The Design Challenge focuses on Zixi County in Jiangxi province, some six hours by train and road inland from Xiamen in Southern China. The relative inaccessibility of Zixi county has brought about both disadvantages and benefits: while the area is largely undeveloped, it has maintained an aura of outstanding natural beauty and unspoilt authenticity. The slogan “Pure Zixi” is frequently used by local officials.


Like many such rural areas in China, and indeed, worldwide, Zixi county has suffered from family fragmentation and depopulation as younger residents left their homes in search of work in the larger urban centres. The population, particularly in the villages, is now composed mainly of older people and some children.  The inhabitants of the area also comprise two different groups: the “originals” with a long local tradition and the “immigrants”, who were moved to the area from Chun’an County in Zhejiang Province in 1959 after the flooding of the area to create the Qiandao Lake. Though both groups of inhabitants are visually strikingly different in their architectural and living styles, they cohabit in a perfectly friendly and supportive way, and are equally affected by the population drain. On an economic level, Zixi county town has invested in a large nature-focused tourist centre and several museums. The town is famous for its bakery and confectionary school, which sends high quality bread and highly qualified bakers throughout China. The area also produces high quality tea. Otherwise the village areas are renowned for a very plentiful supply of top quality bamboo, all kinds of organic vegetables and fruit, high quality spring water and delicious honey.




Zhuxi state tree farm was founded in 1957 with the responsibility for the planting, nursery and protection of the forest. Between 1969 and 1971, the tree farm was incorporated into the Production and Construction Corps, a unique economic and paramilitary organization founded for post-war re-construction and economic recovery of Jiangxi province. Hundreds of military soldiers and Zhiqing (known as the ‘Educated Youth’ from urban areas) joined the tree farm until the revocation of the corps in 1971. Few of them chose to live and work there until the present time. In 2006, the tree farm was granted the additional title of ‘Qingliangshan National Forest Park’ by the State Forestry Administration.





Like many other areas of the county, the residents of Zhuxi tree farm are made up of immigrants from the neighboring Zhejiang province and other regions of Jiangxi province. Some of the residents are employees of the tree farm; they moved and settled in this place as the tree farm developed. This has made the place multicultural. The original local inhabitants have been living here for a long time. Traditionally, they organized their community in a clan structure. Although the later immigrants have been settled in the area for quite some time, they tend to live together in one place. The quite distinct architectural styles in this region indicate the difference between the native and the immigrant settlements. Most of the residents make a living as farmers, whilst the employees of the tree farm are employed mostly in the production activities of the tree farm.





Within the framework of the developmental strategy of Zixi county, Zhuxi tree farm was re-positioned as a public-benefit tree farm instead of the previous economically driven logging tree farm. Its economical industries are now built on an environment-friendly industrial basis. Like many other Zixi people, most of the young people from Zhuxi left their children and old parents in the village to look for jobs in big city centers. This resulted in the transfer of labour resources from rural areas to urban areas, and consequently many fields have been left uncultivated. Local government now encourages and gives support to the remaining farmers to develop their own agricultural products, such as the organic fruits and vegetables, homemade white tea, honey and bamboos. In addition, support is also given to local residents develop their own recreational agriculture.