“Wàiguó rén!” one of the kids screamed and ran away when he saw one of the foreign visitors walking next to me, when a group of us entering the village. Once we sat down a courtyard space, the kid came back with all his friends with cameras and start taking pictures.
“Where are you from?” one of the girls asked shiny. “Scotland” Martin from the British Council replied with a smile. The girl and her grandma nodded, as there was a language barrier, so her grandma asked me in Mandarin, what were we doing in her village instead. “We are here to participate the event Re-imagine the forgotten building in Xinguang Village”. I replied excitedly.
Above: Kids in the village were excited to meet new friends and asked for photographs
Xinguang village is located in the northern part of the Tonghu town, the People’s Republic of China Huizhou City of Guangdong Province Huicheng District. It has a rich water resource, facing the Dongjiang water and peppered with ponds. There are around 3800 inhabitants. Most of them are elderly and kids.
Above: Entrance to the Ancestor Shrine (Clan Hall)
Above: Exhibition open ceremony
The organization of Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab and AzuKo hosted a competition and shared their 12 shortlisted entries and created a temporary exhibition. To be honest it wasn’t great in terms of exhibition curating. I would have expected to be exhibited across these small villages or at least showing where some of the collages taken from so the local could engage more. Also, most of the targeted audiences from the villages are very young and elderly aged 70+ which eyesight wasn’t prepared for font size 12 on A3 paper and written in English. The flyout was A4 was far too tiny. However, it was a good tactic as it led the local villagers more focuses on each proposal and pay more attention to what the local translator presented instead of reading the drawings themselves. We were divided into 3 groups and entering the Clan where the printed materials were hung.
” The 12 competition entries have tried to maintain the village characteristic, Only thing i would add is to make use of our village historical elements and find a way to enhance the village experience, I want all the people who return back to the countryside could enjoy and feel the atmosphere of rural life.
The “Forgotten Spirits of Xinguang Village” and The Beast of Guandong” particularly interested me the most.”
Above: Competition entries & Comments from one of the locals
I am intrigued and respect in the deepest sense of their wisdom of crowds: the customs and habits that people in the village, left to their own devices, developed while living in close proximity to one another. In a globalised world when cities, town, villages are becoming more homogenised, and this creates a need to differentiate as well as to maintain and emphasise on their unique characteristics. Ms Chen offered me a cup of tea and asked me to follow her to their best shuyan (college) in Xinguang Village, which is now a 300 years old abandoned building.
Above: Route to the Qǐ guāng Shuyun ( College)
Above: Huge open space outside the Qǐ guāng Shuyun ( College)
Above: Entrance to the Qǐ guāng Shuyun ( College)
Top to bottom: Interior of Qǐ guāng Shuyun ( College)
I carefully sketched out the building typologies while Ms Chen was busy greeting everyone when she passed the corridor. She introduced me to some of her friends and I enjoyed it as I love meeting new people. I told Ms Chen the face to face social interactions in where I live in Hong Kong is almost zero. The building typologies Xinguang village range from free structures to semi-segregated homes and terraced lodging. They are ordinarily developed from bricks, with a timber pitched rooftop structure, shrouded in earthenware rooftop tiles. These one-room homes are some of the time split into two levels, with the upper floor got to climb by a high-quality bamboo stepping stool.
Above: Ms Chen and her farmhouse
Above: Another lady who is also Ms Chen kindly gave me a tour of her house
We walked back slowly to join the group and I have been pondering if the competition had any correlation with the Guandong Huizhou Tonghu Ecological and Smart Zone development (2017 – 2030). So I pointed on the satellite images to the group if they are aware of the proposal of building Huizhou as a green city through deepened regional cooperation and making Tonghu a green Silicon Valley in Guangdong. From my understanding, there will be R&D, Innovation Park, research institutes; PPP infrastructure projects such as the Smart Avenue will take place. Therefore I also ask if the village has any future plan and they said not they were aware of. However, they notice there are visitors coming to the village time to time and hoping they are not planning evil ideas. Ms Chen emphasis she is open to all ideas however ancestor shrine (clan hall) must be kept here as it faced the reservoir otherwise it will be affected by feng shui. She continued and said the village is usually quite empty and felt very quiet. I told her I would be back so we exchanged contact on we chat.
Above: I overlay the proposed Guandong Huizhou Tonghu Ecological and Smart Zone development (2017 – 2030) from the Chinese government in relation to Xinguang Village for discussion purposes for my visit.
Above: The locals were explaining how much the area of Guandong has changed