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Our Impact

Our motto is “learn by doing.” With the help of hundreds of student and community volunteers and around 12,000 total volunteer hours, the China Folk House Retreat captures the potential in experiential learning and community building. Through our programs, we empower students to engage in their own education and join our local community to build common ground. We give our community members a chance to be part of a big idea, and they respond with commitment, coming back year after year to build themselves into the China Folk House.

 

The China Folk House Retreat currently offers a range of experiential learning opportunities, from day visits to the house site as a “living museum,” to volunteer days to help reassemble the homestead, to educational and cultural programming during our summer camp, “Camp Wholesome.” Through Camp Wholesome, students have contributed their labor to completing the facilities and learning the craft of traditional building in the process. Once Folk House is more complete, our summer camp programming will evolve into a craft school. In the future, CFHR will host a series of tailored workshops, a cultural exchange program connecting craftmasters in Jianchuan and West Virginia, and a craft school for high school aged students. Read more about our programs below. 

Living Museum 

 

On weekdays during the school year CFHR can host school groups who come for a half-day, full day, or several days to learn about folkways of Yunnan by touring the house and gardens and taking part in hands-on activities related to agriculture, cooking, tools, and traditional craft and building practices. We are open to all for guided tours, by appointment. If you are interested in arranging an appointment, please contact us

We will develop the China Folk House Retreat into a Museum of Chinese Rural Folklife focusing on the theme of “tradition and transformation.” Our 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. Different spaces of the house will be associated with  specific themes of rural folklife, and explore the dramatic historical changes within each of these themes through the story of the house, its material culture, the original owners of the house, and the community of Cizhong as case studies revealing the broader transformations of rural China. Visitors will have opportunities to go beyond looking at objects to physically interact with exhibits and “hands-on” activities. we will also provide opportunities for visitors to participate in “building common ground” at the museum by contributing their own reflections and stories through the “storycorps” recording booth, where visitors can make short videos about their personal memories of rural folklife—in China or wherever they are from—that we will post to an archive on our museum website.

Tailored Workshops

 

During the school year, CFHR can host a series of workshops that focus on themes directly related to the China Folk House, using our facilities and our staff’s expertise:

Botany, agriculture, food, and healing

Hands-on workshops using the China Folk House gardens to learn about ethnobotany of northwest Yunnan; herbal medicine; Chinese garden crops and traditional agricultural practices, and Chinese cooking using the Folk House woks and kitchen tools. Spring programs would include learning about native plants and local biodiversity.

Sustainable building

Drawing on our expertise developed in the rebuilding of the China Folk House, we offer workshops on building traditional rammed earth and hempcrete walls to enclose the courtyard; using traditional joinery techniques to build garden structures, gatehouses, and camp buildings. 

Retreats, symposia, and interfaith dialogue

The China Folk House is an ideal site for hosting all kinds of retreats, from intimate academic seminars to spiritual retreats fostering dialogue between religious traditions (Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, including Quakers, Catholicism, and other Christian sects).

Chinese culture programming

CFHR can sponsor day-long weekend workshops on different aspects of Chinese culture, from cooking jiu da wan (“nine big bowls”) dinners in the courtyard followed by an outdoor screening of a Chinese film, to taiji quan and martial arts classes, to programs on tea, calligraphy, traditional Chinese painting, fengshui, gardening, festivals—all aspects of culture.

Craft School

 

CFHR will host up to four consecutive two-week craft schools (typically from June 15 to August 15) that can each enroll up to 24 high-school aged students in hands-on apprenticeships with Masters of Chinese crafts found in the China Folk House home region of northwest Yunnan.  Each year the program will focus on a different craft: silversmithing, wood carving, traditional tie dye, jiama woodblock printing, landscape and sacred tangka painting, or learning to play musical instruments such as the erhu and sanxian.  In addition to “embodied learning” in the apprenticeships, students will learn about the cultural and historical contexts of each craft, including different levels of Chinese language lessons customized to the work activities.  Students can also take part in camp activities including, hiking, swimming and canoeing/kayaking on the Shenandoah River, gardening, cooking, and a host of wholesome games and activities. 

At Camp Wholesome, students are immersed in a two week experiential learning session where they work together to reassemble the China Folk House. We give students tools, materials, and a little guidance, then they use teamwork to organize themselves. Educators talk about global citizenship, environmental stewardship, community building, problem-solving, risk-taking, creativity, leadership, but at CFHR we go beyond talk, and give the kids a chance to do it! We give students a chance to be part of a big idea, and they respond with commitment, coming back year after year to build themselves into the China Folk House. Since 2019, rebuilding has been our program and scores of high school and college students have joined in that transformative experience. From 2019 to 2022, students have been learning the craft of sustainable building. They have contributed their labor to completing the facilities and learning the craft of traditional building in the process. Once Folk House is more complete, our summer camp programming will evolve into a craft school. Join us in taking the CFHR vision to the next level with the opening of our craft school in 2023! Read more about Camp Wholesome here