The China Folk House Retreat (CFHR) is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering cultural and educational exchanges between the U.S. and China, and to providing a site for spiritual reflection, experiential education, and environmental sustainability programs for students of all ages across the greater Washington, DC area.  CFHR will serve as an experiential, interactive museum showcasing the diverse folk cultures, vernacular architecture, agriculture, handicrafts, and folklife of northwest Yunnan. 


The China Folk House Retreat  preserves a farm house from the village of Cizhong that would have been inundated by a dam on the headwaters of the Mekong River, by documenting the house and its landscape, disassembling and moving the physical structures, and then reassembling the homestead along the Shenandoah River at the Friends Wilderness Center in Jefferson County, West Virginia


The project’s research goal is to understand the house as a text of its place, as a location of skill and craftsmanship, and as a tool of agricultural production, connected to its fields, orchards, and pasture. We believe that rebuilding the house at the site along the Shenandoah River is ideal for this project of cultural translation, because the similarities of landscape and folkways will make the China Folk House Retreat a center for cross-cultural programs in experiential education, folklife studies, and environmental sustainability.



Dr. John Flower
Dr.  Pamela Leonard

Dr. John Flower (Director, Sidwell Friends School Chinese Studies Program, Ph.D. University of Virginia) and Dr. Pamela Leonard (Ph.D. University of Cambridge), the founders of CFHR, have worked in partnership with the Linden Centre on the China Fieldwork Semester, an innovative experiential education program based in Xizhou, since 2014.  The CFHR project is an extension of the China Fieldwork Semester program that will “bring China to the students” just as the semester program brings students to China.  We hope that the project to rebuild the China Folk House will create a cultural bridge connecting the communities of greater Washington DC, Jefferson County, and northwest Yunnan.

CFHR Board

Capricia Penevic Marshall: Director, Chair 

Ambassador-in-Residence at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC. President of Global Engagement Strategies, which advises international public and private clients on issues relating to the nexus of business and cultural diplomacy.

John Flower: Director, vice chair      

Ph.D. in Chinese History.  Director of the Chinese Studies Program at Sidwell Friends School.  Former tenured Associate Professor of Chinese History at UNC Charlotte (1996-2007). Over ten years’ experience leading high school trips to China, studying rural life in China and folk craft.

Dahlia Neiss: Director, vice chair      

Lawyer, Sidwell Parent, worked for USAID. Founded an educational cooperative dedicated to foreign language study, and “Culture Shock,” an NGO focused on cultural exchange.

Pascale Bronder: Director     

Yale University (2019) and Sidwell Friends School (2015) strong record of environmental work and international engagement. Currently working on structuring green bonds for ING banking, alumna of first China Fieldwork Semester (2014).

Caroline Pelton: Director      

Chairman of the board, Friends Wilderness Center, retired teacher, Loudon County Public Schools. Member of Goose Creek Friends Meeting

Grace Riley-Adams: Director

Janie Song: Director

Alison Steinbach: Director    

Sidwell Friends (2014) Harvard University (2019), Associate Editor, Harvard Crimson; Past program assistant for the US-Asia Institute, graduate of several exchange programs in China.

Pamela Leonard: Chief Executive Officer     

Ph.D. University of Cambridge in Social Anthropology—thesis on rural life and ecology in China. 28 years travelling to China; twenty years teaching about China, at both college and K-12 institutions.