A Landscape of Travel

The Work of Tourism in Rural Ethnic China

Jenny T. Chio

  • Published: 2014
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / China; Anthropology
  • Bibliographic information: 304 pp., 26 illus., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Studies on Ethnic Groups in China
  • Contents

While the number of domestic leisure travelers has increased dramatically in reform-era China, the persistent gap between urban and rural living standards attests to ongoing social, economic, and political inequalities. The state has widely touted tourism for its potential to bring wealth and modernity to rural ethnic minority communities, but the policies underlying the development of tourism obscure some complicated realities. In tourism, after all, one person's leisure is another person's labor.

A Landscape of Travel investigates the contested meanings and unintended consequences of tourism for those people whose lives and livelihoods are most at stake in China's rural ethnic tourism industry: the residents of village destinations. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in Ping'an (a Zhuang village in Guangxi) and Upper Jidao (a Miao village in Guizhou), Jenny Chio analyzes the myriad challenges and possibilities confronted by villagers who are called upon to do the work of tourism. She addresses the shifting significance of migration and rural mobility, the visual politics of tourist photography, and the effects of touristic desires for "exotic difference" on village social relations. In this way, Chio illuminates the contemporary regimes of labor and leisure and the changing imagination of what it means to be rural, ethnic, and modern in China today.

More about the author:
Jenny Chio is assistant professor of anthropology and associated faculty in film and media studies at Emory University.

"A Landscape of Travel is about China becoming a nation that travels, and one way of traveling is to be a tourist. . . . Tourism is of course only one mode through which China's mobility expresses itself, and we must remember that most villages have no tourists at all. But if we want to understand why tourists see and experience what they do . . . and how this reflects China as a nation that travels, [this book] is both delightful and essential."
-Stevan Harrell, From the foreword

"This book explores how 'travel' can be a useful framework with which to better understand how rural China is changing. While it has not been uncommon to view rural China as an increasingly 'mobilized' landscape of excess labor seeking better livelihoods in the cities, Chio's study approaches mobility in both more abstract and broad-ranging terms. Her work offers an important contribution. Anyone interested in ethnography, ethnicity in China, and anthropologies of tourism will find A Landscape of Travel interesting."
-Tim Oakes, University of Colorado at Boulder

Foreword by Stevan Harrell
Map of China

1. Similar, with Minor Differences
2. Peasant Family Happiness
3. Leave the Fields without Leaving the Countryside
4. "Take a Picture with Us"
5. The Ability to Be Different

Glossary of Chinese Characters

"A stimulating and fascinating book . . . a good read not only for experts or a broader public interested in China, tourism and cultural heritage preservation, but also for researchers in con-temporary visual culture, ethnography and migration."
-Heleni Porfyriou, Journal of Cultural Heritage

"A Landscape of Travel is a valuable contribution to the study of tourism and ethnic minorities in contemporary China. . . . It provides an updated account of dynamics detailed in the work of scholars such as Tim Oakes, Margaret Swain, and Louisa Schein, and it stands out among more recent but less rounded ethnographic books on tourism in China."
-Travis Klingberg, Pacific Affairs

"Chio skillfully unpacks the complexities of ethnic-tourism development in rural China. . . . She lays bare the regimes of mobility and visuality that turn one person's leisure into another person's labor. . . . A Landscape of Travel is a beautifully written, accessible, and engaging ethnographic monograph."
-Noel B. Salazar, Anthropological Quarterly

"[A] vivid ethnography. . . . A Landscape of Travel is well-organized, theoretically innovative, and ethnographically rich."
-Xiaoshun Zeng, The China Review

"A fresh look at the impact of tourism on the ethnicity and identity of villagers and interrelation between leisure and labor of rural tourism in China. . . . Chio's work is theoretically dense and empirically rich. . . . A Landscape of Travel makes a fine addition to the existing anthropological literature on tourism. . . . A valuable resource for a range of educational purposes."
-Yujie Zhu, American Anthropologist