On 10th and 11th April 2021, the Third International Conference on Heritage of China (ICHC) was successfully held in Suzhou, and was jointly hosted by Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University and University of Liverpool and Suzhou University of Science and Technology (SUST).
The conference focused on the theme "Heritage and Community - Shared Heritage", with the purpose of engaging local communities and residents in heritage conservation, and promoting the participation of general public in the conservation and reuse of cultural heritage.
The conference consisted of keynote speeches, parallel sessions and experts forums to discuss the strategies and paths of heritage conservation and community sharing in the new era. The conference was attended on-site by more than 100 experts, scholars and stakeholders, while broadcasted online to attract more than 30,000 participants.
Professor Chris Harris, the Vice President Academic Affairs at XJTLU, and Professor Barry Godfrey from University of Liverpool, addressed the opening ceremony of the conference on 10th Apr.
Professor Harris noted that this event has become a platform for dialogue, and for collaboration between universities, and between universities and government departments here in Suzhou.
“This conference has catapulted Chinese architectural heritage and, in particular, the architectural heritage of Suzhou onto a world stage. …… It is also generated a dynamic global network of intellectuals, professionals and practitioners for more related areas of work,” he said.
He also mentioned that XJTLU joined UN-Habitat University Network Initiative (Habitat UNI) in October 2020, and the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) initiative in November 2020. “Design School of XJTLU is very active in built heritage studies and research as well as in all aspects of sustainable development,” he said.
Professor Godfrey also mentioned that the conference has now become an important platform for discussing ideas about heritage, its complexities, its possibilities, and opportunities for the future.
“The University of Liverpool and Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University have very strong links; but so do the city of Liverpool, the city-region and the historic city of Suzhou,” he said.
“The histories of both of our cities are so rich as trading centres, as manufacturing hubs, and its cultural and heritage sites; not just regionally or nationally, but also internationally, as recognised by the UNESCO World Heritage Site,” he added.
“Cultural preservation and heritage is a living laboratory for the methodical exploration of our past and present, whilst it shapes, to a large extent, our future traditions and values,” comments Dr Konstantinos Papadikis, Dean of Design School at XJTLU.
“The study of 'Heritage and Conservation' finds itself at the core of the Design School's research philosophy in an attempt to link past methodologies to the future design of the natural landscape and the built environment that communities and societies are identified with,” he says.
Afterwards, the keynote speeches were presented by Prof Jiang Wu, Tongji University; Prof Yukio Nishimura, Kokugakuin University; Prof Chu-joe Hsia, Southeast University; and Prof Plácido González Martíne, Tongji University and Executive Editor of the journal Built Heritage.
In the afternoon, six parallel sessions attended by more than 60 researchers and experts from different countries were held online, focusing on topics of: “Heritage empower community”,“Heritage theory and community identity”, “Heritage-led placemaking” and “Heritage tourism and sustainable community development”.
On 11th Apr, the Experts Forum on Suzhou Historic City Conversation and Regeneration was chaired by Prof. Bingjun Xiang, the Chief Engineer of Beijing Planning Design Research Institute. Prof Guangya Zhu from Southeast University presented his keynote speech on the improvement of conservation work for China’s National Historic Cities.
Following the speech, over 10 experts and Suzhou government officers had a discussion about cultural heritage and vitality of the ancient city and ancient city renewal and community creation to offer ideas for the conservation and regeneration of Suzhou ancient city. At the end of the conference, the organisers awarded the outstanding presenters with certificates as a perfect conclusion of the conference.
The International Conference on Heritage of China (ICHC) is a conference series co-hosted by XJTLU, UoL, SUST, and the Administrative Committee of Suzhou National Historical and Cultural Famous City Protection District (Gusu District Government). Since 2016, two conferences have been successfully held under the theme of “Reclaiming Identity and (Re) Materialising Pasts: Approaches to Heritage Conservation in China” and “Continuity and Celebration of Living Heritage of China”.
The conference series aims to prompt international dialogues and encourage intellectual debates on the issues and values of heritage conservation in China. It provides a platform for scholars, practitioners and various stakeholders around the world to share their research work, experiences and practices, for the express purpose of developing a more inclusive discourse of contemporary conservation theory and practice in the context of globalization, while showcasing the "Suzhou experience" of historic city conservation to the world.
The ICHC 2021 conference was organized by Suzhou Institute for the Conservation of National Historic Cities, School of Architecture and Urban Planning of SUST, Design School of XJTLU, the Committee for the Preservation of Historic City under Suzhou National Historic City Reserve, and the Historic Conservation Committee under the Institute of Jiangsu Urban Planning.
By Yi Qian
Translated by Yi Qian