- Open Access
When Heritage Is Rural: Environmental Conservation, Cultural Interpretation and Rural Renaissance in Chinese Listed Villages
Built Heritage volume 3, pages64–80(2019)
This article argues that China’s growing attention towards villages in recent years has contributed to transforming the concept of built heritage and helped in disseminating a holistic idea of territory that has prepared the ground for the environmental turn the country is now experiencing. This conceptual transformation was carried on by a number of converging—although independent—initiatives from different governmental institutions and has been driven by different factors, most importantly, the need to mend the development gap between urban and rural areas, and the wish to rediscover the cultural heritage of the country. The Chinese experience in village preservation was conceived as an important component of a much wider corpus of measures, driven by the rural revitalisation discourse, and should therefore be situated within this broader conceptual framework. This perspective leads to a distinctive approach to the concept of heritage and outlines a type of protection ‘with Chinese characteristics’ that will increasingly influence the international context. Drawn on three years of field observations and desk analysis, the article highlights some of the characters that define the Chinese experience in village preservation, analysing the most important national lists of villages and examining various cases.
AQSIQ (General Administration of at Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of PRC) and CNCA (Certification and Accreditation Administration of PRC). 2015. “Guidelines for the Construction of Beautiful Villages.” [Meili xiangcun jianshe zhinan.] Accessed 25 March 2019. http://www.cnis.gov.cn/gbzqyj/201412/P020170705334688350160.doc
Bray, David. 2013. “Urban Planning Goes Rural: Conceptualizing the ‘New Village’.” China Perspectives 2013 (3): 53–62.
CCTV (China Central Television). 2019. “‘Nostalgia the First Season” [‘Jizhu xiangchou’ di yi ji.]. Accessed 25 March 2019. http://tv.cntv.cn/videoset/VSET100216296129
Cornet, Candice. 2015. “Tourism Development and Resistance in China”. Annals of Tourism Research 52: 29–43.
CPC (Communist Party of China, Standing Committee of the Tenth National Peoples Congress of the PRC). 2007. Zhonghua renmin gongheguo chengxiang guihua fa [China Urban and Rural Planning Law of PRC]. Beijing, No. 74. October 29. Accessed 25 March 2019. http://www.china.com.cn/policy/txt/2007-10/29/content_9139139.htm
FBSR (Fondazione Benetton Studi Ricerche). 2019. “The Tea Gardens of Dazhangshan, The International Carlo Scarpa Prize for Gardens.” Accessed 25 March 2019. http://www.fbsr.it/en/landscape/the-international-car-lo-scarpa-prize-for-gardens/sites-awarded/giardini-del-dazhangshan/
Gao, Li. 2014. “Result Annoucement of the Results of the Chinas Most Beautiful Leisure Villages and Chinas Beautiful Rural Landscape.” [Zhongguo zuimei xiuxian xiangcun he zhongguo meili tianyuan tuijie jieguo jiexiao.] Accessed 25 March 2019. http://unn.people.com.cn/n/2014/1204/c14717-26149418.html
Han, Feng. 2018. “Introduction to the Special Focus Column.” Built Heritage 2 (3): 1–2.
Hansen, Mette Halskov, Hongtao Li, and Rune Svarverud. 2018. “Ecological Civilization: Interpreting the Chinese Past, Projecting the Global Future.” Global Environmental Change 23: 195–203.
ICOMOS. 2000. “Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui—Xidi and Hongcun.” In Evaluation of Cultural Properties, 63–65. Paris: ICOMOS. https://www.icomos.org/images/DOCUMENTS/World_Heritage/Volumes_Evaluation/EN_Volume_d%C3%A9valuation_2000_COMPLET.pdf
ICOMOS-IFLA. 2017. “Principles Concerning Rural Landscapes as Heritage. Adopted by the 19th ICOMS General Assembly.” New Delhi, December 15. Accessed 25 March 2019. http://www.worldruralland-scapes.org/home/wrl-results/principles-text/
Lincoln, Toby, and Rebecca Madgin. 2018. “The Inherent Malleability of Heritage: Creating Chinas Beautiful Villages”. International Journal of Heritage Studies 24 (1): 1–16.
Lv, Zhou. 2014. “Evolution of Cultural Heritage Conservation Philosophy Through the Lens of the Revised China Principles”. National Heritage Centre of Tsinghua University, ICOMOS China, International Principles and Local Practices of Cultural Heritage Conservation. Conference Proceedings. Beijing. May 5–6, 1–10.
Lv, Zhou, and Aiping Wen. 2018. “Interview, Lv Zhou: The Future and Development of Heritage Protection.” [Fangtan, lü zhou: Yichan baohu de weilai yu fazhan.] Beijing Planning Review no. 3: 181–185.
Maags, Christina. 2018. “Disseminating the Policy Narrative of ‘Heritage under Threat’ in China.” International Journal of Cultural Policy. Accessed 25 March 2019. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10286632.2018.1500559
MEE (Ministry of Ecology and Environment of PRC). 2006. “National Eco-Villages Establishment Standards.” [Guojia ji shengtai cun chuangjian.] Accessed 25 March 2019. http://www.mee.gov.cn/gkml/zj/wj/200910/W020061219369900638584.pdf
MEE (Ministry of Ecology and Environment of PRC). 2014. “Indicators of National Eco-Civilization Demonstration Villages and Towns.” [Guojia shengtai wenming jianshe shifan cunzhen zhibiao.] Accessed 25 March 2019. http://www.mee.gov.cn/gkml/hbb/bwj/201401/W020140126555235763031.pdf
MOA (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of PRC) and CNTA (National Tourism Administration of PRC). 2010. “Opinions of the MOA and the National Tourism Administration on Launching the Activities of National Leisure Agriculture and Creating Rural Tourism Demonstration Counties and National Leisure Agriculture Demonstration Sites.” [Nongye bu guojia lüyou ju guanyu kaizhan quanguo xiuxian nongye yu xiangcun lüyou shifan xian he quanguo xiuxian nongye shifan dian chuangjian huodong de yijian]. Accessed 24 May 2019. http://www.moa.gov.cn/nybgb/2010/dbq/201806/t20180601_6150934.htm
MOA (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of PRC). 2016. “The MOA Announces the 2016 Beautiful Leisure Villages.” [Nongye bu gongbu 2016 nian zhongguo meili xiuxian xiangcun.] Accessed 25 March 2019. http://www.moa.gov.cn/xw/qg/201609/ t20160919_5278674.htm
MOC (Ministry of Construction of PRC) and NACH (National Administration of Cultural Heritage of the PRC). 2000. “Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui—Xidi and Hongcun, Nomination of Properties for Inclusion on the World Heritage List.” Accessed 25 March 2019. whc.unesco.org/en/list/1002/documents/
MOC (Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the PRC). 2017. “Annual Development Report of Chinas Tourism.” [Zhongguo lüyou fazhan baogao.]
MOF (Ministry of Finance of the PRC). 2014. “‘Ten Models’ Lead the Construction of Beautiful Villages” [“Shida moshi” yinling meili xiangcun jianshe]. Accessed 25 March 2019. http://www.mof.gov.cn/zhengwuxinxi/caijingshidian/zgcjb/201403/t20140331_1061433.htm#
MOHURD (Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of the PRC). 2003. “Notice on the publication of Chinese Historical Cultural Famous Towns (Villages) (first batch)” [Guanyu gongbu zhongguo lishi wenhua ming zhen (cun)(di yi pi) de tongzhi.] Accessed 25 March 2019. http://www.mohurd.gov.cn/wjfb/200611/t20061101_157345.html
MOHURD (Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of the PRC), MOC (Ministry of Culture of the PRC), NCHA (National Cultural Heritage Administration of the PRC), and MOF (Ministry of Finance of the PRC). 2012. Zhufang chengxiang jianshe bu deng bumen guanyu yinfa “chuantong cunluo pingjia rending zhibiao tixi (shixing)” de tongzhi [Notice of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and Other Departments on the Issuance of the “Traditional Village Evaluation and Identification Index System (Trial)”]. Accessed 25 March 2019. http://www.mohurd.gov.cn/wjfb/201208/t20120831_211267.html
MOHURD (Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of the PRC), MOC (Ministry of Culture of the PRC), and MOF (Ministry of Finance of the PRC). 2012. “Guiding Opinions on Strengthening the Protection and Development of Traditional Villages.” [Zhufang chengxiang jianshe bu wenhua bu caizheng bu guanyu jiaqiang chuantong cunluo baohu fazhan gongzuo de zhidao yijian.] Accessed 25 March 2019. http://www.mohurd.gov.cn/wjfb/201212/t20121219_212337.html
MOHURD (Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of the PRC). 2013. “Notice of the MOHURD on the Issuance of the Basic Requirements for the Preparation of Traditional Village Protection Development Planning.” [Zhufang chengxiang jianshe bu guanyu yinfa chuantong cunluo baohu fazhan guihua bianzhi jiben yaoqiu de tongzhi.] Accessed 25 March 2019. http://www.mohurd.gov.cn/wjfb/201309/ t20130924_215684.html
MOHURD (Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of the PRC), MOC (Ministry of Culture of the PRC), NCHA (National Cultural Heritage Administration of the PRC), and MOF (Ministry of Finance of the PRC). 2014. “Guanyu qieshi jiaqiang zhongguo chuantong cunluo baohu de zhidao yijian.” [Guidelines on Enhancing the Conservation of Chinese Traditional Villages.] Beijing, No. 61. April 25.
MOHURD (Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of the PRC), and NCHA (National Cultural Heritage Administration of the PRC). 2019. “Notice on the Publication of the 7th Batch of Chinese Historical Cultural Famous Towns and Villages.” [Zhufang he chengxiang jianshe bu guojia wenwu ju guanyu gongbu di qi pi zhongguo lishi wenhua ming zhen ming cun de tongzhi]. Accessed 25 March 2019. http://www.mohurd.gov.cn/wjfb/201901/t20190130_239368.html
NCHA (National Cultural Heritage Administration of the PRC). 2003. “Evaluation Criterion System of Chinese Historical Cultural Famous Towns and Villages.” [Zhongguo lishi wenhua ming zhen ming cun pingjia zhibiao tixi.]. Accessed 25 March 2019. http://www.sach.gov.cn/module/download/downfile.jsp?classid=0&filename=1609050915383658545.doc
Oakes, Tim. 2012. “Heritage as Improvement: Cultural Display and Contested Governance in Rural China”. Modern China 39 (4), 380–407.
Qin, Haifeng. 2013. “The Country’s First National Rural Tourism Holiday Experimental Area will be Established in Wuyuan.” [Quanguo shou ge guojia xiangcun lüyou dujia shiyan qu jiang zai wuyuan sheli.] Accessed 19 January 2019. gov.city.sina.com.cn/zgjqdh/sights/130905/1439_1357.html
Ruritage. 2019. “Ruritage: Rural Regeneration through Systemic Heritage-led Strategies.” Accessed 25 March 2019. https://www.ruritage.eu/
SAC (Standardization Administration of the PRC). 2014. “Guidelines for the Construction of Beautiful Villages, Preparation Instructions. Compilation manual of the National Standard.” [Guojia biaozhun “meili xiangcun jianshe zhinan” bianzhi shuoming.] Accessed 25 March 2019. http://www.cnis.gov.cn/gbzqyj/201412/P020170705334688350160.doc
SCIO (The State Council Information Office of the PRC). 2013. “The State Council Information Office Held a Press Conference on the Improvement of Rural Living Environment.” [Guo xin ban juxing gaishan nongcun ren ju huanjing gongzuo deng qingkuang fabu hui.] Accessed 25 March 2019. http://www.scio.gov.cn/ztk/xwfb/2013/gxbjxgsncrjhjjjqctclbhfzx-wfbh/52928429306/Document/1348231/1348231.htm
State Council. 2008. “Regulations on Protection of Famous Historical and Cultural Cities, Towns and Villages.” [Lishi wenhua mingcheng ming zhen ming cun baohu tiaoli.]. Accessed 25 March 2019. https://en.unesco. org/sites/default/files/china_regprotectionhiscities_ corof.pdf
State Council. 2014. “National New Urbanisation Planning 2014–2020.” [Guojia xinxing chengzhen hua guihua.] Accessed 25 March 2019. http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/2014-03/16/content_2640075.htm
State Council. 2015. “Opinions on Developing Electronic Commerce and Accelerating the Cultivation of New Motivation of Economic Development.” [Guanyu dali fazhan dianzi shangwu jiakuai peiyu jingji xin dongli de yijian.] Accessed 25 March 2019. http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/content/2015-05/07/content_9707.htm
State Council. 2016. “Opinion of the General Office of the State Council on Supporting the Entrepreneurship Innovation of Returned Rural Residents and Promoting the Integrated Development of Rural First, Second and Third Industries.” [Guowuyuan bangong ting guanyu zhichi fan xiang xia xiang renyuan chuangye chuangxin cujin nongcun yi’ersan chanye ronghe fazhan de yijian.] Accessed 25 March 2019. http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/content/2016-11/29/content_5139457.htm#
State Council. 2019. “The General Office of the State Council & the General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China issued ‘Opinions on Promoting the Organic Connection between Small Farmers and Modern Agricultural Development’.” [Zhonggong zhongyang bangong ting guowuyuan bangong ting yinfa “guanyu cujin xiao nonghu he xiandai nongye fazhan youji xianjie de yijian.] Accessed 25 March 2019. www.gov.cn/gongbao/content/2019/content_5370838.htm
Steiner, Achim, and Shenggen Fan. 2019. “Rural Areas are in Crisis. Revitalization is the Solution”. Thomson Reuters Foundation News. Accessed 25 March 2019. http://news.trust.org/item/20190326150827-0ryhf/
Sui, Mingzhao. 2018. “The Fourth Season of ‘Remember Nostalgia’ Has More Than 3.8 Billion Global Visualization.” [“Jizhu xiangchou” di si ji quanqiu dianji liang chao 38 yi.] Accessed 25 March 2019. http://data.chinaxwcb.com/epaper2018/epaper/d6722/d1b/201804/86363.html
Svensson, Marina. 2016. “Evolving and Contested Cultural Heritage in China: the Rural Heritagescape”. In Reconsidering Cultural Heritage in East Asia, edited by Matsude, A. and L. E. Mengoni, 31–46. London: Ubiquity Press.
UNESCO. 2011. “Recommendation of the Historic Urban Landscape.” Accessed 25 March 2019. https://whc.unesco.org/uploads/activities/documents/activity-638-98.pdf
UNESCO. 2012. “Florence Declaration on Landscape.” Accessed 25 March 2019. http://iflaonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/FLORENCE-DECLARATION-ON-LANDSCAPE-2012-6.pdf
UN-Habitat. 2016. “New Urban Agenda.” Nairobi: UN-Habitat. http://habitat3.org/the-new-urban-agenda/
United Nations. 2015. Sustainable Development Goals. New York: United Nations. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/
Wang, Hui. 2014. “Economic Analysis on Problems Derived from Rural Tourism ‘Enclave Operation’.” WIn Proceedings of the 2014 International Conference on Education, Management and Computing Technology, edited by Zhang H.M.
WHC (World Heritage Centre). 2000. “Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui—Xidi and Hongcun, 2000.” Accessed 25 March 2019. whc.unesco.org/en/list/1002
Xi, Jinping. 2017. Secure a Decisive Victory in Building a Moderately Prosperous Society in All Respects and Strive for the Great Success of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.
Xiao, Xiaochun, Yingling Wang, and Kang Liu. 2016. “Study on the Current Situation and Counter Measures of Ecological Civilization Construction in Hainan Province.” [Hainan sheng shengtai wenming jianshe xianzhuang ji duice yanjiu.] Economic Research Guide no. 2: 65–67.
About this article
Cite this article
Pola, A. When Heritage Is Rural: Environmental Conservation, Cultural Interpretation and Rural Renaissance in Chinese Listed Villages. Built Heritage 3, 64–80 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/BF03545728
- rural development
- rural heritage
- beautiful villages
- historic cultural villages
- traditional villages
- rural tourism
- rural revitalisation