Building memorials for a friend or a foe? Mobility and heritage dissonance amid China-Japan conflict

  • Martina Bofulin
Keywords: heritage dissonance, difficult heritage, heritage-making, Fangzheng, China, Japan, Japanese war orphans


The article addresses the process of heritage-making in a locality characterized by complex histories of forced and voluntary mobility in a form of colonization, migration and tourism. It focuses on the eruption of discontent concerning a restoration of local memorial site for dead Japanese colonizers in a small county within the north-eastern Chinese province of Heilongjiang. Using the concept of heritage controversy, the article presents a detailed analysis of successive phases of events dubbed “memorial drama” in order to situate the dissonance in heritage-making within the wider social processes of mobility, development and change in the rural county. In tracing the local attempts to expand the officially sanctioned messages behind the memorial site, as well as their failure, the article argues that alternative voices in otherwise strictly controlled heritage-making exists in China, despite being highly sensitive to changing political climate and popular opinion.