No more trashy theme parks; Ministry of Culture cracks down on garish tourism promotion

19:27, July 13, 2010      

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The dogfight for the honor of being the hometown of the Monkey King is set to die. And there will be no new theme parks feting lustful characters from classic Chinese fiction.

In its latest move to cool the competitive -- and sometimes vulgar -- tourism promotion market, the Ministry of Culture and the State Administration of Cultural Heritage Monday banned tourism promotion using historical characters of dubious character.

"It is strictly prohibited to build theme parks or convene cultural activities based on negative historical figures or literary works," the notice said.

The notice also said it is improper to designate a hometown for a fictional figure.

The booming tourism market in China has triggered a trend: cities claiming to be the hometowns of celebrities, historical figures and even fictional characters.

Some of the characters in the middle of this dogfight are the Yan Emperor, one of the ancestors of the Chinese people; Zhuge Liang, a crafty strategist from the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 A.D.); Zhao Yun, a valiant general and Zhuge's colleague; Cao Xueqin, author of the great novel Dream of the Red Chamber; and even Ximen Qing, a fictional character from the novel Golden Lotus usually regarded as a hedonist.

China's economic development equates to a huge potential tourism industry, and more and more tourists are interested in culture and not just natural scenery on their tours, and so historical figures are now a hot part of tourism, said Zhang Dahua, tourism bureau chief in central China's Hubei Province.

With the excavation of the tomb of Cao Cao, a politician and general during the Three Kingdoms period, Anyang City in Henan Province will generate 420 million yuan (62 million U.S. dollars) in tourism revenue every year, experts predict.

The National Tourism Administration estimates the tourism industry recorded 1.26 trillion yuan in revenue last year, up 9 percent year on year.

The notice comes just weeks after Loufan County in north China's Shanxi Province declared itself the hometown of Monkey King -- many years after Lianyugang City in Jiangsu Province did the same.

Loufan County now plans to build a 470-hectare tourist site.

Critics say it is ridiculous that an nonexistent figure was used in that way, adding that a profits-before-everything mentality is the root of the trend.

The contest for hometown titles may appear a move concerning cultural heritage, but in fact it is really about economic interests, the Ministry of Culture and the State Administration of Cultural Heritage said.

Some places use dubious historical characters to promote tourism, which leads to "adverse impacts on society and goes against core socialist values," it said.

The notice also criticized the construction of fake historical buildings.

Yanggu County in Shandong Province has been under fire for building an adultery-themed tourist site using the character Ximen Qing.

The county plans a 56 million yuan tourism project with a Golden Lotus theme park. It forecasts 200,000 tourists to visit the project every year and a recoup of the initial investment in five years.

Ruan Yisan, Tongji University professor at the architecture and urban planning college, said many cities competing for historical figures connections even did not know how to protect their existing cultural heritage, which is disappearing rapidly as urbanization proceeds.

"It is better if these cities manage and protect their own cultural heritage and intangible cultural resources, rather than compete with each other and humiliate themselves," said Ruan.

Cai Liang, deputy director of the cultural bureau of Yucheng County, Henan Province, welcomed the official notice.

Yucheng claimed itself to be the hometown of Hua Mulan, a Chinese heroine famous worldwide because of Walt Disney cartoon feature film "Mulan" in 1999. Cai believed the notice will stop other cities trying to claim Hua Mulan as their own.

"Bozhou in Anhui Province used to be our sole rival, but now some other places in Hubei, Hebei, Inner Mongolia and Shaanxi have joined in the competition in recent years," said Cai.

The official said the county government spent more than 400,000 yuan last year to advertise its Hua Mulan connection so that the county's voice "could be heard more than our rivals."

A spokesman of the Ministry of Culture told Xinhua Tuesday the ministry will explain the notice further in the near future and make public how the rules will be implemented.

Source: Xinhua


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