Emotional expression of feeling
Poria et al. (2003) have argued that visitors’ perception of places links to their personal feelings and further influences their behaviours at heritage sites. They acknowledged that this research, based on interviews with people visiting the heritage site the Wailing Wall, Israel, which has a strong association with tourists’ feelings tied to their family or ethnicity. Cameron and Gatewood (2000,2003) also identified a sense of feeling, which they called ‘numinous,’ that attempted to describe a visitor’s sense of being spiritually linked to the past. They considered that some tourists at heritage sites are undertaking ‘numen-seeking.’ Smith (2006, 2015) observed that visitors often had strong emotional engagements; however, they tended not to talk explicitly about feeling anything. Smith based her research within Australia, England and US contexts, and reports (pers. comm.) that there is little overt acknowledgement that tourists were having or seeking certain feelings at sites, although their responses indicated that they were feeling something. Nonetheless, the degree of emotional authenticity that they felt was important in validating the meanings they were making.
Based on those scholars’ research, my research further develops their arguments in the Chinese context. I have found that there is a more complex and multidimensional sense of feeling that emerges from my two case studies’ interviews, which reveals that people talk about their feelings in a far more self-conscious way than the data Cameron and Gatewood (2000, 2003), Poria et al. (2003) or Smith (2006, 2015) have recorded. Firstly, some of the tourists were clearly aware they were seeking a sense ofTeeling’ that tied to their sense of place. It is a dialogue between the personal and the physical site. Both of my two case studies showed that many tourists’ narratives presented an aesthetic thought process with extensive use of metaphor. On the one hand, some of them were explicitly aware of the very subtle natural aesthetic beauty surrounding them. For instance, XD057 metaphorically thought that ‘Hongcun is a woman and Xidi is a man’ which ‘[t]he water view in Hongcun is so beautiful, which makes Hongcun like a woman. The old houses and ancestral temples in Xidi are larger and bigger than Hongcun, so I imagine Xidi is a man;’ HC005 described her sense of place at Hongcun as being able to see that the four seasons were ‘alive’ there.
On the other hand, some of the tourists’ sense of feeling evoked by their encounters with the physical sites revealed deeper emotional engagements. My research revealed a sense of the poetic that is tied to the idea of emotion and feeling which is more overt than Bagnall (2003), Poria et al. (2003) and Smith (2006, 2015) found in Western contexts. For instance, WL043 (see Chapter 3) when he vividly described the scene of i’ Lingering Snow on Broken
Bridge that ‘reflects the scenery that on a sunny day after a heavy snow, the snow on the bridge melts and shows the brown floor, which gives people a feeling that the chain is broken.’ I interviewed him in the autumn, and he easily described his aesthetic feeling in the winter season. In the interview with resident WL076 (see Chapter 4), he also understood the poetic meaning of the Ten Poetically Named Scenic Places such as Lingering Snow on Broken Bridge,
and he wanted tourists to understand and feel these poetic meanings as well. My research reveals that the Chinese people (both tourists and local people) I interviewed seem to easily understand the poetic meaning ofWest Lake (e.g. see also WL093). Ironically, i’ Lingering Snow on Broken Bridge was the
place the local government and experts tried but failed, to explain the poetic meaning of to the ICOMOS experts in the WH listing process (Zhang 2017; Zhang and Taylor 2019). As the director from the Institute of Architectural History comments:
When I prepared the World Heritage listing for West Lake, I studied the German psychologist Theodor Lippsor about his theory of aesthetics, particularly the concept of‘empathy.’ I want to learn how to interpret nature from the perspective of ‘human’ for ICOMOS examination. However, I found that Chinese people’s thoughts and ideas have never been divided into subject and object, rather a holistic idea of‘harmony between man nature’ in Chinese philosophy.
(WL144, director from the Institute of Architectural History)
The poetic or aesthetic thought process was embodied in Chinese traditional philosophy, and represents and speaks to Chinese identity and is easily made sense of by Chinese people. While Westerners were not influenced in this way, even the ICOMOS experts’ expertise could not readily fill the gap of cultural differences.This gap supports Han Feng’s (2006) thesis, where she demonstrated that the Chinese traditional philosophy precept of 'oneness with nature’ (or harmony with nature as noted above) had influenced Chinese understanding of heritage (see also the essential spirit of traditional Chinese philosophies identified by Zhang 1986;Wang 1990; Xu 1996). Han (2006) argues that:
Chinese philosophies are about human beings and their highest practices involve the aesthetic pursuit of life itself.
Nature, interpreted by Chinese philosophical, moral and aesthetic values, greatly contributed to the aesthetic construction of all aspects of traditional everyday life, from the ideal society' to the ideal personality. Life, morals, politics, aesthetics everything could be interpreted by Shanshui, which had penetrated human ideology'. Nature was spiritually and materially reconstructed by the Chinese when the boundary between human beings and nature disappeared.
(Han 2006: 190) (see also Xu 1996; Peng 1998; Zhang 2005)
This poetic sense of feeling was also widely expressed by tourists quoting poetry from ancient scholars (e.g. WL083), some of them even creating poetry when they were visiting West Lake. For instant:
I remember when I went to West Lake at mid-March, I just went to Shanghai for an interview at a university'. At that time, I felt very anxious, lost hope for life, and desperately went to West Lake for recreation. At that time,MRM^zKW^the early spring was still cold, the shower stopped at the beginning, the willow branches were green, the smog was filled, and the green water flapping on the shore. I walked around the lake for more than 40,000 steps, sighing that there was such a beautiful scene in the world, and immediately restored the confidence and hope of life and revived.
(WL042, female, 18—24, tourist)
Just like WL042, many other visitors, influenced by ancient scholars such as Bai Juyi and Sun Dongpo, actively express their feeling by' composing poetry' (see message board in Chapter 4). In this sense, the ancient scholars created the meaning of heritage in the past, while tourists in the present have been creating the contemporary meaning of heritage.
The sense of feeling was also expressed by some of the tourists metaphorically, though they are explicitly aware that they are constructing their meaning of heritage and utilising the past in the present. Some of those senses of feeling become entangled with the issue of authenticity. For instance, XD049 s sense of feeling was tied to the physical authenticity of the building, and he considered that the physical authenticity of the old houses could invoke his sense of feeling and that his mind was drawing on the past to witness the memories of the building. WL040 had been aware that being in the Yue Fei Temple allowed him to have an emphatic emotional engagement with Yue Fei’s stories in the past, and further influenced his view of the world in the present.The physical authenticity of the Yue Fei Temple triggered his feeling that he was engaging in a dialogue between past and present. However, sometimes visitors’ sense of feeling does not link to the physical authenticity of the site. For example, WL043’s and WL089’s (see Chapter 3) senses of place were tied to what they felt was an empathetic process with romantic and poetic elements: WL089 who wanted to drink wine with two ancient scholars, and WL042 who was immersed in the romantic scene from The White Snake story. Their feelings were moving between the past and the present, and from the spiritual to the mundane. In their case, being in the physical place allowed them to be spiritually linked to the past in a quite poetic way.This deep intellectual engagement was not evoked by the physical authenticity of the site but was rather influenced by their memories and the experiences of their journeys. As Swarbrooke (1996: A69) states,‘the reality of a product or experience is probably less important ... than the consumers perception of it.’ People’s sense of emotional authenticity and those poetic thought processes can be traced back to Chinese Confucian philosophy and Wang Yangming, who considered that objects do not exist completely without the mind, because it is the mind that shapes them. He believed that what you see, hear, feel, think and all in your head is the world (Carsun 1962).
Therefore, I argue that sometimes visitors’ emotional authenticity, at times influenced by physical authenticity and at other times not, but no matter in what circumstances, link to visitors’ personal or collective memories and their social and cultural experiences. Hence, the importance of physical authenticity depends on the extent to which it elicits people’s emotional engagement. My research has confirmed the arguments of emotional authenticity developed by Bagnall (2003), Smith (2006, 2012) and Zhu (2012). As Smith (2006: 70) states:
This idea of emotional realism, or emotional authenticity in which visitors can validate or measure the legitimacy of their own social and cultural experiences outside of the heritage sites they are visiting, adds another layer of consequence to the idea of performativity.
There is a significant issue I would like to raise, which is that the questionnaire I used in my interviews was based on the questionnaire designed by Smith (2006,2012,2015) and used in her research in Australia, England and the US. There is a tendency that the differences that my research reveals in comparison to the Western findings are the sense of feeling Chinese visitors tend to employ; they are, on the whole, more explicitly aware of what they are feeling at and about the sites, and utilise the past in the present more than has been reported in other cultural contexts (see for example Smith 2006, 2012, 2015; Sather-Wagstaff 2011).
My interviews with tourists at both case study sites also reveal that the sense of feeling is not only tied to their sense of place but is also linked to their sense of interactions with local people. Poria et al. (2003) and Smith (2006, 2015) have discussed the issue of tourists’ feeling connected to a site, and this was influencing their performances. My research further develops their argument by illustrating that there is an interplay of identity going on among tourists, local people and third parties (local governments and tourism companies) at Xidi and Hongcun. At Xidi, many tourists I interviewed had a feeling that Xidi is ‘alive.’ I also received some responses that visitors considered Hongcun to be alive as well (e.g. HC005, HC040); however, the general proportion was not as great as at Xidi. Some tourists had been to both places, but considered Xidi to be more alive and felt a sense of alienation at Hongcun. As noted above, there was a lot of interaction between tourists and local people in both villages. However, there were third party controls in both villages as well, and the third party’s control in Hongcun was more effective than Xidi, which interrupted the interactions between local people and tourists. Therefore, tourists felt that the intimate relationship they felt when they were communicating with local people, without mediation by a third party, was typical of Xidi rather than Hongcun, where the interplay had been removed or influenced by third parties. The interactions that occur between tourists and local people is another significant theme and will be discussed in the next section.
There is a subtheme that links to tourists’ sense of feeling, which I refer to as a sense of‘freedom.’ Poria et al. (2003: 248) considered tourists who are motivated by the heritage attributes of the sites, and consider these attributes to be part of their heritage, have a deeper sense of emotional engagement and connection to the site than those tourists who are motivated by relaxation or entertainment. However, as I interviewed tourists at my two case study sites, no matter whether tourists’ motivations to visit the site was for in-depth cultural and historical engagement, or just for relaxation or recreational reasons, they had expressed deep emotional engagement when they felt a sense of freedom during the journey. For instance, some tourists’ motivation to visit West Lake was for recreation from working pressure (e.g. WL012), and experiencing a site with lots of natural features gave them a feeling of‘freedom.’ There is a Chinese tradition that many travellers in ancient times, such as Bai Juyi and Su Dongpo, pursued the beauty of nature to forget reality. Han (2006: 90) used the term ‘Shanshui Tour’ to argue that:
In this travel, there was no bitterness at leaving home, no discontent with reality, no worries about life, and no burden of moral cultivation. The only thing it had was pure spiritual enjoyment obtained from beautiful destinations.
Thousands of poems describe the beauty of West Lake, which has been created by people who tried to engage themselves with nature and escaped from reality during their journey. Therefore, I argue that some tourists who come to heritage sites are not pursuing any other external things; rather, they are searching for the feeling of‘freedom.’ However, sometimes their sense of freedom is blocked or restrained by physical and invisible boundaries. The physical boundaries include ‘walls,’ ‘fences’ and ‘entrance gates,’ while the invisible boundaries are ‘entrance fees’ and ‘government control.’ Some tourists I interviewed in the two case studies showed to some extent how their sense of freedom was influenced by those boundaries. At West Lake, some tourists I interviewed (see WL089, WL099 in Chapter 4) complimented the Hangzhou government for opening up the entire area around West Lake by removing the entrance fee. WL089, who actively engaged in a poetic and romantic cultural moment she created by imagining drinking wine with ancient scholars, as a return visitor considered that both the physical boundaries (‘walls,’ ‘fences’ or ‘entrance gate’) and the invisible boundaries (‘entrance fee’) interrupted her sense of feeling when she had last visited. While WL099 considered his sense of feeling ‘was cut into several pieces by those walls and gates.’ In terms of Xidi and Hongcun, visitors such as HC038, HC042 and XD028 were dissatisfied with the heritage and tourism management of the local governments and tourism companies, and they considered their sense of feeling ‘has been managed’ not only by the ‘gates,’ ‘walls’ and ‘high entrance fees,’ but rather constrained by the government controls drawing on the AHD to fossilise the two villages as a theme park. Therefore, the two case studies show that the sense of freedom is one of the keys that help tourists register deep emotions and facilitate their different kinds of sense of feeling; however, this can be obstructed by physical and intangible boundaries.
In this section, my interview results in both areas have reinforced and further developed the arguments that Poria et al. (2003) and Smith (2006, 2015) have made that tourists’ motivations for visiting, their behaviour during their visits and the messages they had taken away were clearly linked to their sense of feeling. However, my interviews also show that not only do tourists have this sense of feeling; some residents also express a deep sense of feeling. This interrelationship with another significant theme was emerged from my research -the interaction between local people and tourists.