Skip to content

Peasants must learn how to live in residential towers

August 31, 2012

From sample locations in Beijing, we see villagers relocated from demolished villages taking courses to study how to live in residential towers


Xinhuanet 2010-08-22

Photo: Yesterday, in Chaoyang district Dongbajiayuan 东坝家园, the residents’ pumpkin vines are growing up to the first floor terrace. (Photo, Wang Guibin)


Peasants who go to live in multi-story buildings have difficulty adapting. They continue with their old habits of growing vegetables and raising chickens. A “citizen school” will train them to learn how to live in cities.


As villages one after another are demolished as part of the urban rural unification process, the villagers are relocated. In Beijing there are 50 villages marked up for complete demolition and renewal. This means many dislocated villagers are being resettled, and transforming from peasants to city residents.


Can these peasants adapt to city life?A recent survey by this reporter  of various communities in which villagers have resettled revealed that some residents, although they moved in a number of years ago, still have not adjusted to urban community life. In the designated green areas they grow vegetables and raise chickens. In other places though, they have left behind their old habits and adjusted to city life.Recently, the sociology and demography departments of Beijing’s People’s university have set up a “Citizen’s School” to explore with villagers the idea of harmonious relations in a high rise tower.


In Jinzhan town the citizen’s school was preparing its course material. In Jinzhan town there are four demolished and relocated villages .


Villagers speak their mind about the difficulties


Jinzhan town Changdian village is one of the 50 marked up villages. Everywhere in the village are the ruins of demolished houses. It had as many as 1200 residences. One villager said in his compound he grew onions, garlic and cucumbers, among other things. In the summer he didn’t have to buy vegetables.”Now I can no longer grow anything.” He said he was unable to adjust to living in a multi-storied building.


Besides Changdian, in Jinzhan town there are three other villages  that will be demolished: Mafang, Louzizhuang, and Caogezhuang. An official involved in these operations said, in communities where displaced villagers were congregated they transplanted rice seedlings in the designated green areas, and piled up corridors with heaps of goods. To prevent these problems, they hope to transform the peasants’ ideas. For this reason, investigation and research into how villagers can adjust to urban life is a major topic in Chaoyang. The director of the citizen’s school says the next session will cover “civilized behavior in public,” divided into four topics: the public environment, public order, human relations and the public good.


Sample case 1:

In Chaoyang district, Dongba Homes A and B sectors, most of the residents  are villagers who entered three years ago after being relocated from demolished homes.  Recently in the B sector many residents were growing pumpkins in the green areas around the multi-story buildings. Around buildings number 108 and 109, cucumber and tobacco leaf had been planted. By 115 were onions, garlic, eggplant, and even hot chilis. Around 103 residents had spread our buckwheat husks to dry in the sun. These are used to fill pillows.


At 108 a Mr Chen said, his village had been torn down to make a green open space, and he had relocated here three years ago with the other villagers. He said previously his home had one sixth of an acre on which he grew corn and vegetables. “Before I engaged in agriculture, now I have no employment. Being idle with nothing to do I plant seeds to help economize and pay expenses.” A Mr Zhao said,  he smoked dried leaf tobacco, therefore he planted some tobacco plants in the residential area. He said that moving from a compound with more than 200 square meters, his apartment in a residential tower felt like a birdcage.


Dongba homes staff person Liu said previously residents had raised rabbits, ducks, and chickens, but have now been dissuaded from doing so. He said raising vegetables in the green area was not permitted, but if among the residents no one was against it, and no written complaint was made, building maintenance had no authority to stop it. He said a good many of the residents had formerly been villagers together, and they were fond of getting together in the courtyard in the evening cool to gossip. Many of the men were ‘shirtless papas’ [men who take off their shirts or expose their bellies in public in the summer heat].


This reporter found out that in this residential district there are no neighborhood committees. The residents have no interest in forming activity groups. In the past, building maintenance tried to start an exercise group, but no one answered the appeal.


Sample case 2

Chaolai Green Homes

Time of Residency: about seven years

Abundance of activities, residents are well adopted to city life


“I get up at 5 in the morning, go downstairs and do taichi with my neighbors, at night I go and practice fan dance.” The 63 year old resident Auntie Wang explained her present life was rich and abundant, the same as that of a retired city resident. Originally she was from Guangying village. In 2006 her home was demolished and she moved here. Over 10,000 of the residents are from Guangying, Hongyunjing, and five other demolished villages. From 2002 they moved in, in successive waves.


The other day, there were no vegetables or chickens in the public green space, and the corridors had no piles of miscellaneous objects. Auntie Wang said she and the others had dropped the customs of village life.


“There were people afraid that the water would be cut off, so they carried big vats of water up the stairs, Auntie Wang recollected.  They were unaccustomed to living in tall buildings, and didn’t want to throw away their village possessions. When they first moved in there were some villagers who wanted to plant cedar trees in the green area, but in the end they realized they shouldn’t do it.


In 2006, Chaolai Green Homes established a neighborhood committee. In tandem with the Guangying township government, the committee set up courses and lectures to help the villagers adjust to urban life. Many villagers went through these courses, learning scientific facts about hygiene, as well as more general knowledge about social etiquette. At the same time, the neighborhood committee set up sports and culture group activities, in order that the villagers would participate in community life –taichi, badminton, ping pong, and folk dancing.


Ping Qinuo of the Citizen’s School says in the course of their activities they have discovered that villagers do not develop a sense of belonging in their new residential communities if they do not establish firm social networks. In urbanization, the peasants are not only given a new  multi-storied building to live in, but they are provided with a new urban way of thinking. Problem arise if they cannot change their old ways of conceptualizing to suit the fierce pace of change in the city. In western countries the process of urbanization that takes as long as several decades is now occurring in China in the space of just a few years. The government is spurring on the development of the urban infrastructure at a rapid clip, but the process of adjustment for the people involved takes a long time. Ping Qinuo believes the government should throw more resources and manpower into helping the residents form social groups and interpersonal relations as  urbanization continues. They should establish a special office to have responsibility for this, staffed with professionals who can provide guidance.


Reporter: Zhang Ning

From → Uncategorized

  1. Hi thanks forr posting this

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Changdian village: further notes | Translations about social issues: China

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: