1st Edition

Home Beyond the House Transformation of Life, Place, and Tradition in Rural China

By Wei Zhao Copyright 2023
    350 Pages 138 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    350 Pages 138 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Based on extended fieldwork conducted between 2007 and 2019, this book aims to answer a simple question: What is the meaning of home for people living in vernacular settlements in rural China? This question is particularly potent since rural China has experienced rapid and fundamental changes in the twenty-first century under the influences of national policies such as "Building a New Socialist Countryside" enacted in 2006 and "Rural Revitalization" announced in 2018. Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork, building surveys, archival research, and over 600 photographs taken by residents along with their life stories, this book uncovers the meanings of home from rural residents’ perspectives, who belong to a social group that is underrepresented in scholarship and underserved in modern China. In other words, this study empowers rural residents by giving them voice. This book links the concepts of place, home, and tradition into an overarching argument: The meaning of home rests on the ideas of tradition, including identity, consanguinity, collectivity, social relations, land ownership, and rural lifestyle.

    The Introduction and Chapter 4 of this book is available for free in PDF format as Open Access from the individual product page at www.routledge.com. It has been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 license.

    List of Figures

    List of Tables




    Chapter 1: Evolving Rural China

    Chapter 2: The Village Underneath the Rock: The Cheng Family and the Vernacular Built Environment of Yanxia

    Chapter 3: From a Local Deity to a World Heritage: Formation and Destruction of Vernacular Tradition

    Chapter 4: From the Land: The Foundation of Rural China

    Chapter 5: Rooted in the Past: Where Ancestors Lived

    Chapter 6: Family as an Economic Entity: Divided Homes and Families

    Chapter 7: Home without the House: Eternal Jiaxiang

    Chapter 8: On Tradition

    Chapter 9: Afterward





    Wei (Windy) Zhao is an Assistant Professor in the School of Design at Louisiana Tech University. Zhao received a PhD in architecture from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Her research focuses on issues of social equity and sustainability, cultural identity and diversity, and the built environment of marginalized social groups in the context of globalization and climate change.

    “The participatory and empowering method of asking residents to photograph their surroundings is exciting. This innovative method not only provides a visual and personal record of the environment and its significance to locals but also engages them actively in the process of documenting and reflecting on their own sense of place and identity. It is an approach that enriches the research with first-hand perspectives and also validates the residents’ experiences and connections to their habitat.”

    Geng LiThe China Quarterly (2024), 1–2.