CCCH9050 China: Culture, State and Society
Blessings or Curses? World Heritage Sites in China and their Sustainability

[This course is under the thematic cluster of ‘Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth’.]


Course Description

This course provides an understanding of sustainability issues in China from the perspective of World Heritage by exploring the boom in World Heritage Sites in China, which has taken place particularly in the 21st century. With the second largest number of WHS, China is a most suitable subject for understanding the concept. The course offers a general understanding of the criteria for the designation of WHS, but with emphasis on Chinese examples in the global context. Challenges associated with WH designation, such as the politics of the designation process and the impact of increased tourism on local communities, will also be addressed.

Students will investigate, in particular, how World Heritage designation could be potentially applied to Hong Kong, which has been a recent popular topic of local debate, which will help students to think more critically about the culture and heritage of the city in which we are living. The final assignment will be presented via a digital platform, e.g. videos of local places, so that students can understand how World Heritage criteria can be applied in the local context using multi-media presentation techniques.

[There will be a compulsory field study to Tai O during Reading Week. Guided by tutors, the trip will last for approximately six hours. Three optional dates will be available.]

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate understanding of the value and importance of World Heritage designation, and its relationship with Sustainable Development internationally and nationally, and its potential, locally.
  2. Effectively apply the World Heritage selection criteria to different heritage sites – both cultural and natural; locally and overseas; as well as with tangible and intangible elements – as a means to critically examine, evaluate and articulate sites of significance.
  3. Critically analyze the impacts brought by the pursuing of and the actual designation of World Heritage Sites in the context of China, and potentially, in Hong Kong.
  4. Analyze World Heritage conservation and its associated challenges and effectively explain how these apply/relate to Hong Kong.
  5. Create engaging multimedia material that effectively communicates and forms a compelling argument for World Heritage designation in Hong Kong, having been inspired by the numerous and varied designations in China.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second Semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 22
Tutorials 10
Fieldwork / Visits 10
Reading / Self-study 30
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 20
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 8
Assessment: Group project 25
Total: 125

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
In-class participation 15
Tutorial presentation and participation 20
Field trip report 25
Group project 40

Required Reading

  • Blumenfield, T., & Silverman, H. (Eds.). (2013). Cultural heritage politics in China. New York, Springer. [Chaps. 1, 5, 6]
  • Bourdean, L., Gravari-Barbas, M., & Robinson, M. (Eds.). (2016). World heritage, tourism and identity: Inscription and co-production. Oxon and New York: Routledge. [Chaps. 4, 6]
  • Girard, L. F., & Nijkamp, P. (Eds.). (2009). Cultural tourism and sustainable local development. England and USA. [Chaps. 2, 4]
  • Lee, H. Y., & DiStefano, L. (2016). From zero sum game to arranged marriage: The struggle between built heritage conservation and urban development in post-colonial Hong Kong. In S. Labadi & W. Logan (Eds.), Urban heritage, development and sustainability: international frameworks, national and local governance (pp. 196-213). Oxon and New York: Routledge.
  • Li, M. M., Wu, B. H., & Cai, L. P. (2008). Tourism development of world heritage sites in China: A geographic perspective. Tourism Management, 29(2008), 308-319.
  • UNCED. (1992). Rio Declaration, Agenda 21. United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.
  • UNESCO. (1972). Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage. (“World Heritage Convention”).
  • UNESCO. (2013). New life for historic cities: The historic urban landscape approach explained.
  • UNESCO. (2016). Culture urban future: Global report on culture for sustainable urban development.
  • UNESCO. (2016). The HUL Guidebook: Managing heritage in dynamic and constantly changing urban environments. A practical guide to UNESCO’s Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr H.Y. Lee
Department of Real Estate and Construction, Faculty of Architecture
Tel: 3917 7952
Email: hoyin@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr H.Y. Lee
Department of Real Estate and Construction, Faculty of Architecture
Tel: 3917 7952
Email: hoyin@hku.hk
Dr C.K. Chan
Department of Real Estate and Construction, Faculty of Architecture
Tel: 3917 6059
Email: ckchanii@hku.hk
Ms J.F. Lang
Department of Real Estate and Construction, Faculty of Architecture
Tel: 3917 6057
Email: maximan1@hku.hk
Mr K.S. Yu
Department of Real Estate and Construction, Faculty of Architecture
Tel: 3917 6060
Email: yukasgin@hku.hk