The Love-Suicide Mystique of Naxi: Experiential Tourism and Existential Authenticity

In: Frontiers of History in China
Chunmei DuDepartment of History, Western Kentucky University, USA

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Love-suicide (xunqing 殉情) is often hailed as a representative component of the Naxi culture. This article examines how representations of love-suicide have transformed from an obscure social taboo to an invaluable Naxi tradition in the last two decades. While Han and Naxi cultural elites aestheticize love-suicide as a cultural symbol of moral sublimity, tourists further transform the discourse into a simultaneously spiritual and erotic experience in which they seek and create their own existential authenticity. The apparent revival is not simply a result of Naxi political resistance to the external regime or a natural return to their “authentic” culture. It rather marks another tide of radical transformation in a multi-agent and highly commercialized global world within which both minority cultures and tourists’ identities are transformed.

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