When a heritage site goes into media, whether movies, documentaries, or TV shows, it often helps the public to gain more knowledge and awareness about this certain heritage. Hence, it may have an impact to help the government to raise public awareness of protecting and developing their heritage together.
According to the research by Shen et al. (2009) and Di Pietro et al (2015), non-tourism factors such as media and social trends could have an impact on people’s destination choice among different heritage sites. This may imply that cultural products could influence public’s perception and interests about a heritage.
This blog will explore this theme by looking into the world heritage site, Fujian Tulou, and a Chinese animation movie, Big Fish & Begonia to see how cultural products could influence heritage sites.
The animation, Big Fish & Begonia, was firstly released on 8 July 2016. The movie drew its story from ancient Chinese myths and illustrate its stage based on the form of Fujian Tulou. It tells a story about sacrificing, destiny, salvation, and fighting against disaster. The buildings in this movie where characters live are inspired by the form of Tulou. It is a very important setting and stage of the storytelling.
Fujian Tulou is the traditional communal building of Hakka people. After Hakka people migrated to Fujian Province from the northern China, they built Tulou as their homes. Each Tulou usually is living by people who shared the same family name, which meant that one Tulou was a community for people from the same family. Tulou is build with wood and fortified with mud walls. It served as both homes and fortress in the past. Obviously, Tulou does not need to keep the function as a fortress nowadays rather purely as home to Hakka people.
The round or square shape of Tulou does not only hold its physical functions, but also symbolise the spirit of solidarity, unity and the holistic view of human beings and the world in Chinese philosophy. These spirits are displayed in the movie Big Fish & Begonia when the characters of the community fighting disasters together.
After the movie came out, there were people using Tulou as a stage to create their choreography, accompanied with the theme song of the movie. This is an evidence that the movie intrigued people’s passion about Tulou and gave it more values and vitality.
Using the time range tool of Google search engine, we could see the search results of the keyword Tulou in Chinese starting from 8 July 2016 when the movies was released. Within two months since the release, the search results increased by 17,000 till 8 Sept 2016. In the first page of the results, the keyword Tulou was largely related with the movie Big Fish & Begonia. This shows that the movie has a positive impact on making public interested in Tulou as a heritage. In addition to this, Netflix bought the copyright of the movie to show it for English-speaking countries. We could see there are quite a number of user-generated content on YouTube as well, just after the English version was released. That means the movie also helps the image of Tulou to spread across a different cultural environment. Both Chinese and English audience were drawn into a world where Tulou played a very important role.
Heritage does not only exist in the past or remain as its past form. It also means what we choose from the past and take it to the future. Heritages can inspire the creation of cultural products. And cultural products such as movies, books, and music are one way for people to give more living values to the heritage and to make sure its vitality. By taking tangible heritages like buildings into cultural industry, it is not only to give them more exposure to public, but also to grant them with more cultures and values. By doing so, the heritage is no longer merely a site for visiting and a ghost from past. Rather, it would march into a dynamic and viable future.
Di Pietro, L., Guglielmetti Mugion, R., Mattia, G., & Renzi, M. (2015). Cultural heritage and consumer behaviour: A survey on Italian cultural visitors. Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, 5(1), 61-81.
Shen, S., Schüttemeyer, A., & Braun, B. (2009). VISITORS’INTENTION TO VISIT WORLD CULTURAL HERITAGE SITES: AN EMPIRICAL STUDY OF SUZHOU, CHINA. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 26(7), 722-734.