Tourism Culture and Ecotourism

The Origin and Vision of National Cultural Park Management Policy in China

  • ZOU Tongqian , 1 ,
  • QIU Ziyi 1 ,
  • HUANG Xin , 1, 2, *
  • 1. China Academy of Culture and Tourism, Beijing International Studies University, Beijing 100024, China
  • 2. School of Hospitality Management, Guilin Tourism University, Guilin, Guangxi 541006, China
*HUANG Xin, E-mail:

ZOU Tongqian, E-mail:

Received date: 2021-10-16

  Accepted date: 2022-02-20

  Online published: 2022-06-07

Supported by

The China National Social Science Fund of Art Sciences(20ZD02)


Research on the evolution of cultural policy is the key in the field of public policy study, and it is also an important means to solve the problems that have emerged in cultural heritage management. The National Cultural Park is an innovative cultural heritage protection system proposed by Chinese leaders within the context of national rejuvenation and building a culturally-strong country campaign. From the perspective of system evolution theory, this paper systematically sorts out the ideas behind international heritage management and the evolutionary process of the Cultural Relics Protection Unit system, in an effort to explore the origin, innovation and vision of the National Cultural Park System. A review of the international heritage documents revealed that the principle of heritage protection has developed from “authenticity” to “integrity”, and the focus of the protection object has also changed from “monism” to “diversity”, which provided a theoretical background for the burgeoning National Cultural Park. The Cultural Relics Protection Unit system has been promoted as the most crucial cultural heritage management system in China. Therefore, this study sheds light on the evolution and limitations of the system that lays a practical foundation for the National Cultural Park System. There have been three stages in the history of China’s National Cultural Relics Protection Unit, namely, the creation of the system (1956-1965), the survival crisis of the system (1966-1977), and the rebirth and development of the system (1978 to the present), in which the main driving concepts of China's cultural heritage management have been sequentially elucidated as simple protectionism, tolerant conservatism and comprehensive developmentalism, respectively. Since the establishment of China’s Cultural Relics Protection Unit system, tremendous progress has been made not only in the enlightenment of the public’s mindset and but also in the development of system and culture. However, the changes in the institutional environment gradually exposed its limitations regarding cultural relic management and value expression. The National Cultural Park System is the fruit created by the internal contradictions of the cultural heritage system itself and the evolution of heritage theory. Its biggest innovation lies in the two core connotations of “integrated protection” and “integrated development”. In the future, as the National Cultural Park management system matures, a Chinese cultural heritage management system will take shape in which the National Cultural Parks become dominant and various cultural resources are utilized. Finally, the National Cultural Park will become a symbol of Chinese culture and will be internalized into the common belief system of the Chinese nation.

Cite this article

ZOU Tongqian , QIU Ziyi , HUANG Xin . The Origin and Vision of National Cultural Park Management Policy in China[J]. Journal of Resources and Ecology, 2022 , 13(4) : 720 -733 . DOI: 10.5814/j.issn.1674-764x.2022.04.017

1 Introduction

Culture plays an increasingly important strategic role in the pursuit of integrated development that combines the knowledge economy with social cohesion, governance and sustainability. In many countries, there is a long-standing understanding of culture as socially and politically embedded (Serafini and Novosel, 2021), and many cases have convincingly demonstrated that culture is not epiphenomenal but is constitutive of a wide range of political processes and outcomes (Padamsee, 2009). Therefore, it is important to understand the factors that determine the changes and continuity of major cultural policies (Barbieri, 2012). Originally, the term cultural policy referred to a “body of operational principles, administrative and budgetary practice and procedures, which provide a basis of cultural action by the state” (UNESCO, 1970). The study of cultural policy can be divided into two parts: the historical evolution of cultural policy and the internal and external factors that influence policy changes (Wyszomirski, 2004; Parker and Parenta, 2009; Shockley and McNeely, 2009). As for the evolution of cultural policy, in many countries such as France and Germany, cultural policy discourse is closely related to cultural values, which is often anchored in interpretations of the past, preoccupied with reflection, and defined within their historical environment while seeking to understand the current issues (Wesner, 2010). The evolutions of cultural policies result from the interactions between politics and culture. Contemporary cultural policies can be viewed as the sedimentation of the previous ones with institutions, orientations and discourses (Mangset, 2020). In the years that followed, cultural policy was mostly grounded in an understanding of the national socio-economic context and underpinned by a market-oriented ideology (Hadley et al., 2020; Serafini and Novosel, 2021). Cultural policy became part of a progressive political project for social inclusion, economic redistribution and the advancement of rights (Prato et al., 2018). However, the evolution of cultural policy also has to confront some problems, such as the democratization of cultural policy, obsolescence of cultural institutions and bureaucratism (Mangset, 2020). The main factors causing these problems are the loss of cultural value, the loss of financial subsidies, the excessive instrumentalization of policies and others (Belfiore, 2002; Hadley and Gray, 2017; Mangset, 2020). However, the hyper-instrumentalism of cultural policy has aroused the vigilance of scholars and led them to question whether it undermines the justification for an autonomous domain of cultural policy (Holden, 2004; Hadley and Gray, 2017).
Heritage is an important management object of cultural policy. However, heritage management has always been regarded as a controversial topic in academia because it involves different values and practices. Therefore, handling heritage is a process of social structure (Pendlebury, 2013). The concept of heritage is determined by a series of homogenous values and rules, which are expressed as an authorized heritage discourse (AHD) (Smith, 2006). However, the AHD continues to be criticized because the discourse is in the desire to popularize a set of authorized protection ethics, values and practices throughout the world. Heritage protection encompasses a wider range of diverse values and interacts with other factors such as planning, urban development, and social and economic stability (Waterton, 2010).
China formally proposed the concept of the “National Cultural Park” in the field of heritage management in 2019, and selected important Chinese linear cultural heritages, such as the Great Wall, the Grand Canal, the Long March Route, the Yellow River and the Yangtze River, as the first pilot zones for this heritage management system. Policy evolution analysis plays a key role in public policy research (Yang et al., 2020). Against the background of the development of international heritage management ideas, this paper analyzes the evolution of heritage management systems centered around the Chinese Cultural Relics Protection Unit and explores the origin and future development of the National Cultural Park, which is a groundbreaking heritage management concept and system in the world, with the aim of promoting the formation of a Chinese heritage management discourse system and enriching the world heritage theory system.

2 International theoretical background: The evolution of international heritage management theories

The maturation of the idea of international heritage protection has laid a theoretical foundation for the burgeoning National Cultural Park. With the development of international cultural heritage protection ideas, such as “integrity protection” and “diversity protection”, increasing attention is being paid to the protection of the surroundings of the heritage resource, intangible cultural heritage and linear cultural heritage in the area of international heritage protection. Specifically, “cultural routes” and “heritage corridors” have emerged in international heritage protection systems. When China started a dialogue with the international heritage community, it also began to reflect upon itself and brought a new system into being. With the four linear cultural heritages as the first pilot projects, the National Cultural Park emphasizes the integrated preservation of the heritage, which is an institutional upgrading against the mature background of international heritage protection. When new ideas gain the approval of those in power in the old system, they will be externalized into the new system (Zhang, 2021).
The current concept, value system and discourse system of cultural heritage originate from the Cultural Value Cognition System in Europe in the 19th century (Xu, 2021). Under the dual impact of the Industrial Revolution and the World War, the crisis of “Geographical Security” spread, and the national government urgently needed to use “Cultural Legitimacy” to strengthen the concept of “national sentiment” so as to unite its people; and the “Nationalist Narrative” featuring the material evidence of the past has become a powerful means to govern the country, so the concept of cultural heritage protection has thus flourished (Li and Su, 2019). The principle of protection has evolved from “authenticity” to “integrity”; the objects of protection have shown a trend of “diversity”; and the concept of linear cultural heritage protection has been continuously improved. These improved cultural heritage protection theories laid a solid theoretical foundation for the management of Chinese cultural heritage and the building of a National Cultural Park System.

2.1 Principle of protection: Authenticity to integrity

With the deepening of the understanding of heritage value, the principle of international heritage protection has evolved from “authenticity” to “integrity”. The maturation of the concept of “integrity” protection provides a theoretical basis for the systematic protection of cultural heritage and its surroundings, as well as the unified protection of linear heritage in the National Cultural Park.

2.1.1 Origin of evolution

(1) Theocracy and scientific rationality
In the Middle Ages, religious thought with theocracy as the core played a decisive role in city lay-out and the protection of cultural heritage (Shi and Shi, 2017). With the development of modern Western civilization, the concept of heritage protection gradually become immune to religious thought, while scientific rationality and positivism penetrated into the field of heritage protection. Influenced by the “Truth-Seeking” and “Scientific Spirits”, any forgery that destroys the aesthetic and historical value of cultural heritage has been opposed and rejected. Therefore, “authenticity” has become the core idea of heritage restoration (Ruan and Lin, 2003).
(2) Universal value and unique value
The universal value of cultural heritage could be brought into play only at the cost of losing the original environment as well as its functions and transferring cultural heritage from a small community into a great one. With the change of the value perception system, people gradually realized that the aforementioned practice invisibly cut off the relationship between heritage and the original settings. Cultural heritage pros should advocate a kind of protection, from the perspective of unique value, that heeds not only the heritage itself but also its surroundings. Until the 1930s, and especially after the 1960s, it gradually evolved into the two major concepts of cultural heritage protection, namely “immovability” and “authenticity”, and it continued to develop into “integrity” with the deepening of heritage value recognition in all respects (Li, 2015).

2.1.2 Steps from authenticity to integrity

As early as the 1930s, the Italian restoration school has embodied the concept of “authenticity” protection, emphasizing that “historical authenticity value” should be the criterion in the protection of cultural relics and buildings, which directly affected the birth of the first important document on cultural heritage protection, Carta del Restauro (1931). In The Venice Charter, promulgated in 1964 on the basis of the Italian restoration school, “authenticity” was first proposed as a core concept in the field of cultural heritage protection, which has become the consensus of the international heritage community, and its connotation has deepened thereafter.
The understanding of “authenticity” in The Venice Charter is regulated from the material basis such as the overall environment, appearance form, material structure, etc., to ensure the authenticity of cultural heritage, emphasizing the “principle of immovability”, “principle of recognizability” and “principle of historical trace” (Li, 2006; ICOMOS, 2011).
Subsequently, The Nara Document in 1994 pointed out that the connotation of “authenticity” includes the “form and design, material and substance, utilization and function, tradition and technology, location and environment, spirit and feeling of heritage” (Zhang and Xie, 2003); and it stressed that different cultural backgrounds should be taken into account and authenticity should no longer be measured with a fixed standard (ICOMOS, 2012).
The Xian Declaration issued in 2005 elaborated on the importance of surroundings to the authenticity of heritage. The Beijing Document 2007 pointed out that authenticity could be understood as the reliability and realness of information sources (Xu and Wang, 2011). In 2014, Nara + 20: On Heritage Practices, Cultural Values, and the Concept of Authenticity emphasized that authenticity should be rooted in the participation of multiple stakeholders and stressed the need for comprehension of authenticity in the sustainable development of cultural heritage, which highlighted the dynamic nature of authenticity (Xu, 2014).
Based on the existing international documents and academic literature, the authenticity of cultural heritage is a measure of the inherent unity of the cultural heritage’s manifestations and cultural meanings (Ruan and Lin, 2003). In the process of the evolution of authenticity, it is recognized that “any kind of culture will have the imprint of the times” and “the integrity of cultural heritage” as well. More and more emphasis has been placed on viewing authenticity from a dynamic and overall perspective. Specifically, the concept has been extended from “restoring the original appearance authenticity” to “process-centered authenticity” and has evolved from “thing-in-itself authenticity” into “surroundings integrity” (Wu and Xie, 2019). Since then, the protection concept has shifted from authenticity to integrity (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1 From authenticity to integrity
The concept of “integrity” is derived from the field of “natural heritage” and means untouched pristine conditions, including the spatial extent closely related to the heritage. At the Seminar on “Assessment of General Principles and Nomination Criteria for World Natural Heritage” held in France in 1996, experts suggested that “integrity” should be applied to both natural and cultural heritage at the same time; and since the 2005 edition of Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, “integrity” has been formally stipulated as one of the requirements for cultural heritage declaration (Wang et al., 2011). With the continuous deepening of the principles of cultural heritage protection, authenticity and integrity have gradually become unified. Currently, an increasing number of experts believe that the concept of “integrity” has encompassed “authenticity”, including functional integrity, structural integrity, visual integrity and historical integrity (Su et al., 2021). In terms of protection principles, the concept of “integrity” protection provides a theoretical basis for the integrity protection of the National Cultural Park.

2.2 Object of protection: Monism to diversity

With the change of cultural heritage value cognition and the transfer of the cultural heritage discourse center, the object of protection has changed from “monism” to “diversity”. In particular, the protection of cultural heritage is no longer limited to the protection of single heritage, with greater emphasis on the protection of large-scale linear heritage. As an important manifestation of cultural diversity, “cultural route” and “heritage corridor” have become the important theoretical basis for the protection of linear cultural heritage in China’s National Cultural Park.

2.2.1 Origin of evolution

(1) Shift from outstanding universal values to unique cultural values
After the Cold War, the tremendous changes in the global political structure brought about the awakening of national cultural awareness and cultural identity. The independent development of national culture became increasingly important. Hence, the voice of “cultural confidence” has been increasing. With this globalization deepening, however, a crisis of cultural diversity emerged. Since the “Outstanding Universal Value” (OUV) was proposed in The Operational Guidelines in the mid and late 1990s, the international visons and ingenious conceptions differ from each other in terms of the evaluation of OUV. Therefore, the cognition of heritage value has shifted from the OUV to the Unique Cultural Values so that the types of cultural heritage protection can be diversified.
(2) Transition from “European Center” to “Global Equilibrium”
In the modern sense, the concept of cultural heritage was born in Europe. With the strong position of Western countries in the world, the Western heritage discourse system has gradually expanded to various countries, and they have the right to speak for the protection of global heritage. However, this discourse system serves the Western elites for the actual manipulation regarding identity, social and cultural practice, and marginalizes the cultural heritage of other groups. With the global economy booming, national consciousness is on the rise. A growing number of countries have been realizing that the mainstream heritage discourse system makes it difficult to interpret the true spirit of indigenous cultural heritage. To prevent their own cultural heritage from being invaded by others, the voice of “cultural diversity” is spreading around the world.

2.2.2 Transformation from monism to diversity

After the issuance of The Venice Charter, the international heritage community began to notice cultural diversity. The Nara Document diversified the interpretation of “authenticity” criteria and constructed a heritage cognitive framework that respects cultural diversity preliminarily (Wang, 2020). In 2001, the World Heritage Committee adopted The Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, and an official definition of the concept of “cultural diversity” was proposed: “Culture has a variety of different manifestations at different times and in different places, and the concrete expression of this diversity is the uniqueness and diversity of the characteristics of the groups and societies that make up human beings” (UNESCO, 2001). The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, adopted by UNESCO in 2005, formally incorporated the principle of “cultural diversity” into international legal instruments, and diversity has become the universal norm for international heritage protection (Tang, 2015).
(1) Relaxation of the recognition of cultural heritage in terms of time
The expansion of cultural heritage type reflects the possibility that its identification can be expanded in terms of time. In 1981, the World Heritage Committee decided to postpone the application for listing the Sydney Opera House as a World Heritage Site on the grounds that it lacked a sense of the age that can prove its historical value. This motion aroused great concern among international organizations about the protection of recent heritages. In 1985, ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) held an expert meeting in Paris themed “Recent Heritage Protection”, marking a growing focus on recent heritage. Specifically, Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, built in the 1920s and 1930s, was rated as a world cultural heritage in 2008, indicating that the importance of time span in the selection criteria of cultural heritage is fading (Zhang, 2008).
(2) Expansion of cultural heritage protection types
Since the promulgation of Carta del Restauro, the types of cultural heritage protection have witnessed an expansion. So far, a rich cultural heritage system, including historical gardens and landscapes, historical towns, the built vernacular heritage, industrial heritage, intangible cultural heritage, and cultural routes has come into being (Table 1).
Table 1 The expansion of cultural heritage protection types
Year Statute Authority Protection target
1931 Carta del Restauro ICOM (Predecessor of ICOMOS) Historical monuments
1976 Nairobi Recommendations UNESCO Historical areas
1982 Florence Charter ICOMOS Historical gardens and landscape
1987 Washington Charter ICOMOS Historical towns and urban areas
1992 The Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention UNESCO Cultural landscape added into appendix of cultural heritage
1999 Charter on the Built Vernacular Heritage ICOMOS The built vernacular heritage
2003 The Nizhny Tagil Charter for the Industrial Heritage TICCIH Industrial heritage
2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage UNESCO Intangible cultural heritage
2005 Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention UNESCO Heritage canal and heritage routes added into appendix
2008 The Charter on Cultural Routes ICOMOS Cultural route

Note: This table is organized based on references (Cheng and Gao, 2019; Chen, 2021).

2.2.3 Linear heritage management theory tends to mature

Linear heritage is a general concept that refers to linear or banded heritage groups that span different geographical units and cultural plates (Wang and Li, 2016). With the continuous development of cultural diversity, cultural heritage protection is no longer limited to the protection of single heritage. Instead, the protection of large linear heritage catches more attention. From an international perspective in which the European cultural route and the American heritage corridor have been considered as the main representatives, the term linear heritage is not the same in different cultural backgrounds and heritage contexts.
The theory of cultural routes originated in Europe. By protecting the cultural routes that carry collective memories, Europe has sought cultural identity for the different countries and ethnic groups in Europe by emphasizing common values and regional consensus. Since the International Scientific Committee on Cultural Routes was established under the framework of the ICOMOS in 1998, cultural routes have been recognized by the international cultural heritage community as a new type of heritage. In 2005, the World Heritage Committee revised The Operational Guidelines (2005), making clear provisions on the definition and standards of cultural routes and listing cultural routes as one of the four classified heritage sites. Three years later, The Charter on Cultural Routes (2008) expounded the connotation, significance and value of cultural routes; and in 2010, the European Commission adopted the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes, advocating for the diversification of participants in cultural routes (Li and Zou, 2021). With the enrichment of cultural route theory, its importance is also strengthened.
Heritage corridors originated with the National Park System of the United States, which uses a large number of natural spaces to string together and protect heritages with certain cultural connotations. Since the Illinois and Michigan Canal was designated as the first national heritage corridor in 1984, the focus of the heritage corridor has changed quietly. From the perspective of the protection of heritage and its surrounding environment, it has gradually shifted to the cultural and economic development of communities along the routes and their recreational functions. Thus, the value and function of the heritage corridor are strengthened, and the connotation of its linear space is constantly enriched.
To sum up, linear heritage has attracted a growing amount of attention. The cultural route originating in Europe pays more attention to the excavation and protection of culture; while heritage corridors, which emerged in the United States, place special emphasis on the natural landscape and recreational functions. However, China’s National Cultural Park is a product of combining the characteristics of these two theories in the practice of China’s linear heritage protection.

3 China’s practical needs: The evolution and limitations of China’s national Cultural Relics Protection Unit system

The Cultural Relics Protection Unit system is the most important cultural heritage management system in China and an important practical background for China’s National Cultural Park. Therefore, studying the evolution of the Cultural Relics Protection Unit system and discovering its limitations in the practice of Chinese cultural heritage will be conducive to the establishment of China’s National Cultural Park.

3.1 Background of the Cultural Relics Protection Unit system

Cultural heritage embodies the collective memories and emotions of a nation’s development, and China has always attached importance to the protection of cultural relics. In 1909, the government of the Qing dynasty issued China’s first cultural relics protection decree, Measures To Promote the Preservation of Monuments. This decree considered cultural relics to be a symbol of national strength, so the principle of protecting cultural relics was proposed and the government organized the first official cultural relics survey. Similarly, during the reign of the Republic of China, different governments proposed additional measures to investigate and protect cultural relics, but no complete cultural relics protection system was formed.
After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, due to the influence of war and the destruction of agricultural production, the protection of cultural relics became a lesser priority and faced huge challenges. On the one hand, China’s first five-year plan had been implemented since 1953. Though many of the cultural relics survived years of war, they encountered new problems of constructive destruction; on the other hand, the superstitions of the old society were still prevalent and people still believed some creeds such as “Relics that survived a long time will have souls”. The public also lacked an understanding of cultural relics and they didn’t know that the cultural relics should be protected, so incidents of cultural relics being damaged occurred from time to time (Wang, 2009).
In the early days of the founding of the People's Republic of China, the political construction of the former Soviet Union had a profound impact on China. The Soviet Union issued a series of cultural relics protection laws to protect various domestic cultural relics. The early forerunner of the “Cultural Relics Protection Unit” system took shape in the Soviet Union. Based on the friendly relationship between China and the Soviet Union, “Learning from the Soviet Union” became an inevitable trend for many works in China. The system itself is the normalization and routinization of humanity’s common knowledge that is the prerequisite for decision-making; the cultural management system is used to regulate people’s behaviors when they use cultural resources to carry out social, political and economic activities and it also reduces the uncertainty of such behaviors in the pursuit of interests (North, 1997) (① North D C. 1997. Economic performance through time: The limits to knowledge. At this time, China had an urgent need to explore and establish a suitable heritage management system.

3.2 Evolution of the Cultural Relics Protection Unit system

Due to the actual need for cultural relics protection and the influence of international cultural heritage protection trends, the Chinese Cultural Relics Protection Unit system was born, and has since undergone many changes. Habit, convention, and system are the classic concepts and basic analysis units for studying the evolution of a system. The system can be divided into four levels: embedded system (the foundation of the society and culture), basic system environment (law, property rights, etc.), governance mechanism (management methods, principles, etc.) and short-term resource allocation system (Luo and Lu, 2007). Through the diachronic combing of this system and its related historical materials, this paper divides the evolution of China's national Cultural Relics Protection Unit system into three stages: system creation (1956-1965), the survival crisis of the system (1966-1977) and the rebirth and development of the system (from 1978 to the present) in accordance with the theories of system evolution. Each of these three stages corresponds to a different heritage management thought, that is, simple protectionism, tolerant conservatism, and comprehensive developmentalism (Fig. 2).
Fig. 2 Evolution of the Cultural Relics Protection Unit system

3.2.1 The creation of the system (1956-1965)

In 1956, China’s socialist transformation was fully completed. One of the main contradictions in social development was the “contradiction between the people’s needs for rapid economic and cultural development and the current economic and cultural conditions that cannot meet the needs of the people.” Speeding up the development of culture was an important need for social development. In 1956, the public’s lack of awareness regarding cultural relics protection was particularly obvious at the peak of agricultural production. The State Council of China issued The Notice on the Protection of Cultural Relics in Agricultural Production and Construction, in which the concept of the Cultural Relics Protection Unit was mentioned for the first time. At this time, the national Cultural Relics Protection Unit system began to take shape.
In 1956, the first national survey of cultural relics was launched. Conducting investigations of key cultural relics became a “habit” of China’s cultural relics protection work, and conducting cultural relics surveys has also become a common practice. In 1961, the State Council announced the first National Key Cultural Relics Protection List and promulgated The Temporary Rules of the Preservation and Administration of Cultural Relics, which included a relatively rigorous hierarchical management system for the Cultural Relics Protection Unit, and three classifications of “county”, “provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities” and “national” were proposed, thus improving the Cultural Relics Protection Unit directory system. This document stipulated the management rights and responsibilities of the Cultural Relics Protection Unit, and prevented local authorities from issuing arbitrary decisions to change cultural relics. In 1963, the Ministry of Culture issued The Temporary Measures of the Preservation and Administration of Cultural Relics, which stipulated the “Four objectives of cultural heritage management”, that is, each Cultural Relics Protection Unit must have “protection scope”, “mark description”, “records” and “protection organization”. To this day, the “Four objectives of cultural heritage management” is still the main basis for the protection and management of the Cultural Relics Protection Unit at all levels. The issuance of these two documents marked the formal establishment of the China’s special management system “Cultural Relics Protection Unit” (National Cultural Heritage Administration, 2009).
The protection of cultural relics at this stage was characterized as simple protectionism based on the rescue of cultural relics and patriotic education. Cultural relics unite the national spirit and emotions. In order to rescue the cultural relics damaged in the war and avoid further destruction, the Cultural Relics Protection Unit system came into being. In this stage, the system only emphasized on the protection of cultural relics, and it did not propose the protection of the surrounding areas or the related cultural elements. It also didn’t mention cultural relics utilization yet. All in all, it represented simple protectionism.

3.2.2 The survival crisis of the system (1966-1977)

At this stage, China experienced the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). The cultural relics protection achievements initially gained in the previous stage were severely destroyed. There was no newly announced Cultural Relics Protection Unit, and the previously announced units were also subject to some impacts.
In 1969, the State Council established “Tubokou (the department in charge of the heritage management of books and other cultural relics)”, and the protection of cultural relics in various regions began to gradually resume. In February 1973, the State Bureau of Cultural Relics was established. When the losses caused by the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” were assessed, most of the country’s key Cultural Relics Protection Unit had survived the crisis thanks to the implementation of the Temporary Rules of the Preservation and Administration of Cultural Relics. System and culture evolve together, and the changes of the system are actually designed to improve the credibility of government policies among social groups (Bisin and Verdier, 2015). The rescue policies and measures taken by the cultural relics department during the Cultural Revolution added confidence and determination to the continuing implementation of the Cultural Relics Protection Unit system.
At this stage, although the Cultural Relics Protection Unit system played an important role, it also had some limitations. Traditional culture was the main victim of the Cultural Revolution, and the survey of cultural relics was also affected. Due to the tolerant conservatism mentality, cultural management work progressed slowly, or even became seriously degraded. The cultural heritage that was not included in the protection list witnessed severe destruction.

3.2.3 The rebirth and development of the system (1978 to 2021)

After the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China which was held in 1978, the Chinese society, economy, and culture began to get back on course. In 1981, the second national survey of cultural relics was launched. In the next year, the State Council restarted the recognition and announcement of the national key Cultural Relics Protection Unit. According to the theory of institutional evolution, the survey of cultural relics and the periodic work of Cultural Relics Protection Unit have evolved from institutional “habits” to institutional “conventions” after 21 years of exploration, imitation, trial and error (Dionysiou and Tsoukas, 2013; Cohen et al., 2014). The practice of cultural relics protection has developed into a certain common practice and formed stability, so it has the possibility of being further standardized, codified and upgraded (Cacciatori, 2012). In November 1982, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress enacted The Law of the Peoples Republic of China on the Protection of Cultural Relics, which legalized the protection and control of cultural relics. This law supplements and improves the ownership of cultural relics and the construction control zones of Cultural Relics Protection Unit while keeping the protection principles and content framework system from the Temporary Rules of the Preservation and Administration of Cultural Relics. In the 2002 revised version of The Law of the Peoples Republic of China on the Protection of Cultural Relics, the idea of “reasonable utilization” had been defined and included for the first time; and the system of “Cultural Relics Protection Unit” had also taken a new step accordingly.
The introduction of The Venice Charter and other international cultural heritage protection documents in the 20th century had a profound impact on the management of Chinese heritage. The protection principles of “authenticity” and “minimum intervention” have optimized China’s Cultural Relics Protection Unit system and changed its paradigm. After the initial maturity of Chinese heritage protection ideas, China still faced problems like value disputes, contradictions in technical standards, and interpretation difficulties in the Western-led heritage management discourse system, which restricted the spread of Chinese heritage discourse. In order to seek a comprehensive heritage development model, China took the initiative to connect with the international community. In 1985, China became a signatory to the World Heritage Convention, and then started the work of heritage declaration in 1987. In 2005, the 15th Congress of the International Council on Monuments and Sites was held in China for the first time and The Xian Declaration was passed, setting guidelines for the protection of ancient buildings, ancient sites and the historical surroundings in the field of international cultural heritage protection. In 2007, The Beijing Document on the protection of heritage in East Asia was adopted, and China has made contributions to the protection of international heritage and cultural relics. Since then, the protection of cultural relics in China has entered a new period.
During this stage, the system of the Cultural Relics Protection Unit has been continuously revised and improved in practice, and it ultimately became legalized in the end. In the revision of the relevant laws, the idea of the protection of Chinese relics has changed. Since then, equal emphasis has been placed on both protection and utilization, showing that China's heritage management is seeking more comprehensive development. To connect with the discourse system of international heritage management, China has contributed important wisdom in international conferences and developed documents that guide international heritage management. A qualitative leap has been achieved in China’s heritage management and the ideological characteristics of this stage can be defined as “comprehensive developmentalism”.

3.3 Limitations of the current Chinese Cultural Relics Protection Unit system

After nearly 70 years of development, the Cultural Relics Protection Unit has made outstanding contributions to Chinese heritage management in protecting cultural heritage resources, improving the popular ideas and enhancing the institutional framework for the protection of cultural heritage. However, with the changes in the main contradictions in our society and the cognitive system of heritage value in the social environment, some limitations have emerged. First of all, for Linear Cultural Heritage, such as the Grand Canal and the Long March Route, the separative nature of the protection method makes it difficult to reveal the “integrity” value of these types of heritage. Secondly, different titles have been given to the same relic, such as State-List Famous Historical and Cultural City, Chinese Famous Historical and Cultural Town/Village, which can be a headache for management. Furthermore, the Cultural Relics Protection Unit has the characteristic of “attaching importance to material culture, not intangible culture”, which is not conducive to the protection of cultural heritage diversity. Therefore, in order to solve the practical problems of cultural heritage management, it is necessary to protect and utilize linear heritage as a whole, and so the National Cultural Park is coming into being. In general, the specific system in a particular period will appear to be maladaptive and problematic (institutional lag) with the change of conditions, which will force the system construction (Heng and Zhang, 2012).

4 Innovation and vision of the National Cultural Park management system

The National Cultural Park, which has been approved by the state to be established and operated in a park-like manner, has the functions of cultural protection and utilization, cultural education, public service, tourism, recreation and scientific research; and it is being established in order to create an important symbol of national culture, strengthen national cultural self-confidence, enhance national cultural identity, integrate cultural heritage and cultural resources with national representative significance, and it is a public cultural carrier with a specific open space. The National Cultural Park is a national cultural construction project in China, with important Chinese cultural heritages, such as The Great Wall, The Grand Canal, The Long March Route, The Yellow River and The Yangtze River, as pilot programs. Based on the international heritage management theories and the heritage protection practices such as the Chinese Cultural Relics Protection Unit, this concept is an innovative achievement of Chinese heritage discourse as a result of international communication and local practices. It also serves as China’s contribution to the international community in heritage protection.

4.1 Innovation in the management concept of the National Cultural Park: Integrated preservation and integrated development

4.1.1 Integrated preservation

Chinese heritage management practices are far more complex than the previous systems. Starting from the perspective of “integrity”, the National Cultural Park System will optimize the shortcomings of the previous systems.
The National Cultural Park integrates and protects cultural relics and cultural resources with prominent significance and major themes. As the cultural resources involved in the first National Cultural Parks, the Great Wall, the Grand Canal, the Long March Route and the Yellow River, are all large linear heritages that span huge spatial-temporal distances and are highly culturally diverse, which are far beyond the concept of cultural relics protection. Therefore, cultural heritage management must achieve a breakthrough with “integrity”. The integrity of cultural heritage lies in the four components of “functional integrity”, “historical integrity”, “structural integrity” and “visual integrity”. The nature of National Cultural Park’s integral protection of cultural heritage is the integral protection of the cultural value of the Chinese nation.
The Integrated Preservation of the National Cultural Park is embodied in three aspects. First, it emphasizes the systematic protection of cultural heritage, natural heritage and intangible cultural heritage. Second, it attaches importance to the complete protection of the heritage itself and its surroundings. Third, it also highlights the unified protection of linear cultural heritage.
Building on the background of the mature idea of cultural heritage protection, such as “integrity” and “diversity”, the National Cultural Park takes “integrity” protection as the core idea, and establishes a strong coordination mechanism and stable management organization that carries out unified protection and planning, which gives full play to the integrity value of cultural heritage and conforms to the objective law of cultural heritage protection and development.

4.1.2 Integrated development

Seventy years after the implementation of the heritage management system, China is now exploring how to maximize the value of heritage on the basis of preservation. The important innovation of the National Cultural Park management system is that it pays attention to the utilization of heritage and the livelihoods of the people at the heritage sites. It highlights the living heritage and rational use, and is deeply integrated with the spiritual and cultural life of the people.
The term “park” stresses the basic function of the National Cultural Park: “The park is built for all.” The Great Wall, the Grand Canal, the Long March Route, and the Yellow River are cultural resources shared by the entire nation, and the park is comprised of organizations and spaces that are serving public interests. The construction of these parks with cultural resources fulfills the need for the integrated development of cultural industries, the common choice of the direction of cultural development and the needs of social development. The National Cultural Park clearly divides the cultural and tourism integration area and the traditional cultural utilization area, which fully embodies the concept of co-construction, co-management and sharing of the National Cultural Park.
The integrated development of the National Cultural Park embodies four aspects: The integration of time, space, culture and industry. First, the utilization and development of cultural heritage in the National Cultural Park is dialectically united in terms of time. The National Cultural Park will use technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality to restore and display damaged or lost cultural heritages as part of the effort to enhance its continuity. Second, the four functional areas of the National Cultural Park are integrated in space. The most significant cultural heritage resources like relics constitute the controlling protected areas; and the thematic display areas, the cultural and tourism fusion areas and the traditional utilization areas are cross-integrated, which creates an overall setting that the heritage could utilize together. Third, the cultural system of the National Cultural Park is harmonious and symbiotic. It emphasizes the systematic protection of the heritage itself and the natural ecological resources in which it is located, as well as related intangible cultural resources. Fourth, the innovation and comprehensiveness of the industrial development of the National Cultural Park are worthy of attention. The Park combines cultural resources with recreation modes to develop a complex industry with cultural orientation and integration with tourism and cultural creative industries. Franchising will be an important system for the rational utilization of the National Cultural Park.

4.2 Innovation of the cultural heritage management system: From national cultural relics protection units to national cultural parks

4.2.1 Build a national cultural park management system

The first problem to be solved is the construction of a standardized National Cultural Park management system. Compared with China’s Cultural Relics Protection Unit, the National Cultural Park features a wide range of radiation, diversified management subjects and diversified functions. The cultural resources involved in the National Cultural Park are trans-provincial and large-scale linear heritages involving multiple departments. For example, the Great Wall covers 15 provinces, the Grand Canal covers eight provinces, the Long March Route covers 14 provinces, and the Yellow River covers nine provinces. These resources are under the jurisdiction of several ministries, including the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Water Resources. There are many difficulties in the construction of the National Cultural Park such as the very large number of indigenous people living in heritage sites, the intricacies of land property rights, natural and cultural heritage crossing, overlapping management, difficulties in cross-provincial coordination and other related issues. It is urgent to establish a stable and unified National Cultural Park management agency and an efficient coordination mechanism.
In terms of the management system, it is necessary to establish a management model for the coordinated promotion of protection and utilization, clear authority and responsibility, efficient operation and standardized supervision. At the national level, the traditional secluded administrative management pattern should be abandoned and a joint conference system for the National Cultural Park should be established. In addition, an independent, comprehensive and authoritative management committee should also be set up, as well as an advisory committee composed of experts from various areas to strengthen investigations and research and provide macro guidance. At the same time, a board of directors involving the government, associations, enterprises, and the public will be established to play different roles according to their respective characteristics, such as legal protection, environmental planning, economic investment, assistance in management, and historical protection. At the local level, regional cooperation mechanisms with the participation of multiple actors should be established, and coordination and consultation across regions and departments should be strengthened, so as to form synergy between the upper and lower levels for overall progress. In the financial guarantee system, the state and local government financial appropriations are the main source, while non-governmental organizations, civil society, enterprises and individuals and other social forces are brought into play; so the diversification of capital investment is the trend. In the use of heritage, under the influence of the integration of culture and tourism, cultural tourism and characteristic ecological industries should be appropriately developed.
Through the exploration of theory and practice, the management system of the National Cultural Park will be gradually formed, which is the first task in the construction of the National Cultural Park.

4.2.2 Improve the management system of cultural heritage

Whether it is a natural heritage or a cultural heritage, there has always been overlapping management in China for a long time, and a classified and scientific heritage protection system has not been set up. With the establishment of the National Park management system, the basic framework of China’s natural protection system made its appearance. In June 2019, The Guidelines on the Establishment of a System of Protected Natural Areas with National Parks as the Main Part was promulgated, proposing that “a classification system of protected natural areas with National Park as the main body, nature reserves as the basis and various types of National Park as the supplement should be gradually formed”. It also put forward the requirements for comprehensive evaluation and classification of the existing Nature Reserves, Scenic Areas, Geoparks, Forest Parks and Wetland Parks. However, China’s cultural heritage system is still faced with management disorder, and the birth of the National Cultural Park will promote the construction of a cultural heritage management system.
China currently has 55 World Heritage Sites, 36 National Archaeological Parks, 244 National-Level Scenic Spots, 5058 National Key Cultural Relics Protection Units, 134 National Historical and Cultural Cities, 312 Historical and Cultural Towns, and 487 Historical and Cultural Villages, 6819 Chinese Traditional Villages; 40 World Intangible Cultural Heritages, 1372 National Intangible Cultural Heritages, 21 National Cultural and Ecological Protection Experimental Areas, and 100 National Demonstration Bases for Productive Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The cultural heritage system is faced with institutional obstacles such as unscientific classification, spatial overlap, and redundant management. The concept of the National Cultural Park is based on the management of cultural heritage integrity, which is similar to the “pocket principle” of world heritage protection. Everything related to protected objects is taken into consideration in the design of protection and development policies. The birth of the National Cultural Park System shoulders the heavy responsibility of reforming the cultural heritage protection system, and also creates powerful conditions for speeding up the reform and establishing a cultural heritage system that conforms to the country’s national conditions.
Drawing on the management framework of Natural Reserves, China’s cultural heritage management system should conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the various existing cultural heritages, and classify them according to different protection objects, management objectives, and resource utilization intensity levels. It should also improve the grading and classification system of cultural heritage, and gradually form a three-level cultural heritage management system with the National Cultural Park as the main body, Historical and Cultural Towns (Villages) as the focus, the Cultural Relics Protection Unit as the basis, and various cultural heritage sites as supplements.

4.3 Vision of the national cultural park management system: Create an important symbol of Chinese culture

In 1992, the U.S. National Park Service further clarified in its National Parks for the 21st Century: The Vail Agenda that “the historical sites, cultural characteristics, and natural environment of our country contribute to the ability to develop a sense of a common nation—which should be a core goal of the National Park Service.” Yellowstone’s north gate is engraved with the words “For the benefit and happiness of the people.” Similarly, the vision and goal of China’s National Cultural Park is creating an important symbol of Chinese culture and building a community with a shared future for the Chinese nation. Therefore, the National Cultural Park embodies two connotations.
The first connotation is nationalization and localization. The Park should encourage different cultural spirits through which China’s stories will be told very well, and the focus could be shifted from the display of content to the transmission of value. For example, it will remind us of the traits like patriotism, unity and struggle when speaking of the Great Wall. The Inexhaustible Grand Canal reveals the inclusiveness and tells us that, with efforts, humans can prevail over nature. The Long March teaches us that ideals and faith go hand-in-hand with the quality of seeking truth from facts. When it comes to the mighty Yellow River, unity in diversity, diligence and courage come to mind. Specifically, by focusing on the five landmark projects of “Conservation and Inheritance Project, Research and Excavation Project, Environmental Support Project, Cultural and Tourism Integration Project and Digital Reproduction Project”, the Park materializes the national spirit and serves in the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and the Chinese dream.
The second connotation is internationalization and universalization. The concept of grading and zoning management is an internationally recognized protection concept. Specifically, based on the sorting and classification of cultural tourism projects along the National Cultural Park, cultural resource development and innovation of entertainment should be combined so as to enhance the industry and the modernization of the industrial chain. Breakthroughs must be made in the tourism, cultural and creative industries so as to form a culture-oriented complex industrial development framework, and create a distinct image and brand of the National Culture Park. That is, the Park explores the protection and utilization model of large-scale linear cultural heritage in a bid to promote exchanges between different cultures worldwide, as well as the preservation and survival of cultural diversity.
The core connotation of national cultural heritage will be internalized into the common belief of the nation. That is to say, the unified Chinese culture identity is deeply rooted in the hearts of the people and the spirit of excellent cultural essence unifies people’s beliefs, so that a kind of cultural consciousness, identification and confidence of national culture can be achieved.

5 Conclusions and discussion

5.1 Conclusions

The National Cultural Park is an innovative achievement of Chinese heritage discourse in the process of internationalization and localization. Drawing lessons from western management experience should be based on Chinese cultural heritage management practices because the Chinese wisdom and the wishes of Chinese people for contributing to the world will be incorporated into the National Cultural Park at the same time. This study explores the following three aspects.
First, the origin of the National Cultural Park. On the one hand, with changes in the cognitive system of heritage value, the principle of international cultural heritage protection has developed from “authenticity” to “integrity” and the object of cultural heritage protection has shifted from "monism" to “diversity”, especially the enrichment of linear cultural heritage theory; and the maturation of the idea of international cultural heritage provides an important theoretical basis for the National Cultural Park. On the other hand, China’s Cultural Relics Protection Unit System has made outstanding contributions to China’s heritage protection through three stages: system creation, system survival crisis and system rebirth and development; however, with the change of the institutional environment, its limitations in heritage management and value expression provide an opportunity for the birth of the new system. In general, these two forces have evolved together, which eventually led to the formal establishment of the concept of the National Cultural Park.
The second aspect concerns the concept innovation and management innovation of the National Cultural Park. On one hand, the integrated preservation and the integrated development of cultural heritage is not only the core connotation of the National Cultural Park, but also the biggest innovation that differentiates it from the existing Chinese cultural heritage management system. The integrated preservation of heritage is in step with the ideas in the international heritage management documents. The integrated development gives full play to the maximum effectiveness of heritage utilization and realizes the innovative development of the integration of cultural and other industries. On the other hand, constructing the management system of the National Cultural Park is the primary and most important priority. It is necessary to establish a management model with the working principle and mechanism of coordinated promotion of protection and utilization, well-defined power and responsibility, an efficient operational scheme and standardized supervision. When the construction of the National Cultural Park is carried out smoothly under the guidance of its management system, its institutional concept will be gradually realized. Specifically, a Chinese cultural heritage management system dominated by the National Cultural Park and supplemented by other cultural heritage resources will be formed to complete the mission of evaluation and classification of the existing cultural resources.
The last aspect refers to the vision of the National Cultural Park. When a system is tested for effectiveness and then revised or strengthened, it will become stable in terms of long-term development. With the success of the construction of the National Cultural Park, the spiritual connotation embodied in its culture will be internalized into the common belief system of the Chinese nation. That is to say, the unified Chinese cultural identity is deeply rooted in the hearts of the people and the spirit of excellent cultural essence unifies people’s beliefs so that a kind of cultural consciousness, identification and confidence of the national culture can be achieved. Subsequently, the essence of the system will be internalized into the common belief of the nation, which could be regarded as the highest level of system development.

5.2 Discussion

The concept of the National Cultural Park has been undeniably pioneered by China. However, the relationship between the National Cultural Park and the National Park is still equivocal. The development course of these two major heritage management systems is worth discussing. For a long time, China had separated the management of nature and culture. This dual system of the separate management of nature and culture corresponds to the National Park and the National Cultural Park in the practice of heritage management. Under the premise of a clear boundary between natural and cultural resources, the separate management of these resources has obvious advantages. However, the “culture” in National Cultural Park often combines humanity, culture and nature, and obviously the park needs to use certain natural resources as the cultural carriers. So, this dual system cannot ensure that the practice of the National Cultural Park could fundamentally solve the problems of unified management. At present, the developmental courses of China’s cultural and natural industries are gradually merging. As a national symbolic “park” serves the public good, will the National Park System develop together with the National Cultural Park System in the future? The construction of China’s National Park occurred earlier than that of the National Cultural Park, and its experience is worth learning. With the expansion of the construction and the spread of the system of knowledge and beliefs, it is believed that the differences between these two systems will influence each other and their similarities concerning knowledge and beliefs will merge and expand, and they will undoubtedly be incorporated together in a higher-level legal construction.
In addition to the management challenges mentioned above, some other challenges need to be briefly discussed here. The first is the selection criteria. It is necessary to determine the access criteria for national cultural parks. The future construction scope should be expanded from linear cultural heritage to point-based cultural heritage. The second is the capital issue. It is necessary to deal with the contradiction between the large-scale centralized investments in major projects and the limited and scattered capital scale. Various investment mechanisms such as special bonds and social capital participation should be established. The third issue is the integration of culture and tourism. It is necessary to deal with the relationship between cultural construction and tourism development. The park should encourage the activation of heritage, strengthen the creative transformation of cultural resources, and take the development path of cultural branding.
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