Exploring China's rural revitalization
: the relationship between the sense of community and public space in “traditional villages” in Chongqing, Southwest China

  • Wei Wang

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

Over the past four decades, rural China has experienced a long period of population loss accompanied by the disappearance of its villages and its agricultural heritage. In this context, China’s central government has released several lists of “traditional villages” to emphasize the importance of rural communities that are rich in historical and cultural resources, and those selected in the official lists could receive financial support from the local or central government. While government funds were mostly used to construct tourism infrastructure rather than increase the living standards of villagers, the depopulation trend in traditional villages has not improved significantly. Consequently, creating a sense of community among villagers has been studied as a solution to rural depopulation. Although the relationship between the sense of community and the built environment has been discussed frequently in the West since the 1980s, there has been little research on this relationship in rural China. Thus, this research investigates the relationship between the villagers’ sense of community and the quality of public space in the context of China’s traditional villages.

Two initial models for assessing villagers’ sense of community and the quality of public space in Chinese traditional villages were developed by reviewing previous studies. Then two models were applied in the selected cases in the form of two questionnaires. The field study, which involved observation, self-reported questionnaires, and semi-structured interviews, was conducted in three villages in Chongqing, southwestern China, each of which was developed within a typical regional culture. The analysis of qualitative data in this research demonstrates that in villages with better economic situations, residents interact more frequently in public spaces; villagers prefer to visit public spaces that could bring them economic benefits while giving less consideration to their artistic values. Likewise, the analysis of quantitative data in this research demonstrated that villagers with a higher sense of community preferred to socialize in public spaces. Additionally, apart from materials and colors, other quality indicators of public spaces were positively correlated with the villagers’ sense of community. Additionally, mixed uses and three economic indicators – direct benefits, indirect benefits, and potential values – were the most relevant. Thus, there is consistency between analyses of quantitative and qualitative data.
Date of Award5 Dec 2024
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorYun Gao (Main Supervisor) & Adrian Pitts (Co-Supervisor)

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