Museums and nationalism in contemporary China

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50 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the representation of Chinese identity in museums in the People's Republic of China, comparing this briefly with the portrayal of local and national identities in Hong Kong and Taiwan. In particular, the article looks at the implications for museums of the shift in emphasis within state ideology from socialism to patriotism - a shift that has been particularly marked since the early 1990s. Museums in contemporary China are officially designated as 'bases for patriotic education', but the content of the 'patriotism' that they are meant to promote remains in many respects vague or problematic. One of the key tensions here is that between a deep-rooted assumption of equivalence between 'Chinese' and 'Han' culture and history, and the multicultural reality of the contemporary People's Republic - including as it does a range of non-Han groups such as Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongols. The progressive abandonment of socialism has in some ways exposed these contradictions more starkly in recent years. Meanwhile, the homogenous and totalising official vision of Chinese identity in general, and Han identity in particular, is contested either at the popular or the official level (or both) in the largely Han communities of Hong Kong and Taiwan. In a rapidly commercialising and modernising China, the promotion of a state-centred patriotism has become a key instrument for the regime in its efforts to preserve its legitimacy, and museums represent a key element in this strategy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-382
Number of pages18
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


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