Village Fengshui Forests of Southern China – Culture History and Conservation Status

Chris Coggins, Joelle Chevrier, Maeve Dwyer, Lindsey Longway, Michael Xu, Peter Tiso, Zhen Li

Abstract


The post-reform revival of fengshui and related indigenous spiritual practices in China has revitalized traditional village management of “fengshui forests” (“fengshuilin”).  This study examines the cosmological principles, landscape ecology, conservation status, and floristic diversity of forest patches that comprise important biological refugia in China’s subtropical broadleaved forest region. From 1949-1979, fengshui was prohibited by the state, but many lineage villages continued to protect fengshuilin through nontraditional means.  The restoration of fengshui has enhanced fengshuilin preservation traditions, but lack of state recognition has impeded systematic research and conservation planning. We assess the status of fengshui practice, fengshuilin management, enforcement of harvesting bans, and tree species selection in seventeen villages associated with over 40 forest patches.  There is little evidence of utilitarian criteria for tree species selection, thus fengshuilin contain diverse taxonomic assemblages.  This suggests strong local institutional capacity for maintaining and enhancing forest diversity and unique traditions of indigenous landscape ecology.

We would like to express our deep gratitude for the generosity of the Freeman Foundation and ASIANetwork for funding through the ASIANetwork Freeman Student-Faculty Fellows Program for Collaborative Research in Asia.  Without their support for field research in the summer of 2011, this project would not have been possible.


Keywords


Forests; Fengshui

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