Author: ORCID icon
Rourk, William, Architectural History - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Reilly, Lisa, AR-Architectural History, University of Virginia
Johnston, Andrew, AR-Architectural History, University of Virginia
Germano, David, AS-Religious Studies (RELI), University of Virginia

The former Tibetan capital city of Lhasa has experienced variations in policies towards the preservation of its historic architecture over the decades since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government took control in 1959. The Tibet Heritage Fund (THF) emerged in Lhasa to disrupt a period of increased destruction of traditional Tibetan architecture in the 1990s and brought Tibetan people together to upgrade and save their built environment. This action served as a model of humane preservation that put a priority on the lives of native Tibetans in Lhasa that can be applied to preservation efforts globally. However, with the increased development of pillar tourist industries in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), native Tibetans have been separated from their native architectural residences and have been replaced by foreign tourists. This situation redefines the scope and beneficiaries of architectural preservation efforts in Tibet and especially in the main Tibetan tourist cities such as Lhasa.
This thesis explores the humane preservation work of the Tibetan Heritage Fund framed within the history of architectural preservation in the former Tibetan capital city of Lhasa. The first chapter presents the history of traditional Tibetan architecture in Lhasa and explains the formation of policies that have affected architectural preservation in Lhasa. Chapter two provides a thorough account of the formation of the Tibetan Heritage Fund in counter-response to rapid, enforced decimation of Lhasa’s historic structural environment by CCP policy. The basic tenets of humane preservation practice are defined through examples of active restoration projects that took place by the THF in Lhasa in the late 1990s. Chapter three puts emphasis on policies supporting increased tourism in Tibetan cultural zones in China. These policies focus on sculpting a theatrical landscape that exploits Tibetan culture for a state sponsored tourism market. Chapter four looks at the current state of reconstruction, renovation and restoration to support a pillar tourist industry in Old Town Lhasa. Examples are given from situations that were witnessed firsthand from fieldwork on the ground in Lhasa in 2016. This thesis then concludes with a discussion of the identity of beneficiaries of historic preservation in Lhasa within the scope of tourist development. The audience of humane preservation practice, as exemplified by the Tibet Heritage Fund, is recognized as a changing demographic as more native Tibetans are being replaced by mainly Han Chinese tourists. The Himalayan cultural residents in Ladakh now serve as direct beneficiaries of residential restoration as the THF continues to practice humane architectural preservation in the capital city of Leh using techniques that were formulated in Lhasa during the 1990s.

MARH (Master of Architectural History)
preservation, Tibet, Lhasa, Barkor, xibu da kaifa, ethno-tourism, weigai, restoration, renovation

This thesis is the result of two decades of work with the Tibetan and Himalayan Library at the University of Virginia.

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