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在线翻译:
szdaily -> In depth
Clock ticking for preservation of China's ancient villages
    2017-December-26  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

EVERY time Feng Jicai, an acclaimed Chinese writer in his 70s, walks through a village, he becomes deeply concerned.

Skilled at portraying characters set in rural China, Feng knows that 100-year-old and even 1,000-year-old villages are slowly disappearing.

In sharp contrast to the thriving megacities packed with high-rises, China, once an agricultural country with a civilization going back 5,000 years, is losing its villages.

These old villages witnessed the heyday of ancient Chinese culture, the sorrows and falls of many dynasties, and are part and parcel of Chinese history.

But modern lifestyles are crowding them out of existence. Young villagers are leaving for the cities, where they can achieve bigger dreams than their village homelands can provide.

Feeling the pinch, Chinese authorities initiated an archive-building and survey program in 2012 to catalogue ancient villages led by Feng, who is also a counselor to the State Council.

Over 4,150 villages have been listed as national traditional villages, and 223 of them have been catalogued for preservation. The progress is encouraging, but Feng dares not slow down.

“About 80 to 100 villages are disappearing in China every day. From 2000 to 2010, a total of 900,000 villages disappeared,” Feng said. “Preserving villages preserves our country. It shows our respect for culture.”

How to protect villages

But even for villages under protection, the situation is not satisfactory.

“Overdevelopment has become a cliché in the stories of reviving traditional villages,” Feng said. “At some villages, authorities displace local residents and hand the land over to tourism companies who then build homestays. They even make up fake folktales to attract tourists. These villages often end up with the same narratives, and if this situation persists, we might lose them again,” Feng said.

The make-up of village populations also causes difficulties.

Earlier this year, a group of researchers went to Dapin Village in northern China’s Shanxi Province. The 1,500-year-old village only had 16 residents, mostly women and the elderly.

“A village is a community. If the residents cannot make their living, it is natural for the youth to leave and the villages to become empty,” Feng said.

“As urbanization accelerates, disparities between traditional villages and modern life grow, causing the collapse of traditional culture. This is a dilemma,” said Pu Jiao, deputy director of the center for traditional village protection and research.

It will be almost impossible to revive the villages without the presence of local people, as Feng knows only too clearly.

“We must work out a way to find locals a stable source of income, upgrade facilities, and offer educational and medical support to arouse their cultural consciousness,” Feng said. “The recent ‘toilet revolution’ is a good step.”

In the meantime, efforts to promote village culture continue. In November, a virtual museum was established for encouraging the use of video, three-dimensional images and other multi-media to record villages with distinct regional or ethnic features.

Visitors can access the museum online to see customs, buildings and even lifestyles of the villages, and hopefully play a role in keeping them alive.

“There is no fixed pattern in the conservation of villages. We should accumulate all manner of resources and broaden the mindset of local officials,” Feng said.

(Xinhua)

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