Dollars and Dim Sum: Merchandising Chinese History
Kate Lowe and Eugene McLaughlin investigate the latest chain of tourist attractions in a multi million dollar Chinese theme park.
In the highly competitive world of popular entertainment, tourist and leisure companies are constantly on the look-out for novel ideas and exotic new experiences. In the 1980s, sections of the industry raided even' period of history for inspiration. One of the lasting results is the 'authentic' historically themed environment in the form of heritage centres, folk parks and, perhaps the most accessible of all, the theme park. These are commercial leisure complexes where carefully selected important historical figures, moments, buildings and experiences are recreated and reinscribed for immediate mass consumption. They can either be built around a site which is home to an authentic historical happening or be purely artificial. The great advantage of the latter is that the developers can imagine history anew. Ingenious, relatively inexpensive technologies enable the parks to deliver a historical and cultural feel-good product in a suitable soundbite and interactive format. They, in effect, have found a way to transform time and place into a piece of merchandise. As they enter the new multi-media pleasure domes, travellers in hyper-reality are assured that history- and culture are accessible, entertaining and different. And judging by the global proliferation of these ventures, they have obviously struck a chord.
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