Repairing Forests and Vernacular Heritage: In the Carbon Deluge of Southern China

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Forests in China’s Fujian province have been an important site for experimentation, not only as a surplus of timber, but also as a spiritual landscape. They have also cultivated diverse regional construction methods and vernacular heritage and furthermore supported an social-ecological practice which has achieved a delicate balance between preservation and production. However, in the past thirty years, uncontrolled deforestation and related ecological crises have resulted in a deluge of laws based on non-cultural understandings of energy, which have threatened this equilibrium.

Impacted by legislation on wood processing industries, which first aimed to limit and then later prohibit cutting down of trees, vital links between vernacular settlements and forests have been severed. Despite these ongoing changes, this article acknowledges the urgency to re-interpret and re-apply wood as an ecological resource, arguing for a radical historical approach to solve an environmental problem. Vernacular measuring instruments of the Ming and Qing Dynasty regional carpentry practices provided a means to regulate the temporality and use of wood in buildings, producing more broadly a way of understanding wood as a cultural resource.

The wooden gaochi instrument, codified the timber structure in a way which was conducive to selection of trees before construction and repair of the timber structure after construction. Following incapacities and failures to effectively regulate felling of trees, these vernacular carpentry tools which maintained positive cycles between forests and timber structural frames of houses reveal a future potential of "organic industrialization” and re-pairing of ecology and preservation practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalFuture Anterior
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2024


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