According to the Principles for the Conservation of Heritage Sites in China, ‘‘heritage sites must be historically authentic,’’ which means that physical remains of heritage sites must be in their historic condition and truly and credibly reflect the site’s historic reality. The concept of historic authenticity is inherently related to the spiritual perspective of authenticity in Chinese culture. This spiritual value legitimizes Chinese restoration traditions related to physical fabric renewal, in particular the processes of replacement, restoration, and reconstruction. However, this interpretation of authenticity could also lead to the inappropriate demolition and reconstruction of historic buildings. According to the same principle of historic authenticity, historic urban areas must ‘‘retain their overall historic appearance’’ as the container of historic information. In order to protect the overall historic townscape of an area without sacrificing its use in contemporary daily life, townscape management becomes a significant challenge. In practice, there is a trend to classify all historic buildings of secondary importance into several classes, according to their physical integrity, vulnerability, associations with major heritage sites, and their contribution to their historic townscape. Under this system, designation classifications would then allow for preservation interventions at different levels of impact, including reconstruction and relocation. Although this classification-intervention method is gradually gaining acceptance in local preservation plans, its impact on authenticity is still a matter of debate. This paper will explain the concept of historic authenticity and its methodology in China. It will compare this concept to the principles of authenticity encapsulated in the Venice Charter and the Nara Document on Authenticity. Finally, it will introduce the classification method of historic buildings and present the author’s comments and opinions on them.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 404-417
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.