Understanding Authenticity in China's Cultural Heritage

chinas cultural heritage

Notions of “authenticity” are both culturally constructed and historically contingent. What one deems to be genuine or fake follows norms agreed upon by their particular communities. In this network, we discuss the construction “authenticity,” and its consequences, in relation to China’s cultural heritage - those objects, texts, and intangible practices concerned with China’s past. Questions to consider include, but are not limited to: How do standards for authenticity change in time, space, and between various object- or text-types, and why? Who arbitrates what counts as authentic, and from where does that authority stem? Who made forgeries, how did they circulate, and what was their economic effect? How has forgery been used to contest ownership of the past, to enact political protest, or push intellectual programs? How do current anxieties over authenticity impact the management of China’s cultural heritage today? We would like to emphasize that we are *NOT* interested in methodologies for authentication per se, or adjudicating whether or not specific objects or texts ought to be regarded as genuine or fake, but rather in the cultural, social, economic, and political construction of authenticity.


Over the course of the next year, we will hold a series of  events that bring together members of this network to consider together the above theme. These may include round table discussions, lectures, workshops, exhibitions and site visits. A larger international conference is planned for May 28-30th, 2020, to present our findings in a more formal setting. We look forward to collaborating with a range of stakeholders who also grapple with the question of "authenticity" in their work on China's cultural heritage, including but not limited to: museum curators, conservators, librarians, antiquities dealers, collectors, journalists and media, art lawyers, police and politicians. 



Christopher J. Foster

Anke Hein


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