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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to discuss the opportunity of utilizing Tang dynasty history, heritage, buildings and names in the effort to place brand the contemporary city Xi'an.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper presents a conceptual framework for place branding cities consisting of two main dimensions. The first describes the continuum of functional versus emotional values within a city; the second measures the degree to which the image of a place is historical or contemporary. The paper then employs historical analysis to examine the meaning and construction of a Tang dynasty brand for place branding twenty-first century Xi'an.

Findings – While Xi'an may possess an illustrious historical identity, the contemporary city is still searching for an image. Xi'an's glorious heritage attracts considerable tourism, but has not yet drawn substantial business, foreign direct investment or talents to contribute to and support economic development of the metropolitan region.

Research limitations/implications – Historical analysis of a city can allow a reconstruction of identity in the modern context. Since this is a case study of one key Chinese city, additional cases are needed for other historically important cities to see their influence on business and marketing development.

Practical implications – Cities that are attempting to grow should consider their historical legacy. Building on images of the past, they can leapfrog development and establish a brand identity. Modernization was often thought of as a practical developmental tool. Building on the history of a region, modernization can take unique characteristics and differentiated developmental patterns.

Originality/value – Few, if any, studies examined the historical antecedents of a remaking and a re-branding of a city. Destination marketing is an emerging area of research. Xi'an was a great, pivotal city in the past. This paper explores how one region built on the greatness of the past can re-emerge in modern society.

Publication Title

Journal of Management History





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