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Preserve the past to live the future

Updated: 2015-03-12 10:46:27

( Chinaculture.org )

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Well-preserved stone houses in Xinglongzhuang village in Zaozhuang city of East China's Shandong province are seen on Jan 31, 2011. The village was listed in the first batch of villages collected in China's traditional villages catalog in 2012. So far, three batches of 2,555 villages in total have been collected in China's traditional village catalog. [Photo by Li Zongxian/Asianewsphoto]

So far, three groups of 2,555 villages in total have been studied and included in the Chinese Traditional Villages Catalog under protection. The Conservation and Development Center of Chinese Traditional Village, where Li works, is the force behind the project, which works under the support of the seven departments.

According to Li, they have a very detailed and sophisticated system to evaluate whether a village should be recognized as a traditional village.

"To put it simply, we evaluate a village according to, first, its overall condition and location, second, its architecture, and third, its cultural values," said Li. "The village should have an overall good shape, be able to reflect regional history and culture, and it needs to have both tangible and intangible cultural heritage."

According to Li, the central government has allocated more than 10 billion yuan ($1.60 billion) as a special fund to protect the cataloged villages over three years, from 2014 to2016.

"Our center works with the villages to help prevent natural disasters like mud-rock flows, and to improve living, medical and educational conditions so as to keep people from moving away," said Li. "When we make their homes a more convenient, comfortable and affluent place, they will naturally love their life there, too."

Tangible and intangible, both vulnerable

The Chinese countryside not only shelters most of the Chinese population, but also contains many good, deep-rooted beliefs, philosophy, lifestyle and universal humanity.

"However, many people in China are misled by a fervent passion for city-building and very eager to discard this rural legacy," said Jiang Haoshu, a civil servant in Beijing and active volunteer in village services. "And it gave rise to much unnecessary destruction and self-rejection in the countryside."

In China's rural areas, it is a common conception for villagers to demolish old houses to build bigger new ones as a status symbol and to showcase growing wealth. Unfortunately, the design resources in the rural areas are not growing accordingly.

"As a result, rural architecture has less and less personality. Ancient designs are not kept, traditional carpenters have changed jobs, and new rural houses start to copy designs in the city," explained Professor He. "In the end, a village no more looks like a village and it is not a city either. It looks like nothing."

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