China Traditional Villages

Chinese traditional villages, formerly known as ancient villages, refer to villages built before the republic of China. They are places that boast both tangible and intangible cultural heritages and have relatively high historical, cultural, artistic, social and economic values. Traditional villages carry the essence of traditional Chinese culture and are the irrenewable cultural heritage of agricultural civilization. It embodies the spirit of the Chinese nation and are the bond to maintain the cultural identity of Chinese descendants. It also keeps the diversity of national culture, which is the foundation for the prosperity and development of national culture. However, with the rapid development of industrialization and urbanization, the decline and disappearance of traditional villages are becoming increasingly serious. Therefore, it is urgent to strengthen the protection and development of traditional villages. 

Features of China Traditional Villages

  • Traditional villages have both the characteristics of tangible and intangible cultural heritages, and in the traditonal villages, the two kinds of heritage are integrated and interdependent, belonging to the same cultural and aesthetic genes, and they are a unique whole.
  • No matter how old the buildings of traditional villages are, they are different from ancient buildings. Ancient architecture belongs to the past, while vernacular architecture belongs to the present. All buildings are inhabited and must be constantly repaired and even updated. Therefore, the traditional villages will not be a group of ancient buildings with the same style of a certain era.
  • Traditional villages are not “protection units“, but the bases for production and life. They are the most basic units of the society and rural communities. Its improvement and development is directly related to the local quality of life. Protection must be integrated with development.
  • Traditional village’s spiritual heritage includes a large number of unique historical memory, the succession of a clan, slang dialect, village regulation and agreement, production methods, etc., which serve as a unique cultural connotation, and makes the traditional villages alive. 

Identification Standard of China Traditional Villages

  • The existing buildings have a long history and reaches the standard of protection units. The the size of the buildings and its surrounding environment has a certain integrity; its shape, structure, materials and decoration has a certain aesthetic value and the inheritance of traditional skills.
  • In terms of site selection and planning, traditional villages represent the typical characteristics of the region, ethnic group and specific historical period, and have certain scientific, cultural, historical and archaeological values. They also coordinate with the surrounding natural environment and carry certain intangible cultural heritage.

Protection Situation of China Traditional Villages

In 2000, the total number of natural villages in China was 3.63 million. By 2010, the number had dropped to 2.71 million. In just 10 years, the number decreased by 900,000, with an average of 80 to 100 villages disappearing every day. No one knows how many of these lost villages are traditional ones with cultural conservation value.There are several reasons for the disappearance of such a large number of villages:

  • Urban expansion and industrial development have made rapid progress which lead to a large number of farmers move to cities for work and cause to the collapse of production and life in villages. So the villages are empty.
  • More and more young farmers are opting for a new, more urban lifestyle, who have been working in cities for a long time and have settled down in cities.
  • Urbanization is the action of the government. It directly leads to the disappearance of villages, which is the main reason for the rapid disappearance of villages in the past 10 years.

Protection Measures of China Traditional Villages

  • In April 2012, the ministry of housing and urban-rural development, the ministry of culture, the state administration of cultural heritage and the ministry of finance jointly launched an investigation into traditional Chinese villages. The national aggregate figures show that there are nearly 12,000 villages with traditional features in China.
  • In September 2012, the ministry of housing and urban-rural development, the ministry of culture, the state administration of cultural heritage and the ministry of finance jointly established an expert committee composed of experts in architecture, folklore, planning, art, heritage and anthropology to review the list of traditional Chinese villages.
  • In 2012, China began to investigate traditional villages, and on the basis of the preliminary evaluation and recommendation of various regions, several batches of villages with important conservation value were included in the list of traditional villages in China.

Those traditional villages are revitalized under a series of protection measures, showing the perfect combination of ancient and modern to the world.

China’s Traditional Village Catalog

China’s Traditional Villages by Region