Coming Home to the Land: Natural Farming as Therapeutic Landscape Experience in Chengdu Plain, China
This ethnographic-phenomenological research aims to explore the phenomenon of peri-urban farming, rural-urban integration, and community building that are crystallized in Chengdu Plain, China in recent years. Through the lens of therapeutic landscape experience, individual and community well-being is examined with these questions: (1) what are participants’ experience of farming in this landscape; (2) if this experience benefits well-being on physical, psychological, and spiritual levels; (3) how do elements in the landscape contribute to this experience; (4) how was a healthy grassroots community formed around the farm and what are the implications for the broader society. The phenomenology of embodied experience, reflections on urbanization and urban life, and therapeutic landscape experience compose the theoretical framework. In line with this perspective based on the lifeworld experience, an ethnographic-phenomenological method is applied to this research, with specific instruments of case study, open-ended interview, and participatory observation. Emergent themes from the field work are summarized according to Freire’s theory of critical dialogues. I argue in this study that the case of Ningyuan in Chengdu Plain provides an alternative to current policies and processes of urbanization in contemporary China. In this specific context, connections are built between individuals, humans and nature, urban and rural sectors, and different social groups. A community based on shared ideas is formed and emplaced in this landscape. The distress from the fragmented life experience in post-reform China is relieved by resisting institutions and caring for the self, reconnecting to the land, empowering grassroots efforts, and disclosing themselves to one another in public spaces. Based on these discoveries, I suggest that to improve well-being of both rural and urban residents, planners and policy makers should recognize and consider the qualitative differences of each case in planning, and urbanization process should allow space for grassroots engagement, therefore to allow real homecoming for individuals and communities, physically, psychologically, and spiritually.
- Built environment