A “cultural turn” from those early management focused studies to more wholesome and exploratory socio-cultural analysis of food with sociological approaches has emerged in more recent food tourism studies. In the Chinese tourism context, however, extant studies are mainly conducted with marketing approaches linked to management to analyze the role of (heritage) foods in tourist perception and experience, and destination marketing. This study thus seeks to understand the mechanism of food heritagization and its effect in Yuanjia Village, a renowned rural tourism destination featuring traditional delicacies in China’s Shaanxi Province. Data were collected via interviews and participant observations. The findings show that, led by local elites and monitored by a bottom-up regulatory system, locals use raw materials associated with being “local”, “traditional”, and “organic”, make food with traditional crafts, and present food in a nostalgic atmosphere for consumption. Traditional foods are reinvented/reproduced as edible exemplars of the culture and heritage of the Guanzhong area (central Shaanxi Plain), and as carriers of nostalgia for a rural past that satisfies the imaginations and needs of surrounding urbanite visitors. This, in turn, contributes to the sustainability of the village as a rural tourism destination, featuring industry convergence that fosters economic sustainability, as well as governance embedded in rurality to deal with tourism benefit distribution (i.e., cooperatives) and social problems (i.e., peasant school) that promotes social sustainability. This research contributes to the understanding of food heritagization from a bottom-up perspective as well as rural destination sustainability from a gastronomical perspective in China.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited