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The Historical Value and Contemporary Role of Vernacular Wisdom: The Case of Zengchong Village


Vernacular heritage embodies the great wisdom used by the ancients over thousands of years to create their habitats. By adhering to vernacular wisdom, the unique production modes and lifestyles shown in vernacular heritage created an ideal harmonious living environment in consensus with nature using orderly and rational methods for using natural resources. This study analyses the value of vernacular wisdom, establishes a content system based on three factors, i.e., human needs, productivity and nature from the perspective of the human–nature relationship, and observes that the value of vernacular wisdom is to co-ordinate responses to human–nature conflicts. The representative vernacular wisdom of Zengchong Village, a Dong village in Guizhou Province, China can be summarised into three types: wisdom about physiological needs reflected in the combination of agricultural production with highly intensive living space systems and survival skills to make the best use of everything; wisdom about security needs reflected in the barn, fire-prevention and flood-control systems; and wisdom about self-actualisation, esteem, love or belonging reflected in social interaction and self-management, religious beliefs and identity. In addition to the conservation of the built vernacular heritage, vernacular wisdom should be emphasised in village planning and management to co-ordinate responses to new human–nature conflicts. Thus, a state of balance between human needs, productivity and nature can be achieved to realise the goal of sustainable rural heritage development.


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Correspondence to Yong Shao.

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Shao, Y., Zhang, L. The Historical Value and Contemporary Role of Vernacular Wisdom: The Case of Zengchong Village. Built Heritage 2, 123–140 (2018).

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