CANCELLED: Understanding Authenticity in China's Cultural Heritage

chinas cultural heritage


Please see the new listing for information.

Conference at the University of Oxford, 28-30 May, 2020

Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre of the Oxford China Centre, off of Canterbury Rd

Message from the organisers:

Dear everyone
Thank you all very much for your contribution to and interest in our Understanding Authenticity in China's Cultural Heritage Conference, originally planned to be held at the end of May 2020. Because of rapidly changing circumstances, we cannot go forward with an in-person event in May. We are, however, currently considering various alternative options, including postponing the conference to a later time this year or the next, be it in person or as an online-only event. For the presenters, to keep our momentum we are looking into building online working groups or engaging in other activities that do not require everyone to be in the same place.

We are discussing the options with our funding agencies, venue, and caterers, with whom we had signed contracts, so please bear with us for a little while. We will be in touch to ask for your suggestions and insights.

If you have any questions or concerns in the meantime, or suggestions for what kinds of collaborations and activities you would be interested in moving forward, please feel free to get in touch.

Wishing you all the best of health and thank you again,

Anke & Chris

What we deem to be genuine or fake is not an objective determination, but something that we agree upon as communities. Debates about authenticity, moreover, are often intimately bound to question who owns the past and its representation. Please join us at Oxford on May 28th-30th, 2020, for a discussion on the construction of “authenticity,” both historically and today, in relation to China’s cultural heritage. 

From contesting narratives about the mother trees of Big Red Robe tea, to the restoration of Qin terracotta soldiers; from the authentication of Warring States bamboo-strip scrolls, to best practices in reading transcriptions of medieval Dunhuang manuscripts; from the experience of visiting a replica Eiffel Tower in Hangzhou, to US-China diplomatic tensions over "originality" and "shanzhai 山寨 (imitation)” – "Understanding Authenticity in China's Cultural Heritage” brings together specialists from a broad range of professions and fields, to explore how questions about “authenticity” impact their work on objects, texts, and intangible cultural heritage in China. A preliminary schedule is available below, and on our website:

We warmly welcome attendance by any interested parties, regardless of professional background, including but not limited to university scholars and students, museum curators and conservators, antiquities dealers and collectors, art lawyers and insurers, and media. Attendance in the audience is free of charge, however spaces are limited. To book your place, click here. (Tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis). If you would prefer not to use the online booking system, or have further questions, please contact:

 **“Understanding Authenticity in China’s Cultural Heritage” is generously sponsored by Oxford University’s Knowledge Exchange Seed Fund, TORCH Heritage Seed Fund, The British Academy, The Leverhulme Trust, Oxford China Centre, St. Hugh’s College, and Pembroke College.**


Dear Conference Participants,

We wanted to get in touch with you briefly concerning the "Understanding Authenticity in China's Cultural Heritage" conference and the coronavirus pandemic. We are currently still planning to hold the conference as scheduled, on May 28-30th at Oxford's China Centre. Our hope is that by late May the situation will have improved, and that we can run the conference in typical fashion. 

The University of Oxford has reported that two of its students have contracted Covid-19. They are being treated, and Public Health England has advised that the risk to our community is very low. Oxford therefore is continuing operations as normal. For up-to-date news and information on how Oxford is approaching the virus threat, please refer to their official website: For the latest health advice, travel restrictions and status of the coronavirus in the UK from Public Health English, please see:

As the virus continues to spread globally, increasingly stringent travel restrictions are being put in place - by governments, universities, and businesses alike. The situation is fluid. We will revisit our decision about the conference in mid-April, and keep you all updated. Should the situation not improve, we will consider postponing the conference. Another option we are exploring is permitting individual speakers who are unable to travel to Oxford to present remotely via Skype, Zoom or another similar application; it will not be feasible, however, to hold the entire conference online. 

In the meantime, we urge you to check your travel and medical insurance, so that you understand your coverage before making airline or hotel purchases. Your health and safety is our foremost concern. If for any reason you do not feel comfortable participating in the conference at this time, please contact us. 

Wishing you continued good health,

Anke & Chris

Preliminary Programme

28 May, 2020

17:00-19:00 Keynote LectureLothar von Falkenhausen (UCLA): The Irresistible Allure of Patina and Pedigree: A Case Study

29 May, 2020

8:30-9:00            Opening Remarks

Dr Christopher Foster (University of Oxford)

Dr Anke Hein (University of Oxford)

9:00-10:30   Session 1: Art and Material Culture

9:00-9:30 David Scott (UCLA): Constructions and Deconstructions of Authenticity in Chinese Art

9:30-10:00   Oliver Constabler (Geneva University): The Context of Authentication 

10:00-10:30  Celia Carrington Riely (Independent Scholar): The Strange Case of Altered Seals


10:30-11:00 Coffee break


11:00-11:30       Jean DeBernardi (University of Alberta): The Modern Invention of Big Red Robe Tea: History, Story, and Performance) 

11:30-12:00  Thong Kin Ngiam (Gallerist, Fujian): The Contemporary Jian Bowl/Tenmoku

12:00-12:30  Robin Wilson (University of Oxford): Karamono (Chinese Things): Authenticity, legitimacy and mimetics in the production and use of Chinese-inspired Japanese ceramic tea utensils, past and present

12:30-13:00  Gao Xuyang (University of Oxford): Problems of authenticity: reflections on contemporary zisha teapot-making techniques


13:00-14:00 Lunch break


14:00-18:30 Session 2: Texts and Manuscripts

14:00-14:30  Paul Goldin (University of Pennsylvania): The Spread of Virtue and the Fallacy of Authenticity in Classical Chinese Aesthetics

14:30-15:00  Kevin (Kuan-yu) Huang (City University of Hong Kong): Authenticity and the Authenticating of Ancient Chinese Texts

15:00-15:30  Nick Vogt (Indiana University): The “Real” Life (and Death) of King Wen: Biography as Authentication in the Yizhoushu

15:30-16:00  Corina Smith (Oxford): Venerated Documents: What are shu, and what is at stake?


16:00-16:30 Coffee break


16:30-17:00  Imre Galambos (University of Cambridge): Transcription without Image: The Authenticity of Lost Manuscripts from pre-modern China

17:00-17:30  Timothy Thurston (Leeds): Multiple Authenticities of the Tibetan Gesar Epic

17:30-18:00 Rachel McVeigh (University of Oxford): (Mis)remembering the Tang? The attribution of the ‘Twenty Four Categories of Poetry’ to Sikong Tu

18:00-18:30  Alexandra Forrester (University of Cambridge): Constructing authenticity in the case of Chinese Zhengyi Daoist priests

18:30 Dinner for speakers


30 May, 2020

9:00-13:00   Session 3: Museums, Collections, and Displays


9:00-9:30     Li Xiuzhen (University of Oxford): Revisiting Authenticity: Restoration and Conservation of the Qin First Emperor’s Terracotta Army

9:30-10:00   Zhang Yanzhuang (Gillian) (Freer Gallery): Authenticating Su Shi’s Snowy Wave Stone in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)

10:00-10:30  Cao Qin (National Museum of Scotland): On the authenticity of objects with imperial associations in the National Museum of Scotland

10:30-11:00  Gao Qian (University of Stirling): Authenticity and Heritage Conservation: Seeking Common Complexities beyond the ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ Dichotomy


11:00-11:30 Coffee break


11:30-12:00  Cornelius Holtorf (Linnaeus University), with Qingkai Ma (Hangzhou Normal University), Xian Chen (Zhejiang A&F University), and Yu Zhang (Zhejiang A&F University) in absentia: Paris, China. Some thoughts about the value of simulated heritage

12:00-12:30  Patrycjy Pendrakowska (University of Warzaw): Can a copy deliver an authentic experience? An interdisciplinary approach to fieldwork conducted in Southeast China

12:30-13:00  Jennifer Kreder (Northern Kentucky University): Shanzai and Fuzhi Tensions in U.S.-Chinese Diplomacy


13:00-14:00 Lunch break


14:00-18:00 Session 4: Cultural Heritage Management


14:00-14:30  Mark Hoskin (SOAS): Rebuilding the visual to aid in reconstructing memories of the past

14:30-15:00  Jie Hao (University of Birmingham): Who decides? The Authenticity of Traditional Rural Settlement Heritagization Practices: A Case Study of a Chinese Traditional Village

15:00-15:30  Tao Li (Shanghai Normal University): Attraction or Distraction? Exploring tourism implication for Heritage interpretation at National Archaeological Park of Qi Capital sites, China


15:30-16:00 Coffee break


16:00-16:30  Wei Qiaowei (Shanghai University): Touched by the past? Re-articulating the Longxing temple sites as community heritage at Qingzhou County, China

16:30-17:00  Stefan Gruber (Kyoto University): TBA

17:30-18:00  Phillip Grimberg (University of Erlangen): UNESCO World Heritage and the Problem of Authenticity – The Case of “Built Structures” and China´s Tangible Cultural Heritage


18:15-19:15  Second Keynote

Cheung Kwong Yue (The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong): The Authentication of Chu Bamboo Manuscripts: Using the Collections of the Shanghai Museum and Tsinghua University as Examples

To book your place, click here. If you would prefer not to use Eventbrite, please email the TORCH team directly at