UNESCO world heritage and the regional powers: Changing representations of religious cultural heritage

Sanami Takahashi, Noriko Maejima, Hiroshi Kobayashi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


In this chapter, we analyze religious items of cultural heritage that are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and consider problems of their representation and management systems in India, China, and Russia. Today, sacred sites are discussed with a focus on their complex nature. The dichotomy of the sacred and the profane is not always available. Eliade’s hierophanies, for example, are not enough to understand contemporary phenomena in sacred sites where ‘the sacred does not manifest itself ' (Eliade, 1987, p. 11). Sacredness and tradition woven into a place are normalized and materialized, and then consumed. Under these circumstances, the boundary between religion and culture, between pilgrimage and tourism, becomes more and more blurred. A striking example of this fusion is demonstrated in the religious properties registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Each of the three regional powers has its own religious tradition and culture, which may be represented by Orientalism. Today, their religious cultural resources are considered as a symbol of regional or national identity, which is often manipulated for political and economic purposes. We consider one property from each country as a case study: Bodhgaya, a Buddhist religious and pilgrimage site, Fujian tulou, a type of traditional dwelling of the Hakka, and Solovki (Solovetsky) Monastery, a famous old Russian Orthodox pilgrimage site and notorious concentration camp in the 1920s and 1930s under the Soviet regime. While these three loci share the same social problems with other regions in the use of World Heritage properties, the regional powers are faced with certain particular issues resulting in their peripheral position concerning the protection of cultural and historic properties. There is a discrepancy in the understanding of cultural heritage between these regions and the World Heritage Committee. When a property is recognized for its outstanding universal value, its global status creates a dilemma for the regional society in question.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEurasia’s Regional Powers Compared - China, India, Russia
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781317667872
ISBN (Print)9781138782945
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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