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Title:Home beyond the house: the meaning of home for people living in Yanxia village, Zhejiang Province, China
Author(s):Zhao, Wei
Director of Research:Dearborn, Lynne
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Dearborn, Lynne
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Silverman, Helaine I.; Stallmeyer, John; Santos, Carla A.
Department / Program:Architecture
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Vernacular Architecture
Rural Settlement
Cultural Landscape
Rural China
Lineage Structure
Family-Based Business
Building a New Socialist Countryside
Historic Preservation
Abstract:Under the guidance of a new policy released by China’s central authority in 2006, which calls for “Building a New Socialist Countryside,” newly planned settlements with rows of nearly identical houses have rapidly emerged in rural China. As a result, rural residents, who, for generations, have lived in the same village in the countryside, are relocated to new settlements. Historic and vernacular houses were demolished; social relations among residents were broken down due to the relocation; cultural traditions were forgotten as the result of their detachment from associated cultural landscapes. The reason behind this phenomenon is the common understanding embraced by scholars and local government officials that new and modern houses are the foundation for creating the new socialist countryside. This policy has broad implications for Chinese society. According to the latest census in 2010, there are 674 million people living in rural China, over 50 percent of the Chinese population, many of whom live in traditional and vernacular built settlements that retain rich and diverse cultural heritage. The reconstruction of the built environments and the relocation of the residents have detached residents from the built environments where their cultural heritage has been rooted and nurtured. This dissertation examines the ways in which tradition has affected the physical, psychological, and social constructions of home for the residents living in Yanxia. This dissertation argues that, in the context of rural China, the nature of vernacular settlements call for an understanding of place and certain aspects of Chinese culture challenge the spatial boundary of house. Thus, the meaning of home for people living in Yanxia goes beyond the physical boundary of the house or the legal boundary of the homestead and is attached to cultural traditions embraced by individuals or shared by the residents of Yanxia. Specifically, the meaning of home for the residents living in Yanxia ties to their bound kinship structure established in the early fourteenth century, their family-based economic practices since the 1850s, and, more importantly, the land on which their houses have been situated for generations. This dissertation integrates the methodologies of ethnographic fieldwork and archival research. In particular, participants were asked to take photographs of aspects of their jia that are meaningful to them. Semi-structured and in-depth interviews then followed focusing on the contents of the photographs. This dataset was triangulated with data obtained from archival research and observations. Situated between the scholarship on place, home, and tradition, this dissertation offers a unique understanding of the role of tradition in the physical, psychological, and social construction of home within the context of the historic and vernacular built environment in rural China. This dissertation expands and advances the literature on place, home, and tradition in vernacular environment and non-western cultures. Moreover, the use of the method of photovoice, empowers the participants, who represent more than 50 percent of the Chinese population yet belong to a social group that is underrepresented in scholarship and underserved in modern China. Finally, this study provides guidance for the local practice of the policy of Building a New Socialist Countryside, which helps to preserve cultural traditions recognized by the residents and to sustain meanings of home.
Issue Date:2015-04-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Wei Zhao
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-07-22
Date Deposited:May 2015

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