Barbarians at the Gate

Barbarians at the Gate

One from the Vault: Touring China with Historian Mo Yajun

January 03, 2023

David and Jeremiah are both traveling this week, and in that spirit, we offer a rebroadcast of one of our favorite episodes from the archives. In this episode from March 2022, we spoke with historian and author Mo Yajun about her book Touring China: A History of Travel Culture, 1912-1949. Enjoy, and Happy New Year!

As Covid-19 gradually recedes and China resumes domestic travel, we are pleased to interview Mo Yajun about her book Touring China: A History of Travel Culture, 1912-1949, a fascinating history of the development of China’s travel industry during the Republican period. Professor Mo recounts how early tourism guides and photographic travel journals enabled Chinese people to expand the concept of quanguo 全国 ”the nation as a whole,” providing the public with an enhanced mental image of the vast scope and diversity of their “national space.” 

We also hear the story of Chen Guangfu, the father of China’s modern travel industry. He founded the China Travel Service during the tumultuous warlord period, partially responding to the hegemony of foreign travel services, which treated Chinese tourists as second-class citizens. Other topics covered include the issue of class in the tourism environment of semi-colonial China, cultural clashes with well-funded foreign researchers who traveled to historical sites such as the Dunhuang caves to study – and often purloin -- cultural relics, and the effect of the new technology of the personal camera on the perception, promotion and imagining of China’s historical sites.