Recounting the ‘Authenticity’ of a Rustic Village.









From pre-modern times to contemporary society, the process of rural architectural construction has intertwined complex identities and local recognitions from different eras and contexts. The cultural identity in rural architectural construction is a process that evolves and changes its meaning in response to the development of the times. Various regional architectures that showcase mainstream culture, along with spontaneously individualistic buildings, not only reflect the rich and colorful local differences but also reveal the cultural foundations of local identities at different historical stages.




| 古村建筑自主营造的文化认同 |

Identity In Self-built Vanacular Village Architecture






Huangling Village in Wuyuan is known as “China’s most beautiful rural village” and has been awarded the title of “Best Tourism Village” by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Since 2009, Huangling has undergone a dramatic transformation from a frequently disaster-stricken, water-scarce, and gradually abandoned ancient village to becoming a nationally and internationally renowned “most beautiful village.” Huangling has creatively protected and developed the village through a model that combines the acquisition of ancient village property rights with the relocation and resettlement of ancient residential buildings to new sites.









Every brick and tile, every blade of grass and tree in Huangling reshapes the nostalgia in the hearts of local craftsmen. The challenges faced by rural design do not merely rely on cutting-edge technology or satisfying aesthetic preferences, but require a deep-rooted approach in local culture. This approach encompasses comprehensive design planning to cultural preservation and excavation, collectively striving to create a profound rural revitalization project.









The autonomous construction identity of ancient village architecture involves applying traditional techniques and local materials in building practices to maintain and pass on the area’s unique architectural styles and cultural identities. This identity reflects not only a respect for traditional building skills but also illustrates the community’s values and awareness towards preserving its own cultural heritage.









In ancient villages, buildings are often constructed through the collective efforts of villagers and the architectural knowledge passed down through generations. These structures serve not only as places of residence but also as carriers of community culture and history. The autonomous construction process emphasizes the use of locally available materials, such as earth, wood, and stone. The use of these materials ensures that the buildings harmoniously coexist with the natural environment and also supports the environmental sustainability of the architecture.









Additionally, this architectural identity is also manifested in the adherence to architectural forms and decorative styles, which have become an integral part of the region’s culture through the passage of time. By autonomously constructing ancient village buildings, not only is the uniqueness of the village preserved, but a direct bridge to the past is also provided for future generations. This strengthens the sense of solidarity among community members and their pride in local history.




| 砖瓦搭建下的古朴生活 |

The Simple Life Under Brick and Tile Construction






Beneath the eaves constructed of bricks and tiles, life exhibits a simple and enduring aesthetic of craftsmanship. These bricks and tiles, made from materials gathered from the earth and fired using age-old kiln techniques passed down through generations, not only provide shelter but also resonate with the community’s cultural heritage.









The weathered yet sturdy brick walls and the gracefully aged tiles speak of the villagers’ deep connection with their land and traditions. In these structures that have withstood the test of time, the rhythm of daily life is not dictated by the fast pace of modernity but flows slowly with the natural cycles of the seasons and the community practices rooted in history. This way of life preserved under bricks and tiles offers a profound sense of continuity and belonging, a feeling that is both a part of the village’s architecture and its spirit.









In such an environment, every corner of the village brims with stories and traces of history. In the early morning, villagers walk along cobblestone paths, each step treading on centuries of history. Children play under the trees while the elderly chat on stone benches by their doorsteps. These simple everyday scenes paint a vivid picture of rural life.









Bricks and tiles do more than just construct homes—they shape a way of life, allowing time to flow gently as if each brick and tile silently narrates tales of past years and future hopes. This lifestyle is deeply rooted in the land, coexisting harmoniously with nature, and displays an ancient wisdom of living in harmony with the environment.









Following the principle of harmony between humanity and nature, the renovation avoids major demolitions and alterations, preserving the village’s form of blending into the mountainous landscape. Traditional ancient village architectural forms are integrated with the functional needs of contemporary village tourism. By exploring localized customs and presenting them through spatial scenarios, the renovation captures the natural elegance and cultural vibrancy of the mountainous ancient village.




| 自然流淌中的新老民居连结 |

Connecting Old and New Residences in the Natural Flow






These ancient and modern interconnected residential buildings are arranged along the terrain, unfolding along Tianjie, the main thoroughfare and sightseeing route of Huangling. Their overlapping creates a space rich in interest and a village atmosphere filled with the essence of everyday life. The design team visited various parts of ancient Huizhou to explore well-preserved exquisite Huizhou-style ancient residences. Through relocation and reconstruction for preservation, and the “fostering” of old houses, more than 20 exquisite ancient residences were “introduced” to Huangling, making it one of the villages in Wuyuan with the highest density of old buildings.









Under the theme of protective construction in rural areas, the connection between new and old residences is not just a fusion of architectural styles, but also a bridge between cultural heritage and modern development. In rural regions, appropriately integrating ancient architecture with modern design not only preserves the rural landscape but also introduces the convenience and comfort of modern life. This construction strategy aims to protect and promote the core values of local culture, while also bringing new vitality and vibrancy to the countryside.









In the restoration and spontaneous construction of rural architecture, particular attention should be paid to spaces that emerge organically, not through deliberate design. These spaces, such as a village’s public square or a shaded area under an old tree, naturally evolve in response to the daily needs of the villagers. These areas become natural gathering points for community interaction, not only strengthening community cohesion but also serving as vibrant hubs for the transmission of rural culture.









When restoring ancient buildings, it is particularly important to preserve and emphasize these informal gathering spaces. Although they are not as conspicuous as grand structures, they play a central role in maintaining the daily life and social activities of rural communities. By restoring and protecting these spaces, not only can the historical appearance of the countryside be preserved, but also the continuity and authenticity of community life can be maintained.









Additionally, the practice of spontaneous construction demonstrates the direct influence and control rural residents have over their living environments. This method of building is often more aligned with the actual needs and habits of the residents, reflecting a bottom-up approach to community development. Through such practices, rural architecture becomes more than just living spaces; they serve as stages for community culture and social interaction, enlivening all aspects of rural life.




| 传承民俗与谱写匠心 |

Preserving Folk Traditions and Crafting Artistry






In conducting historical and cultural research in Huizhou, a significant amount of time and effort has been devoted to studying the traditional forms of rural dwellings. The relocation and restoration of old houses involve numerous construction challenges. Collaborating closely with local artisans, the project deeply explores the traditional building techniques of Huizhou architecture. This includes protecting and restoring the exquisite brick carvings and wood carvings that are characteristic of the region’s architectural heritage.









The design of rural residences prominently features elements of ancient village culture, adhering to local folklore and customs. On the basis of preservation, these designs make full use of resources left from former production and daily life, effectively reviving and showcasing the local folk culture. This approach not only honors the historical significance of these elements but also enriches the cultural landscape of the village.









In 2014, thanks to the efforts of the entire design team, the endangered “Yi Xin Tang” in Xu Village was relocated to Huangling for restoration and preservation. The development company adopted a “fostering” model for the old building’s conservation and utilization, whereby ownership remained with the Xu Village town government, while the development company acquired the rights to operate and use the property. This approach not only preserved the beautifully carved and painted ancient residence but also generated revenue for the local area.









The “Yi Xin Tang” has been transformed into a traditional wedding venue, showcasing rural wedding customs to visitors. At the entrance of the village, the ancestral hall and schoolhouse recreate the most important cultural scenes from traditional life. Inside the main hall, old-fashioned bicycles and posters, along with the nostalgic smells of cooking from the old kitchen, transport visitors back to the days of their childhood in the village.









The project also revived traditional local crafts such as wine brewing, oil pressing, and bamboo weaving. Original production workshops in the ancient village, like water mills and oil presses, have been integrated with experiential pathways to create memorable landscape features, adding cultural charm to the village space. From the design and construction of an entire street to the display of artifacts within a single household, every detail is meticulously crafted to enhance the cultural and humanistic appeal of the village.









The cultural identity of rural areas is a continuously changing and mixing process, without a binary framework that simply divides tradition and modernity. In this complex process, rural architectural construction has evolved from stages dominated by identity recognition, local tradition inheritance, and consensus on human-land relationships to stages where modernity governs rural characteristics, continuing to the current phase where modernity and tradition together shape a new local character.