Maogong, remotely-located with poor transportation, tucked in the rugged mountainous terrains of the western part of Guizhou Province, Liping County in Southwestern China. With an area of 172 sqm and 15 jurisdictive villages, it has a total population of 19,008 comprising of Dong, Miao, and Han ethnicities, of which the Dong accounts for 98% majority. Dong culture thus defined the region markedly, and the extensive stretch of villages meandering through the mountains is known as the “Ten-mile Dong Villages”. This is the birthplace of the globally well-acclaimed Dong opera and the cluster of UNESCO intangible cultural heritage – the Dong wooden building techniques.
Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, poverty alleviation has become the key goal to meet the government’s monumental agenda on building a moderately prosperous society nationwide. Guizhou, as the province with the largest number of poor people and the widest spread of poverty in China, has benefited from the strong support from central government, improved transportation and highly targeted poverty alleviation programs. Its economic structure is improved with development of new industries, such as Big Data and tourism. After transforming itself to adopt an eco-friendly sustainable development model as well as proactively integrating itself into the Belt and Road Initiative, Guizhou’s economy has grown rapidly since 2011, with an actual economic growth rate in 2017 reaching 10.2%, ranked first in China. Since 2013 to present, its number of impoverished rural population has decreased by 6.708 million people, and the incidental poverty rate has dropped from 26.8% to below 8%, achieving remarkable results for poverty alleviation.
Nevertheless, Guizhou remains to be facing disparities in development within the province. Maogong, in the Southeast Qian of Guizhou, markedly presented a significant contrast to the provincial growth with its sluggish economy. Its gross value of GDP in 2017 was 97.218 billion yuan with an increase of 5.2% as compared with the previous year. Yet, its growth rate is the slowest among the nine prefectures of Guizhou. 14 out of its total 16 counties are key targets of the national poverty alleviation council, this acute situation is regarded as rare, even in the context of the whole country.
Since 2015, Maogong has the vision of becoming a “Creative Village” based on the notion oof “Discovering rural values, reevaluating rural values, exporting rural values, and reestablishing the spirit of rural village”. Currently, building facilities such as the rural art exhibition hall, rural makers’ service center and training hotel, have been built.
Due to the lack of overall strategic business and development planning, professional management and operations, and skills training programs for villagers, Maogong remained economically-stagnant and is unable to jumpstart its sustainable growth with the creative industry cluster strategy it has charted. Pertaining to improving the living conditions of local villagers, the following challenges remain daunting:
Low actual disposable income of the villagers: how to alleviate poverty to reach the nation’s goal to achieve a moderately prosperous society for all?
The town has 1,322 impoverished households and an impoverished population of 5,644. Annual average per capita income in 2017 was 8,159 yuan with 7.420 yuan expenditure. Due to low education level and the lack of professional skills, villagers who left to work as migrant labors can only earn meager income.
Threat of vacant villages with left-behind elderly and children: how can increase local employment opportunities and encourage return of villagers?
Due to transportation inaccessibility and limited industry development, more than 60% of young adults left to work in distant lands. Maogong faces challenges such as hollowing-out villages, preservation of the Dong culture and traditions, and left-behind elderly and children.
Threat to continuation and preservation of Dong culture: how to increase the enthusiasm for young Dong people to learn and preserve their culture, and turn their cultural heritage into content output?
尽管当地侗族文化遗产丰富, 但却面临传承问题，以侗族文化中的杰出代表侗族大歌为例, 据统计目前侗族大歌的流行区域，还不到一万平方公里、总人口不足十万，侗族大歌的原生态正急速发生变异。木制吊脚楼是侗族人民传统居住建筑，近年来，村民们逐渐盖起砖房，传统建筑正在消失。茅贡的民间工匠技术高超，常被请去修复古建筑，然而在发挥有限及年轻人不愿学习的情况下，值得珍惜的精湛传统技艺，将逐渐消失。
Despite its richness in cultural heritage, the Dong people face threat to pass on their cultural inheritance. Taking the Dong Choir as an example, according to statistics, the current prevalence of the Dong Choirs is less than 10,000 square kilometers by area, and the total population of singers is less than 100,000. The ecosystem of Dong Choir is rapidly breaking down. Wooden high-stilt house (Diaojiaolou) is the traditional Dong residential architecture. In recent years, villagers start building brick houses and displacing traditional building. The folk craftsmen in Maogong are highly skilled, and often been invited to join in architecture restoration works. However, with limited applications and lack of learning interest of the young people, adorned artisanal skills as such face threat of disappearance.
Lack of market and product knowledge to develop agriculture: how to promote high-value sustainable agricultural output through new skills and technologies?
农业依然停留在传统农耕发展阶段，严重缺乏农业科技的应用及市场意识来开辟可续新农业。目前，通过退耕还林，当地栽种了很多楠竹树种，然而侗族村民只习惯使用杉林作为建筑家居木材，造成楠竹资源闲置，未获充份利用。Agriculture industry lacks organized efforts to improve sustainable farming skills and tap agri-tech to improve yield and variety for high-value, high-quality output and better utilization of available resources. With the government policy to recede some farmlands to rebuild forests, many fast-growing moso bamboos have been planted. However, Dong villagers are only used to using the China fir as wood for construction, which causes the moso bamboo resources to be under-utilized.
Current economic structure and industry mix remained monolith with unbalanced growth: how can we drive creation of inter-related industries to amplify sustainable development impacts?
Primary industry is high at 94% in the economic composition while secondary industry is non-existent. Tertiary industry is a mere of the remaining 4%. Significant dependence on the primary industry subjugate local economy to high economic risks. Without the support of the secondary industry, primary industry can only be exporting raw materials without value-add, and its competitiveness is weak.
Central government policy supports poverty alleviation
The Guizhou government has defended its ground to seek eco-sustainable economic development, constantly adjust its industrial structure to introduce new industries to drive its green economy. Amongst all, province-wide tourism promotion is one of its key tasks to alleviate poverty through tourism to empower local communities with growth opportunities, adding vitality to drive sustainable economic growth across board.
Rich water resources and natural ecological resources
Southeast Qian Prefecture of Guizhou Province has been recommended by UNESCO as one of the World’s Top Ten destinations for the travel themed on “Return to Simplicity in Nature”. Maogong has abundant water resources, and a size of 190,000 mu of woodlands, and a high coverage of forests at 76%. Hence, it was elected as "2017 Discover Cultural Town in Forests in China".
Excellent qualify of agricultural produce
Due to its unique soil, water and climate conditions, Maogong is one of the top three production bases for high-quality rice production in Liping County. In 2017, the rice planting area reached 8,000 mu with a harvest of 4,783 tons. The Chong Yang Wine, made in the 9thday of the ninth month in lunar calendar, is made from local high quality rice grains, and gains wide-spread reputation for its sweet, mellow and aromatic taste and nutrients-rich quality. The region is also rich in producing exquisite traditional Chinese medicinal herbs such as gastrodia, turpentine, and pine Tuckahoe, and agricultural produce such as chili peppers, bayberries, and wild walnuts.
Rich in Eclectic Dong culture
11 villages in Maogong have been named by the nation as “Traditional Villages”, depicting its rich historical and cultural landscapes. In 2008, Maogong was recognized by China’s Ministry of Culture as the hometown of National Folk Culture and Arts, gaining coveted status with its intangible cultural heritage such as Dong Opera, Dong Choirs , Dong wooden building techniques. Maogong was the birthplace of Dong Opera. In 1994, it was named “The Hometown of Dong Opera”. Now, Maogong has 19 Dong Opera teams, and a total of 400 Dong Opera masters and actor.
Mastery excellence in wooden building techniques
In 2006, the Dong wooden building techniques were included in the list of National Intangible Cultural Heritage. Maogong has about 746 remaining carpenters who do not rely on any drawings to build halls, houses or bridges. They rely on a simple bamboo stick as ruler with the unique “Mo Shi Wen” master to annotate for the design, using ordinary carpenter tools and wooden materials to make a variety of architectural buildings with high artistic and aesthetics values and remarkable techniques.
Sustainable development infrastructure
In recent years, the government and experts have invested in the establishment of 2 eco-cultural museums, 15 farmer's bookstores, grain storage arts centers, rural maker institutes, rural maker apartments, log cabin hotels, co-working space, hand-crafted exhibition halls, Dong wooden building techniques training center and factory, a food processing factory and other spaces. At the same time, the local government has held many academic exchanges, educational studies, cultural exhibitions, and other activities. It now has earned its earmarked status within China for its advocacy in sustainable rural development with ecological protection.
In summary, Maogong has a rich depth of ecological and cultural heritage and high quality agricultural resources. However, it lacks vibrant local communities, cross-pollination creative industries and revitalization mechanism to further tap its intrinsic values.
目标 GOALS + 心动 ACTIONS
With the full support of the People’s Government of Maogong Town of Liping County, Village Resetaims to engage villagers and farmers to take proactive participatory impact actions; integrate and optimize various resources; and, incubate the creative communities embracing sustainable lifestyles, to explore a path to enriching happiness.
Village Resetwill revitalize the local economy through the implementation of various sub-projects targeted at specific challenges: the Incubator for Rural Creation as well as the New Retail Digital Platform for Cultural and Creative Industries. Maogong will become the test-pilot site for the development of creative villages in China to propel growth in local villagers’ incomes, empowerment of villagers to reset and rebuild their communities, and revitalization Dong’s woodenbuilding industry. In short, Village Reset has four sets of goals outlined in the following:
Increase value-add of rural products, export village values and raise the incomes of villagers and GDP growth.
Expand the local ecological, agri-cultural and cultural tourism markets and enhance local employment opportunities.
Bridge the market needs for Dong’s wooden products, create the new value curve and revitalize Dong’s wooden artisanry
Preserve Dong’s traditional culture and values as well as promote organic inheritage
Establish Maogong as the demonstration village for preservation and revitalization of ethnic minorities
Empower the villagers by enhance their professional knowledge and skills through training programs.
Attract village returnees to tap new work opportunities and found their own businesses. Enhance their autonomy and promote family togetherness.
Build a SMEs entrepreneurial platform for sustainable development and gather new creative talents domestically and internationally.
Enhance the re-distribution and re-balancing of resources between cities and villages.
Re-energize local economy and increase the cultural self-confidence of local ethnic minority groups
Establish self-sufficient sustainable communities that can spread influence to neighboring villages and nationwide to promote a sustainable wellness lifestyle.
GFP Creative Market of Hundred Artisanry
The platform connects villages and cities as well as creativity and cultural heritage to exhibit artisanal crafts and harness values of rural villages.
GFP Dong’s Wooden Factory
This program covers cultivation and training of artisans, exhibition of wood artisanal and processing of wooden works, will bridge the gap between market needs and contemporary aesthetics appreciation. The combination of modern design and traditional wood artisanry can create new sales of wooden finished products, preserve invaluable Dong craftmanship and build the mechanism of sustainable development for Dong’s wooden artisanry.
GFP Incubating HUB
GFP Incubator Program covers Rural Maker Apartments, Chalet, co-working space and incentives for innovation, aiming to gather and attract domestic and international makers to create innovative sustainable lifestyle brands.
Provide the training courses for villagers, farmers and artisans to help them enhance professional skills; offer them internship opportunities in restaurants and hotels.
Village Reset™ Maogong, Guizhou
Driven by the design of sustainable ecological-economic microsystem, DVF integrates domestic and global visions and resources to contribute to building a sustainable rural circular economy in Maogong, Guizhou. With programs such as the incubation and professional training for rural makers; the creation of a multi-dimensional engagement platform for urban-rural communities; and, the unleash of local eco-tourism potential and rich agricultural resources, Village Resetworks to empower ethnic Dong communities in active preservation of their own culture, and creates new job opportunities that would encourage the young village returnees to reset and rebuild their hometowns.