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Becoming the world heritage site: Hoi An

After we had spent two days in Hoi An, we got a better opportunity to look around this area. We arrived at Hoi An at night. The first impression of this town was quite crowded, lots of people, most of them from the western countries, and the chaotic traffic condition. Then in the early morning of the second day, we visited the Hoi An center for cultural heritage management and preservation, which also have some exhibitions. After the lecture, we got an overview of the change in Hoi An since 1985 until now. In 1990, Hoi An used to be a poor place, and no tourists visited. Hoi An is in the mouth of Thu Bon river, the water level was relatively getting shallow, over the years of sediment deposition, so that gradually silted here, no longer meet the modern navigation conditions. The status as a harbor city was eventually replaced by Da Nang. In 1995, an expert meeting was held hold in Hoi An. They were trying to find out what is the characteristic of Hoi An. Based on the result of this meeting, Hoi An got involved into the bid for the world heritage site. In 1999, Hoi An was inscribed on world heritage site list, which fits the criterion (ii) and the criterion (v), Hoi An is an outstanding material manifestation of the fusion of cultures over time in the traditional Asian trading port. After becoming the world heritage site, the government also made a lot of advertisement activities for promoting the popularity of this town. After all, it did work. In 1998, 70% of the restoration fund came from the government. When the number of tourists was increasing, private owners started to restore the building by themselves. Not only do advertisements, but the government also organizes the lantern festival day, which attracts more tourists come to Hoi An in the recent days. At the end of the lecture, the director of the center mentioned the present state of Hoi An. According to him, Due to the impact of Tourism Related Development, the local resident started moving out the area, the original lifestyle is gradually disappearing.

From this lecture, I knew that “becoming the world heritage” was not a visible goal but a process of change. It never arrived at ending or a perfect situation. Somehow to be on the world heritage list is only a starting point of facing challenges. Just like the lecturer said more tourists visit Hoi An, it would accelerate the demise of the local lifestyle. And the current situation is irreversible. The meaning of the building has been separated from modern life. The building and people exist in the different parallel spaces, cannot be understood by each other. This visit was provoking for teaching program to focus not only on the benefit of development but also on thinking about the question “What can the development of world heritage mean?”

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