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Vassar College

Publication Date

Fall 2007

Program Name

China: Yunnan Province – Language and Cultures


Is tourism a boon or burden to the land and the people that it impacts? This question has plagued academics for ages. On the one hand, tourism brings not only definite economic growth for the local people, but also motivation for preservation of the local landscape. On the other hand, the arrival of tourists also ironically brings definite cultural and environmental transformations to the very people and land that visitors travel so far to see and experience.

My research examines the complexities of tourism and its impact on the environment and people of Lugu Lake, Yunnan. By surveying social and environmental conditions of various Moso villages around the lake at different stages of development, I analyze how tourism affects Lugu Lake as a whole. With the use of participant observation and both formal and informal interviews with both locals, foreign residents, I have been able to obtain a better understanding of local landscape, oral history, and diverse impressions of tourism in the area. From these methods, I found tourism have to a nuanced influence on the environment of Lugu Lake; while the growth in tourism has also increased pollution and general ecological degradation, the influx of visitors has improved knowledge of environmental protection. The impact of tourism people and culture of the region is likewise mixed, with visitors bringing increased financial prosperity and standard of living, but also a degradation of traditional Moso cultural practices and a sense of community. Thus, sustainable development is in call for the future preservation of Lugu Lake’s people and place.


Growth and Development | Natural Resources Management and Policy


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