Lu Huilin: Economic income is a tool, and a better life is the goal

Traditional villages with beautiful mountains and rivers and profound cultural heritage are the greatest legacy of Chinese farming civilization. In the past 10 to 20 years, a large number of rural populations have been lost, the appearance of the countryside has been arbitrarily transformed, and traditional villages are facing the dilemma of rapid disappearance. Since China started the rescue work of traditional village protection in 2012, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development has included 4,153 villages with important protection value in the list of traditional villages in China in four batches.

There are relatively many traditional villages distributed in poor areas, and poverty is still considered to be the biggest difficulty in the protection of traditional villages and the root of many problems. Therefore, there are many matching points between tourism poverty alleviation and traditional village protection, but blunt tourism development will cause irreversible damage to traditional villages.

The traditional village protection and development planning team composed of China Urban Planning and Design Research Institute, Peking University, Tsinghua University and other units is exploring a traditional village protection and sustainable development path that is operable, fits the local situation, and gathers forces from multiple parties .

Lu Huilin, a professor of sociology at Peking University, is one of the team members. Lu Huilin has a considerable research accumulation in the fields of historical sociology, rural sociology and sociological methodology, and has long been concerned about China’s rural development and rural changes.

From a sociological perspective, Lu Huilin provided a perspective worth pondering on the topic of poverty alleviation through tourism.

The relationship between conservation and development is complex

Xinlvjie: How to understand poverty in rural areas and rural population?

Lu Huilin: The current poverty problem is mainly the consequence of unbalanced development. This mode of development is a city-centered, market-oriented mode of development. With the city as the center, the living space in the countryside is continuously compressed, and the development mode of the market economy makes the relatively disadvantaged people in a relatively backward situation in all aspects. The poverty we see today is mainly distributed in rural areas, among the relatively weak people in terms of physical and educational level.

New Travel World: Traditional villages choose to develop the tourism industry to get rid of poverty and become rich. What kind of problems will there be?

Lu Huilin: Traditional villages are generally located in places with beautiful mountains and rivers. Whether it is architecture, space or preserved folk customs and lifestyles, there are some traditional elements. In our era, these villages do have some potential tourism resources that can be developed. This is their development opportunity in the new era. Traditional villages are basically the product of farming civilization. Under the development mode of modern society, the space for development and upgrading of villages is getting narrower and narrower according to the original way of livelihood. Tourism is indeed a new direction. There is also a big misunderstanding in this. 

What is the starting point and ultimate goal of the development of traditional villages? I personally think that for the villagers, the most urgent thing is to solve the immediate livelihood. But in the long run, whether it is in line with the long-term goals of our society and the country, or in terms of the long-term development of the villages, it is to activate and carry forward the traditions preserved in these villages in the new era.

Lu Huilin: Economic income is a tool, and a better life is the goal

It should be said that tourism can play a relatively positive role at the beginning. Under the current tide of urbanization and market economy, tradition itself is in the process of natural decline. At this time, the intervention of tourism helps us dig out the traditional folk customs and lifestyle more abundantly and completely, and show them to outsiders, which can enhance the cultural confidence and pride of the local people.

However, if for such reasons, the folklore is separated from the original life of the villagers, the folklore that was originally embedded in the big life system of the village and serves the villagers is stripped out, and it is shown to outsiders over and over again around the purpose of tourism and income generation, When you do this, the traditional spirit preserved in folklore is actually shrinking. Therefore, the relationship between tourism and the development of traditional villages is actually very complicated.

Make good use of tourism resources, bring more economic benefits to the village around tourism, and then further strengthen the self-confidence and pride of the villagers through economic benefits, and then strengthen the subjectivity and self-contained pattern of the villagers’ own lives. If we go in this direction, tourism will play a better role. But if this goal cannot be firmly grasped, in the end, the declining tradition may have been a natural decline, and tourism development has accelerated the demise of the real tradition.

So you will see many villages developed by tourism, but in the end they all have the shape of tradition but no reality of tradition. In many well-performed ceremonies, the traditional spirit that should have been manifested behind the scenes is missing. Can you imagine what would happen if one day you could perform hair tossing like the Wa people in ethnic villages? This ceremony is actually completely separated from the local life and production system.

New Travel World: What is the significance of traditional villages and the traditional spirit behind them to modern society?

Lu Huilin: Originally, for cities and rural areas, the benefits of tourism are two-way. In a sense, urban people are far away from traditional things. He travels to the village, brings resources to the village, stays and consumes here, and can help local people solve their livelihood problems. On the other hand, city tourists can contact, understand and experience the traditions that are unlikely to appear in daily life, or are already very scarce, and further respect and learn the spirit behind these traditions.

But if the tourism is not done well, on the one hand, the existing traditions of the village will be destroyed at an accelerated rate; Experience the happy and high-quality life in such a village, and you will lose the opportunity to learn and be educated.

The country is now advocating traditional culture, which has been a very obvious signal in the past ten years. This background is that we must find the basis for our country’s modernization development from our own history and traditions . We also realize that this big country has a history of thousands of years, and it is hard to imagine that just introducing a certain mode of production or modern economic organization can make this big country realize the so-called modernization.

Lu Huilin: Economic income is a tool, and a better life is the goal

In this context, you will know that the significance of traditional villages is not only for people living in traditional villages, but also for those people in the city who are gradually far away from the countryside and traditions to have the opportunity to experience and understand, to Learning such a way of life, such a way of getting along with each other and between man and nature, will give us more options for future social reconstruction.

Xinlvjie: How to activate and carry forward the tradition in modern society without losing its fundamental core?

Lu Huilin: Tradition is not something artificially defined. No one can use a set method to guarantee that Chinese tradition will remain unchanged for thousands of years. Including what we understand and think of as the core and essence of Chinese tradition is actually our observation of history. In this sense, some of the traditions we think of are just historical choices under certain conditions, a behavior based on past technologies, conditions, and interpersonal relationships.

You will see that although many things have changed, people have moved from the countryside to the cities, and the population has become highly mobile, some things have remained very resilient . These things are some of the characteristics that we observe from history and think that can make Chinese people different from Europeans, Americans or Japanese.

No one has the power to define tradition, or to make tradition unchangeable. It is normal for traditions to change. With the development and changes of the times, it needs innovation. But we say that the inheritance of tradition is very important, especially for a big country with a long history like China. It is impossible to transplant a new foundation from other places out of thin air and grow into a towering tree immediately. From the laws of social and cultural changes From a standpoint, this is not true. The tree must be rooted in its own soil to absorb nutrients.

Development is a comprehensive concept

Xinlvjie: Many modern changes in rural areas are also due to farmers’ pursuit of a better life. Some cases of poverty alleviation through tourism, although the traditional methods are more formal, have indeed played a good role in poverty alleviation. How should we understand and treat this point?

Lu Huilin: From the perspective of social development, economic development is only one dimension. Development is a comprehensive concept. Economic development, cultural self-confidence, harmonious society, sound social organization, etc. cannot be measured by economic income alone.

For those in poverty, increasing income may be the core, most important and most urgent need at this stage. At this time, we will focus more on increasing the income of villagers. But it is still necessary to evaluate the consequences of other aspects. If the consequence is to destroy the original ethnic characteristics and the things that the nation is most proud of, will it increase the income of the local people ? Better option?

Lu Huilin: Economic income is a tool, and a better life is the goal

Is it worth the price to develop tourism in a blunt way and destroy the unity atmosphere and original way of life of a village? This question is actually very thought-provoking. But once a person enters the process of tourism development, his choices will be very limited. Excessive tourism development, when the parties look back, they will actually feel very helpless. He will realize that many things are different from the past, lost, and cannot go back.

During this process, whether as a designer, a facilitator, or a government department, we must be very cautious and careful in this regard. On the premise of listening to the wishes of the local people and coordinating various needs, different solutions are displayed, and the most reasonable choice that most people may make after considering the short-term, medium-term and long-term needs is found.

Xinlvjie: What difficulties will be encountered in the practice of traditional village protective development projects?

Lu Huilin: In today’s villages, the people in it are not uniform, and people’s demands are not completely consistent. In today’s villages, there are people who stay in the village, people who have already lived in cities more regularly, and people who go out to work and do business. These different people have their own expectations for the development of the village, and the resources they have in the village are not complete. average. Today’s village is also a highly differentiated space and a highly differentiated group of people. How to find a common denominator in it to form a new kind of cooperation is actually a big challenge now.

In addition, when facing a traditional village today, there are many forces. Power from government departments, including county governments, township governments, and village committees, and some external capital parties aiming at tourism development. We need to find a space among these various forces to realize the optimal way that is in line with the long-term interests of the village and takes into account the demands of the diverse groups of people in the village.

If we only guarantee a single goal today, emphasize a certain party, or even the most ideal statement, which is in the best interests of the villagers, the entire planning project may be difficult to implement, so some balance will still be made. Our direction is very clear, we must hope to take the village as the main body, let the villagers benefit, and at the same time meet the larger goal of protecting traditional villages in the country. But what kind of means to adopt, it is necessary to consider the power of multiple parties and different demands, and find a realistic solution.

Commonalities of successful cases

Xinlvjie: Do the relatively successful cases in the protection of traditional villages have some commonalities?

Lu Huilin: From our point of view, the commonality of successful cases is that the village itself has been relatively fully mobilized, and the subjectivity of the village and villagers has been confirmed . Relatively strong mobilization ability, able to resolve some differences among villagers through consultation.

As mentioned just now, the appeals of the village itself are also inconsistent. How to find a common denominator depends largely on the village’s own customs and norms. The village has its own way to solve problems, and we can only act as facilitators and facilitators from the outside. You will see that relatively successful villages basically do better in this respect. Of course, he also needs some external investment, external publicity and capital investment, which may achieve success in another sense.

Gubei Water Town in the suburbs of Beijing is commercially successful, but the villagers of Simatai Village have nothing to do with it. The whole village has moved to the surrounding areas. Every time they pass by Simatai Village, they will say, oh, this is my home, but the success of Gubei Water Town has nothing to do with him.

Lu Huilin: Economic income is a tool, and a better life is the goal

If the villagers are the main body of development, the current effect may not be achieved only in terms of income, but in the long run, the villagers can get more things. The effect that can be seen now is that the villagers moved to the newly developed Simatai Village, where each person was allocated one or two houses, which can be understood as material benefits. From the perspective of long-term economic benefits, Gubei Water Town has indeed driven some of the surrounding homestays.

But the more important thing is not here. The important thing is that Simatai Village, as an original community, has been greatly weakened after relocation, and the original internal organic whole of the village has been broken up. But Gubei Water Town is at least commercially successful, and the villagers can still benefit. In some places, even the material benefits are very limited, and at the same time, it pays a great social price. Of course, it is the worst case of failure.

Xinlvjie: The development process with villagers as the main body will be slower. Will there be pressure from the government?

Lu Huilin: The government’s attention is actually a double-edged sword. On the one hand, receiving the attention of the government means that the government will also invest. Once the government has input, it will demand it, hoping to produce results as soon as possible. So what’s the fastest way to do it? Introducing large capital is the most effective way. It can immediately build many tourist facilities and do many large-scale, modern, and effective folk performances, but it may actually prevent the village from establishing an internal subjectivity. .

But on the other hand, without the attention and support of the government at all, it is unrealistic in many places today to rely entirely on the village’s own exploration and efforts. So the government may also need to think about how its support and attention can really benefit the people in traditional villages.

Xinlvjie: The management also has requirements for returns. How will it affect the village?

Lu Huilin: The development of traditional villages today, even if the village has established an internal subjectivity, it is unlikely to completely separate from external capital. Capital is always profit-seeking, which is normal. But when the subjectivity of the village is established and you have a relatively complete and strong organizational structure, you can compete with foreign capital. In the case that the village has not established its subjectivity, both the immediate benefits and the medium and long-term profit mechanism of the village will be suppressed to the minimum. This is the doomed result. How to turn capital into a more friendly capital depends largely on the status of the village itself.

When the village’s own negotiating power is also established, the villagers will not sacrifice their lives and homes for a little immediate material gain. In fact, the result of the development of many rural tourism is that the homeland of the local people has become a place for outsiders to travel, sightseeing, and hunt for novelties. This is the fate of many traditional villages that are even commercially successful.

But if a village has gone through such a process: at the beginning, it was slower, and through this process, the life of the villagers themselves is getting better, even becoming more colorful, richer, and there are some new changes. At the same time, the income also follows The establishment of subjectivity is improving, and self-confidence is gradually increasing, so in the end, villagers will have a more reasonable order between the two goals of life and material benefits.

Economic income is originally a tool for people to live a better life , but the paradox is that when the income is very low and in a state of scarcity, people will often regard this tool as the purpose. This is what our team is thinking about.