Frequently asked Questions
What is the China Folk House Retreat?
The China Folk House Retreat is a 501(c)(3) organization that preserved a traditional Chinese farmhouse from dam construction by moving it from Northern Yunnan to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The China Folk House is a multi-purpose site; it is a living museum, experiential education and cultural exchange center, and a space for community building events. We aim to foster cultural and educational exchanges between the U.S. and China by building mutual understanding, connecting rural folkways, and cultivating environmental stewardship.
Where is the China Folk House from? Why is it in West Virginia?
The China Folk House is from Cizhong village in Yunnan, China. Cizhong lies along the banks of the Lancang (or Mekong) River and at the foot of the Meili mountain. Because Cizhong is located in the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan region (Lancang, Nujiang, Jinsha), the area has incredible biodiversity. The house was moved because the completion of the Wunonglong dam on the Lancang River would have flooded the homestead.
We moved the house from the Himalaya mountains and Mekong River to the Blue Ridge mountains and Shenandoah River to explore the commonalities of landscape and rural folkways in these two mountain regions, each with rich biodiversity and corresponding diverse cultural traditions. One of the main goals of the China Folk House is to create a platform for the exchange of local knowledge between communities in northwest Yunnan and the Appalachian region, including West Virginia.
Who lived in the house before it moved to the United States?
A Tibetan Catholic family named Zhang built the house in 1989. Members of the Zhang family were farmers and important lay members of the Catholic church They have since been relocated to a new house on higher ground in the town of Cizhong following the construction of the Wunonglong dam.
The founders of CFHR met the original owner of the house, Zhang Jianhua, in 2015 while teaching a semester program for high schoolers in Yunnan, China. The founders bumped into Mr. Zhang Jianhua as he opened his gate and he invited the group in for tea. The rest is history!
Who rebuilt the China Folk House?
The reassembly of the China Folk House is the product of over 250 volunteers building community together. In 2017, a small team of architects, teachers, and carpenters came together to disassemble the farm house in Cizhong. The deconstruction work took place over the course of one week. The disassembly was led by a team of four ethnic Bai carpenters--Masters He, Zhao, Shi, and Yang– and assisted by the U.S. crew of Martin Fair, Steve Steinbach, Alison Steinbach, Nikhil Chaudhuri, and John Flower.
In 2019, we began rebuilding by hosting our first “Camp Wholesome,” a summer program in which high school students help reassemble the house and learn about Chinese culture. A group of master timber framers from the West Virginia Timber Framers Guild volunteered for over two weeks to put up the timber frame. Since 2019, the homestead has been reassembled by our construction team, Matheiu Lamaure, Jonathan Morrison,
Some say, “it takes a village to raise a house.” In our case it’s also true that “it takes a house to make a village” because so many people have come together to rebuild the house, and each person puts part of themselves into their labor, so the house has really created a whole China Folk House community!
What is hempcrete?
Hempcrete is a negative carbon, sustainable building material that is used in all of the walls at China Folk House. It is a mixture of hemp hurd, lime, and clay. The CFHR team loves hempcrete so much that we’ve built what we’re told is the biggest hempcrete wall in North America: 100 feet long and 20 feet tall, inside and out.
Is the China Folk House Retreat part of a Quaker meeting?
The China Folk House is sited on the Friends Wilderness Center (FWC), a Quaker spiritual sanctuary, but CFHR is not part of a Quaker meeting. Although our organization is not Quaker, we certainly do cherish our partnership with our friends at the FWC!
What is the Rolling Ridge Conservancy?
The Rolling Ridge Conservancy (RRC) is a 1400 acre wilderness preserve nestled between the Appalachian Trail on the Blue Ridge to the east and the Shenandoah River to the west in West Virginia. The land has been preserved since the 1970s, when a generous, forward-thinking Quaker family, the Niles, created a land trust and placed the land under conservation in the hands of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The Rolling Ridge Conservancy is a partner organization of the China Folk House Retreat.
What is Friends Wilderness Center?
The Friends Wilderness Center (FWC) is a Quaker spiritual sanctuary located within the Rolling Ridge Conservancy, a unique 1400 acre wilderness preserve. The FWC offers regularly scheduled spiritual programs and hiking opportunities as well as overnight hospitality.
What’s next after the construction of the China Folk House is completed?
Once the critical components of the facility are constructed, such as the kitchen and bunkhouses, we will host tailored workshops. Our topics will cover (although not limited to) Chinese language, agriculture, food, and healing, interfaith dialogue, and sustainable building.
Our Museum of Chinese Rural Folk Life is in the curation process. The museum’s goal is to convey the richness of Chinese rural traditions that are embodied in a Chinese house, and to understand how everyday life in rural China was transformed by key state policies and historical events during the revolutionary and reform periods of the last century. We will offer self-guided in person and virtual tours of the Museum of Chinese Rural Folk Life in the future.
In the next two years, we hope to initiate The Jianchuan Pavilion Project, which will connect master carpenters from the Jianchuan Craftsman Cooperative in Jianchuan, Yunnan with craftmasters from the West Virginia Timber Framers Guild to collaborate on a pavilion. This pavilion will not only complete the courtyard and provide lodging for visitors, but this people-to-people exchange could foster mutual understanding among communities that don’t often have the opportunity to participate in cultural exchanges: working craftsmen from rural areas.
Events & Programming
What is Camp Wholesome?
Camp Wholesome is an experiential education summer camp for high school aged students hosted by the China Folk House Retreat. For the past four years of camp, we have taught students the craft of building by supporting students in reassembling the China Folk House. In addition to our building project, Camp Wholesome offers students an opportunity to engage with Chinese language and culture, environmental education, and other wholesome fun.
When is Camp Wholesome?
In 2023, Camp Wholesome will run 6 sessions from June 11th-June 18th, June 18th-June 25th, June 25th-July 2nd, July 2nd-July 9th, July 9th-July 16th, and July 16th-July 23rd.
Who can attend Camp Wholesome and how do I register?
We are still accepting applications. High school aged students can attend. Apply here.
Can I bring my class on a field trip to the China Folk House?
Yes! We love hosting field trips. Although it depends on the class size. We have capacity for up to 25 people for hands-on, building activities. We can expand our maximum capacity by special arrangement, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to arrange for a hands-on activity for a group larger than 25. For tours and day visits, we can host up to 80 people. Please be aware that large buses cannot be driven on the roads leading up to the China Folk House. The roads can accommodate vans and 20 person buses.
As to the curriculum for the field trip, we can tailor it to your class needs and concentration. Please reach out to us at email@example.com so that we can help plan a great day for your students.
Donate & Get Involved
When and how can I volunteer?
We host volunteer days on some weekends every month of the fall and summer. We post information about our volunteer events in the “Volunteer” section of our website as well as on our Instagram and Facebook. Please follow us on social media and sign up for our mailing list so that you can get notified about our next volunteer day.
If you would like to volunteer in another way, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
How can I support the China Folk House through a financial contribution?
You can donate to the China Folk House through our Donorbox, a check made out to the China Folk House Retreat (mailed to 4805 13th St. N., Arlington, VA 22205), or ACH. Please email email@example.com if you need any assistance.
Where does my money go when I donate?
Right now, our focus is on completing the construction of the commercial kitchen and the bunkhouses so that we can continue to host summer camp and other overnight programming. Your financial contribution will support these construction efforts, but it will also ensure the future of our experiential education programming. Your contribution is very needed and deeply appreciated. Thank you so much.
Where is the China Folk House?
The China Folk House is at 305 Friends Way, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. We are located in the Rolling Ridge Conservancy, one of the largest privately held wilderness preserves near Washington DC with 1400 acres of secluded, forested land. The Rolling Ridge Conservancy boasts miles of hiking trails, the Appalachian Trail, the Shenandoah River, five mountain streams, ponds, waterfalls and scenic overlooks. Visit the Rolling Ridge Conservancy site here for more information on the area.
Is there parking at the China Folk House?
There is parking in front of the Niles Cabin (a wooden cabin with blue and green panels) just a few steps away from the China Folk House.
How should I prepare for my visit?
Be mindful that the China Folk House still operates as a construction site on some days of the week.
Dress casually and comfortably with sensible walking shoes. Bring a water bottle. The spaces are mostly open air and not heated although if it is cold, we will have an outdoor fire.
Note that cell service exists for most services here but does not work inside the Folk House (the walls are thick) and there is no WiFi.
There is a ford across a small creek on the way to the China Folk House. Small cars drive across this ford regularly. For perspective, Prius’ do fine, but a Mini Cooper may find it a bit too rough.
Can I visit without an appointment?
We prefer that you make an appointment first. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know you are coming!
When is the site open to visitors?
The China Folk House site is open to visitors from February through November. We close up our site and turn off the bath house in December and January because it is too cold.
Can I stay overnight at the China Folk House?
We have not finished our bunkhouse construction, so we cannot host guests overnight. If you would like to support our bunkhouse construction, please click here.
Does the China Folk House provide food for day trips?
We currently do not have a kitchen, so we recommend that guests pack their own food. We can cater in food upon request. If you would like to support us in constructing our kitchen, click here!
Many dedicated donors have made possible the China Folk House Retreat
We are grateful to the Daofeng and Angela Foundation and Bedrock Foundation for their outstanding generosity as leading supporters