The Journal of Architecture

Village Prototypes: A Survival Strategy

for Chinese Minority Rural Villages

Hong Kong  2020

Rural Chinese villages are disappearing at an alarming rate. Unprece-dented urban growth either has or is in the process of decimating the physical and cultural identity of the village. This paper explores an alternative adaptive strategy for the Dong Minority rural villages of Southern China. Through the implementation of various forms of archi-tectural prototypes, an operational tool to interrogate the village, local crafts and traditional customs are transformed through design prop-ositions. Dong’s inherently social and spatial structures become agents of change, assisting the prototype to calibrate an incremental modernis-ation approach; a paradigm for the community to realise that coexis-tence with the times doesn’t necessarily equate with the erosion of heritage.


‘In the last 20 years, since 1990, 90% of the heritage of Chinese cities has been destroyed in the name of modernization, now we start destroying our country-side.’1 This is how Wang Shu, the 2012 Chinese Pritzker prize winner, opened his 2016 Royal Academy annual lecture in London. According to Wang, the countryside is at the foundation of Chinese culture and if we don’t act quickly, there is a great danger that in the next 10 years most of China’s rural heritage will disappear. The predicament of the village and its looming demise associated with the ever-expanding city is not a new phenomenon. In his 1946 text Manière de penser l’urbanisme,2 Le Corbusier anticipated that with incremental urban growth the traditional village had no chance of survival: ‘To be blunt when in contact with large cities, the village loses its inherent balance and becomes abandoned’.

This paper starts from these two premises, vis-à-vis disappearing rural heritage and abandoned villages to explore the status and future of Dong villages in China, a minority ethnic group within a majority Han culture. Their inherent social and spatial structures are instrumental agents that animate social life, and if adapted, can become assets that allow Dong culture to modernise rather than simply be replaced and forgotten.

Dong villages, like many other rural communities in China, are slowly suffo-cating from an exodus of people. Entire communities escape to urban centres in search of new opportunities leaving behind carcass villages that the auth-orities desperately try to resuscitate through ill-conceived, quick-fix solutions.


Link of the Article



Prof. Peter W. Ferretto (CUHK)

Prof. CAI Ling (GZU)

Publication Detail

The Journal of Architecutre

Volume 25, 2020, Issue 1


Academic Paper