Copyright © 2019 China Folk House Retreat Inc. All rights reserved.

THE HOUSE

The house was originally located in Cizhong village, in Yunnan Province of southwestern China, where three great rivers of Asia—the Mekong (Lancang), the Salween (Nu), and the Yangtze (Jinsha) River run closely parallel, cutting deep gorges among the glaciated peaks of the eastern Himalaya to create a region renowned for its rich cultural and biological diversity.  Close to the Tibetan and Burmese borders, this “Three Parallel Rivers” region is recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site and boasts 15 protected areas, including China’s first national park.  

‚Äč

The village of Cizhong has a unique history as the home to a Catholic church, where local people of diverse Tibetan, Naxi, Yi, Lisu, or Han ethnicities join together to attend mass every Sunday. The people are subsistence farmers practicing traditional agriculture and animal husbandry, but the village is also home to a thriving wine production industry introduced by French and Swiss missionaries in the nineteenth century. Villagers were able to keep these unique traditions and local knowledge alive through the revolutionary period.  The similarity to Virginia landscape agriculture is striking: farming grain and gardening between mountain and river, raising hogs and cattle, tending orchards of walnut and fruit trees and vineyards for making wine.  

 

The house itself is a blend of Tibetan, Naxi, Bai, and Han Chinese ethnic styles, built by Bai carpenters from Jianchuan County, a place renowned for fine craftsmanship, particularly in house building and wood carving.  The house was built in a way that fits both the local environment and the cultural hybridity of the community.  Although it was built in 1989—before electricity came to Cizhong—the house follows the traditional layout, materials, methods, and ornamentation of houses in the region going back centuries.  It is a “good” house with solid fit, quality materials, and lovely carving and joinery—not unusual, but unusually well-built and well maintained.  Most importantly, the family understands the idea of moving the house that we outlined to them, and they are committed to participating in the project not for profit, but in order to share their culture and folkways with the rest of the world.

 

Over three weeks in June and July, 2017, a documentary team filmed interviews with villagers and meticulously recorded the physical structure of the house and its surrounding community in photographs, maps, architectural diagrams, and computer graphics. Working with ethnic Bai Master Carpenters Zhao, Zhou, Shi, and Yang, the team then disassembled the house over the course of the last week, packed it on two trucks, and sent it to the eastern port of Tianjin for shipment to Baltimore, where it arrived in September, 2017.  The house and its surrounding farm landscape will be rebuilt at the Friends Wilderness Center in Jefferson County, West Virginia, on a site near the Shenandoah River.  We have a team of scholars, craftsmen, farmers, and community leaders in both China and Virginia who are ready to help with the project and with educational and cultural exchange programming at the China Folk House Retreat in its new home along the Shenandoah River.

 

CFHR will operate under a special teaming agreement with Sidwell Friends School (SFS), and the Friends Wilderness Center (FWC).  Sidwell Friends is an independent Quaker school in Washington, DC, that will sponsor experiential education programs at CFHR. The Friends Wilderness Center (FWC) in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, is a 600-hectare nature preserve on the Shenandoah River established by the (Quaker) Friends Meeting of Washington, that will serve as the site hosting CFHR.   In China, CFHR works in partnership with the Linden Centre (Brian Linden is the Chair of the CFHR Advisory Board) who are helping CFHR establish an ongoing partnership with the Intangible Cultural Heritage Center and Craftsmen Cooperative of Jianchuan County.  

Front side (south) of the Cizhong house

the house is 36 feet long, 25 feet wide

outside walls are made of rammed earth

Front side (south) of the Cizhong house

the house is 36 feet long, 25 feet wide

outside walls are made of rammed earth