TROPICAL GEOGRAPHY ›› 2018, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (4): 586-597.doi: 10.13284/j.cnki.rddl.003040

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Tourism Gentrification in Historic District Renovation: A Case Study of LingnanTiandi,Foshan

CHANG Jiang1,XIE Dixiang2,3,CHEN Hongsheng4,CHEN Huiqi5   

  1. [1.Department of Geography,Environment and Spatial Sciences,Michigan State University,East Lansing 48824,Michigan,USA;2.Key Laboratory of Urban Land Resources Monitoring and Simulation,Ministry of Land and Resources,Shenzhen 518034,China;3.School of Architecture and Urban Planning,Guangdong University of Technology,Guangzhou 510090,China;4.School of Architecture,Southeast University,Nanjing 210096, China;5.JURONG International Constructors(Suzhou)Co Ltd.,Suzhou 215028,China]
  • Online:2018-07-05 Published:2018-07-05

Abstract: Urban regeneration, based on the development of culture tourism and culture heritage reuse, has become fashionable in China over the recent years. Local governments hope to improve their city’s image through showing their unique local features and hope to satisfy the demands of the emerging middle-class boosting the vitality of the inner city through cultural heritage renovation. The phenomenon, however, has led to a series of gentrification phenomena across big cities, such as Nanluoguxiang in Beijing, Xindianti in Shanghai, and Kuanzhai Xiangzi in Chengdu. In Foshan, under the guidance of government and investment of capital, the regeneration of Zumiao & Donghuali historical district (later known as LingnanTiandi) made this community one of the most important tourism attractions and recreation business districts (RBD) within four years. While the updated physical landscape has significantly attracted tourists and promoted the local economies, the social impacts of these projects have not been well-studied. We first reviewed the tourism gentrification literature, arguing that while there are numerous studies focusing on the mechanisms of tourism gentrification in China, few has emphasized the social impacts of gentrification. In fact, the original residents, especially the underprivileged, have little power to resist gentrification and have experienced complicated emotional changes. Their emotional reactions towards displacement, loss of social ties, and loss of sense of place require much more attention. Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, this study investigated the gentrification of Lingnan Tiandi, Foshan, examining the social and physical dimensions of the regeneration project. We conducted 19 in-depth interviews with different actors during gentrification in Lingnan Tiandi, including original residents, new-coming residents, residents nearby, tourists, shop managers, real estate agencies, and developers. In an investigation of the socio-economic status of Lingnan Tiandi consumers, we collected questionnaires from 222 tourists to identify their socio-economic characteristics. In addition, both participant and non-participant observation are used during our three fieldworks. The sentiments of the original residents are analyzed, with special attention focus on the underprivileged who were directly affected by the regeneration project. The changes of social class, physical environment, and consumption patterns indicated that gentrification was happening in LingnanTiandi with the reinvestment of capital, social upgrading of locale, landscape change, and direct displacement of low-income groups. We found that the physical environment has accelerated the social displacement, as Lingnan Tiandi is being increasingly rebranded for tourists, middle-class consumers, and real estate investors. Although tourism gentrification may help protect the historical heritage and promote the cultural and economic development, it has led to a serious social and spatial exclusion. The residents who lived in Lingnan Tiandi for generations have been forced to move out as the “living spaces” have been transformed into “capital spaces” and “consumption spaces”. From ambivalent to lonely, from regret to pride, residents’ sentiment underwent complex changes in the process of gentrification. We argue that unlike the common urban renewal in Chinese cities, the historic district renovation is crucial to urban culture, history, and resident’s wellbeing. Therefore, resident’s emotions and historical memories should be respected in a localized way during history district renovation.

Key words: historic district, urban regeneration, tourism gentrification, residents’ sentiment, Lingnan Tiandi