Institute of Archaeology


Lisheng Zhang

Lisheng Zhang

Jianchuan Museum Complex: Memory, Ethics and Power in Chinese Private Heritage Entrepreneurship


Email: lisheng.zhang.13@ucl.ac.uk
Section: Heritage Studies



Jianchuan Museum Complex: Memory, Ethics and Power in Chinese Private Heritage Entrepreneurship

My research focuses on the ongoing phenomenon of private heritage entrepreneurship in China. Over the past decades, a growing number of nonofficial initiatives were committed to heritage preservation. With a shared sense of moral responsibility to pursue historical 'truth' and restore collective memories for the public good. They urge the nation to come to terms with its silenced and neglected pasts and allow alternative historical narratives to be voiced. Based on an ethnographic case study of Jianchuan Museum Complex, Chengdu, Sichuan, my research is aimed to critically understand how private heritage enterprises articulate moral/ethical claims to the past, while entangled with financial demands and ideological constraints. Founded in 2005, Jianchuan Museum has the largest private collection of historical artifacts of modern China, showcased in more than 20 individual museums, including 8 on the Resistance War (1937-1945), 5 on the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), and 4 on the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake. Its founder and director, Fan Jianchuan, is a real estate entrepreneur with military and political background. By sustaining the complex with commercial and touristic methods, he preserves and reclaims some of the nation's most difficult and controversial memories. This research explores the moral issues and power dynamics in this practice by probing the ways in which different stakeholders negotiate their interests, and the influences the project brings to local realities. This research is part of the research project Conflicts in Cultural Value: Localities and Heritage in Southwestern China funded by the Leverhulme Trust.


Leverhulme Trust


    • BA English Literature, Zhejiang University, China, 2013
    • MA Cultural Heritage Studies, UCL, 2014
    Conference papers

    Modern Conflict Archaeology Conference, Bristol University, October 2015;

    Best In Heritage Conference, Dubrovnik, Croatia, September 2016;

    Annual Anthropology Postgraduate Student Forum, Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2017