless of which ethnic group is actually concerned (Oakes, 1993). For this reason, many ethnic tourism destinations in China look very much alike. Furthermore, ethnic minority dances and performances feature in all sorts of television shows and productions, and they are integral parts of official ceremonies at all levels, so one literally finds them everywhere (Notar, 2006, pp. 52-53). Hence, it is not surprising that the younger generation in China is not interested in the topic anymore. While the older generation, who up until now have been the ones with purchasing power, still embrace a sense of nostalgia towards the countryside and a sort of past life in pure nature and simplicity (Chio, 2014, p. 36; Graburn, 1995, p. 167), younger citizens appear to be at a different point today. The generation born in the 1990s is said to be looking forward with a strong quest for modernity (Walsh and Swain, 2004, p. 62).13 They are not haunted by memories of the country’s past horrors – they were born into a booming economic system, a growing, prospering society full of hope (Anagnost, 2018). To look at a past illusion of nostalgic, harmonious minority populations and rural life is not their desire. They prefer to enjoy the luxury of modernity and progress, as they seek individual experiences and novel leisure pursuits (Zhang and Ong, 2008, p. 1).

22However, this not only applies to young visitors to Lashi Hai – younger local people are also after a sense of modernity (see also Schein, 2000, p. 210). The fact that their home areas are being reinvented by professionals with nous and capital limits the possibility of entering the tourism business for some. For others, though, these newly established places represent sites of prestige, modernity and elegance (see also Oakes, 1998, p. 7). In fact, local residents of Lashi Hai’s villages themselves and even residents of Lijiang’s urban new town visit the Rose Manor in their leisure time, strolling among the rose fields and taking selfies in the fantasy plastic sculpture landscape.

23The reinvention observed in Lashi Hai’s tourist places not only reflects a new marketing strategy, nor is it simply an adaptation of touristic offerings to the changing needs of visitors. This reinvention reflects profound social change happening between generations, something that is not bound to this particular place but which is probably occurring in many parts of the country. It concerns the younger generation of visitors and hosts alike. Ethnic categories and stereotypes are pushed into the background by a forward-looking, future-oriented generation. This does not mean that their own traditions and culture are not valued by members of the younger generation. On the contrary, many of the people I encountered in the field are full of interest in local traditions and engage in cultural practices specific to their hometown or village. Yet obviously this is a long way from the folkloristic culture sold on the tourism market. What I observed is that the folkloristic, polished yet simplified, shiny and colourful imaginary of ethnic minority culture is losing its attraction among younger clientele. Recent reinventions of how “local” identity and culture are represented to tourists at Lashi Hai’s Rose Manor reception centre offer one of many potential alternatives to imaginaries based on state-led, stereotypical ethnicity discourses.


24The case study of Lashi Hai’s tourism sector offers insights into the social processes that contribute to reinventions of tourist destinations. In this article, I have contended that places visited by tourists are meant to represent local identity and culture. In this sense, the reinvention of tourist destinations is linked to social processes negotiating how – using what kinds of symbolic messages, communicating what sorts of values – local culture and identity should be represented. In ethnic tourism in China, symbolic markers used for the branding and marketing of those destinations were strongly related to dominant government discourses and stereotypes regarding ethnic minority groups. Although in Lashi Hai the tourism business started as a communal project grounded in village cooperatives, today it is increasingly dominated by outside investors. While this makes it more difficult for young local entrepreneurs to successfully enter the tourism business, this new form of development is associated with positive values by many local residents. The previously dominant horse-riding business is a typical ethnic tourism attraction and thus reinforces stereotypes of romantic countryside life but also backwardness, dirtiness and poverty. The recently created parks, on the other hand, present roses instead of maize crops, and plastic sculptures of luxury goods instead of traditional houses as scenic backdrops for fancy touristic photography. This reinvention of the local place uses the language of modernity, displaying symbols of luxury and wealth, creating a landscape of dreams and fantasy in which to escape and enjoy one’s leisure during the touristic experience.

25Those values not only correspond to changing desires among visitors but also represent what younger members of the host population would rather identify with. Whereas colourful decorations made of plastic sculptures and roses might easily be associated with kitsch, Disney Land or even consumerism and capitalism – those symbols are added another dimension when placed into the archetypical landscape of Lashi Hai. Thinking places as “articulated moments in networks of social relations and understandings” (Massey, 1994, p. 262) predominant discourses determining these understanding as well as the specific social relations created at tourist encounters, have to be taken into account. In this case, the recent history of creating ethnic minority cultures as well as touristic products based on them, has shaped many layers of meanings and values painting the landscapes of Lashi Hai’s places. Clearly these paintings never fully reflect people’s diverse approaches to ethnicity and lived cultures – yet they are result of social processes and thus reflect certain aspects of them. In this sense, the reinvention of the destination offers an alternative to both visitors and guests alike, for thinking and experiencing new kinds of ethnic, rural landscapes.

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1 Quotation marks are used here, as “they” – the local residents – of course do not really represent a homogenous group at all. “They” consist of all kinds of individuals with different attitudes, interests, ethnic or national backgrounds etc. (Massey, 1994).

2 Lashi Hai: 拉市海

3 Quotation marks are used here as cultures and identities are not considered to be bound to physical locales as such. In the case of touristic cultures, however, they may become localised in the touristic imaginary, marketing strategies and related discourses (Gupta and Ferguson, 1992).

4 Jade Dragon Snow Mountain: Yulong Xueshan, 玉龙雪山

5 Lijiang Old Town, Lijiang Gucheng, 丽江古城

6 The campaign ‘to Open up the West’: Xibu Da Kaifa, 西部大开发

7 Interview with a horse guide in Junliang Village, 2 May 2017.

8 Interview with a horse guide in Junliang Village, 2 May 2017.

9 Interview with the founder of one of Lashi Hai’s first horse-riding places in Junliang Village, 26 April 2017.

10 Interview with a female friend in her mid-twenties, who grew up in Lashi Hai and had graduated from one of the country’s renown universities, Lijiang, 12.05.2017.

11 Interview with a female friend in her mid-twenties. She grew up in Lashi Hai, studied in a big city in northern China. Lashi Hai, 08.05.2017.

12 Ibid.

13 Generation of the 1990s: jiu ling hou, 九零后

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Table des illustrations

Titre Document 1: Plastic sculptures at the “Rose Manor” in Lashi Hai.
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Seraina Hürlemann, « Reinventing Representations of “Local” Identity and Culture », Via [En ligne], 18 | 2020, mis en ligne le 27 décembre 2020, consulté le 18 juin 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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Seraina Hürlemann

PhD in Tourism Studies, Research Group ‘Cultures and Natures of Tourism’. Institute of Geography and Sustainability, University of Lausanne

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