AccScience Publishing / JCAU / Volume 5 / Issue 2 / DOI: 10.36922/jcau.0940
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Troglodyte settlements on the Loess Plateau of China: Challenges to sustainable tourism-oriented development

Laura Genovese1* Roberta Varriale2
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1 Institute of Heritage Science (ISPC), National Research Council of Italy (CNR), Milan, Italy
2 Institute for Studies on the Mediterranean (ISMed), National Research Council of Italy (CNR), Naples, Italy
Journal of Chinese Architecture and Urbanism 2023, 5(2), 0940
Submitted: 10 May 2023 | Accepted: 2 July 2023 | Published: 25 July 2023
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Conservation and Revitalization of Architectural Heritage)
© 2023 by the Author(s). This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution -Noncommercial 4.0 International License (CC-by the license) ( )

Troglodytism is one of the most representative cultural expressions of geo-architecture. On the Loess Plateau of China, several significant examples of this approach to urban development can be found. Sometimes abandoned, sometimes still inhabited, cave settlements are precious examples of living heritage in rural and internal areas, which are at the risk of disappearance. Tourism is one of the strategies to revitalize these settlements, but it might be both an opportunity and a risk. A balance between conservation and development must be found, and a paradigm change is needed. Chinese cases can serve as a reference for solutions for this type of cave heritage, on which a debate has only recently begun at a global scale. This study introduces the classification of cave settlements based on the Underground Built Heritage theoretical approach. Chinese cases in Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces are illustrated on a comparative level. Tourism-oriented reuse and enhancement practices are analyzed and discussed in the context of national and international scenarios. In addition, criticalities and opportunities for the future are illustrated.

Troglodyte settlements
Yaodong cave dwellings
Rural and remote areas
Underground Built Heritage
Sustainable development
Some in-field research has been financially supported by Italy-China bilateral projects between the National Research Council of Italy and the Chinese Academy of Cultural Heritage of Beijing, China, entitled “Valorization- Tourism-Participation. Developing Alternative Integrated Solutions for Less Promoted Historic Sites (2016 – 2018),” and “Identification and Interpretation of a Cultural Route: The Example of Maritime Silk Road (2019 – 2022).”

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Conflict of interest
The authors declare they have no competing interests with any institutes, organizations, or agencies that might influence the integrity of results or objective interpretation of their submitted works.
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Journal of Chinese Architecture and Urbanism, Electronic ISSN: 2717-5626 Published by AccScience Publishing