View Full Version : CHINA-choosing my paradise to be. Permaculture in China. Asia
20-05-2010, 12:50 PM
Hello everyone. Im a 26 year old (27 next month) UK citizen from the midlands called Kelvin. Iv been living in china for a year and half and am married to an AMAZING Chinese woman called Xiao Gao. Luckily for me she is interested in permaculture and is willing to support me in buying/renting land and building our own self-sustaining natural materials house. The reason i say lucky for me is that 99.9 percent of chinese people are trying to flee the farm lands in search of prosperity in the citys with urban jobs and environment destroying homes with all the mod cons.
I am not an expert on chinese permaculture yet but from what iv seen and what i can find out, there are not many farmers that are using self-sustaining permaculture methods. Most-like the weston farmers-are bleeding the land by over plowing etc, loosing all the top soil and nutrients so the farm lands are dead. Lucky for them prices are still allowing them to use the chemical fertilizers.
Anyway, i am looking at sites with which to start my project. I am thinking about Hunan. My best friends home town would be perfect. Its a tropical (or maybe semi tropical?) area with fresh mountain water to drink coming off the mountian. For a while now people have been moving away from the area to move to cities and the sites I will be looking at havent been used in a long long long time so it is lush with trees and vegetation. Water in this area is plentiful and there is lots of sun. The people of the little villiage also are very natural in their living styles and there is almost not pollution there because of the environment friendly way they live.
The only pics i have are of my friend the last time he went, but i will be going in july or august and can get some pics of the exact areas i can choose from. The villiage is settled on the side and base of a mountain. These is a tunnel running through the mountain that takes a couple of hours to go through to get to the other side. And that, is where I will choose my site from. The whole area has NO ONE there and is brimming with life, all the way nature intended.
It all sounds lovely and would be a perfect peaceful place to live out my life BUT...i also feel a little bad that its not an area that actually needs my help. I know there are many people and communities starting perma projects that can show other people what can be achieved by using clever design etc, which will inspire others to try. Often the transformation of an area void of life changing into an area bursting with wildlife and edible food and beautiful flowers will amaze them and teach them how to do it themselves. So i feel a little guilty that im thinking of choosing a place thats already full of life, and it also isn’t close a huge city so that people can just pop along and check it out to be inspired. They would prob have to come and stay for a night or two to check it out.
What are your thoughts? In china they really need to learn permaculture ways of gardening and farming. Should i try to organise a project that will inspire people in places like Beijing etc? Or choose a paradise place that has all the perfect conditions to successfully produce a perma garden/farm? Maybe I can still encourage others to come and see and teach others how to design and build a perma environment?
Id also like to know-are there any projects happening in china that i can go help with or visit? Are there any others who would like to join me in choosing a place to cultivate a small community?
Id really appreciate your comments and thoughts.
Kelvin （凯文-my chinese name）
Some photos wouldnt upload but these are a few of them. When i go in july or august im sure i will get better ones!
20-05-2010, 09:04 PM
KELVIN, mate, you can have your cake, eat it, AND not feel guilty, buy your plot, design it well, if there are local permies ask their advice, fill it with perennial plants and sustainable systems, then open it as a model AND then travel about china teaching and demonstrating permaculture and sustainability, since your plot is perennial and hopefully based on natural systems you should be able to come and go and there will always be something to eat, and if you decide to stay put then the more effort you put in the more yield, what a great life.
i highly recommend geoff lawtons DVD 'establishing a food forest the permaculture way' very relevant for you i would say.
oh how i wish i could join you there, but i feel my calling is elsewhere, though keep us posted on your progress and maybe if im in the neighbourhood we can catch up over a cup of [insert exotic fruit juice here].
21-05-2010, 02:58 PM
Ok, I will give you a heads up of which tropical fruit juices are on the menu before you come haha.
Im feeling happy today because this friend of mine talked with his girlfriend last night and she also supports him to return there and start a perma project with me. This is a big thing because like i said before-almost everyone in china is looking to move to and stay in the cities trying to earn money and become wealthy giving no thought to whether this economical system is sustainable or not (not singling out china here, i know most people are like this. Also myself until recently!)
So its likely now, that there will be 4 of us moving there to start the project and help each other.
I think i will have my cake and eat it as you said! Then in the future when ready, i can invite others to come see and learn, and also travel around teaching others.
It is such a nice feeling to think that i will soon live in beautiful surroundings, eating natural nutrient packed foods whilst leaving no waste and so little carbon foot print. One of my favourate aspects of being out in the natural environment is being able to look up at the stars at night and see them so clearly and perfectly. Very inspiring to see!
21-05-2010, 06:00 PM
I don't know China at all personally, but I think there is alot of sustainable farming still being done there.
Check out these people for more information:
Best wishes with your vision and project. I agree with abdullah - build your own place and then open it up to others and/or travel and teach.
21-05-2010, 07:01 PM
Iv just looked at the site you posted-thanks for those and all the pics that went with it. I think you must have really enjoyed your time here! Im a little busy now but i want to come back and have another look tonight at what you posted.
Your completely right about them being apportioned land in one "mu" blocks. They often use less carbon intensive farming because of this-it wouldn't make sense to use tractors on such small areas that are often harder for big vehicles to access. Some still use animals to help plow etc. This is because among other things, these can have offspring which can be sold. Some even animal share, for example one family one will feed the cow for a month, then another family will feed the cow for a month. Then when its time to use the cow, they share the use. We should remember though, that china is a massive country, and every village town and city will have different cultures within it and have different farming methods too. But almost all are still using chemical fertilizers for the fields etc.
Thanks for the support Pebble, and btw, do you still have any contact details for someone i can talk to in china regarding perma projects or those with experience? Iv not had much luck finding any yet.
21-05-2010, 08:58 PM
That's not my blog Kelvin (I haven't been to China), but the person who wrote has been to China and I'd suggest contacting them.
Also in the other link are several people, including one in China currently:
Xingzhao Dai MAgEng firstname.lastname@example.org
Xingzhao is an agricultural engineer and geoinformation scientist in the field of applied research and development of geospatial technologies for mapping, modeling and monitoring environmental systems. He is Associate Professor and Chief Director, Mountain-River-Lake Development Center for Jiangxi Province, China. He has extensive international training and experience in the design and development of GIS for sustainable development of watershed catchments. Xingzhao is a founding team member of the CfCE Watershed Catchment program for the River Murray.
21-05-2010, 09:38 PM
Iv got in and started having a look at the posts properly and i can see what you mean. I will try to make contact.
I hope you have a chance to visit china soon. I love living here and your always welcome to come visit once my land is started!
31-05-2010, 03:31 PM
Im now considering popping back to the uk to do some wwoofing to get some experience and see some of the perma systems they are using. i want to see all the different methods that are available with the aim of coming back to china to start using it. Even though my wife supports me she still asks that i use my perma project to earn enough money for the family so we can still take care of things like children, hospital visiting parents etc. So sadly i might not be able to choose Hunan since its about 3 hours away from a city and this makes it harder selling anything. I might have to choose a sight that is closer to a bigger city where it is easier to sell produce and easier to arrange people to come visit etc. The uk seems a little better suited to this because your never far away from civilization however i must come back to china after my training. Some places here it might take 3 hours to the closest city and thats using the only road there is, not so convenient. Its a pitty because id love to choose the place that has the more natural and beautiful surroundings.
27-06-2010, 12:26 PM
Change of plan. Not going back to the uk for wwoofing now. Instead in about 3 weeks my wife and i will be going to yunnan and hainan to research the landscapes and decide which suits us better. We will be gone just over a month so can spend about 20 days in each province. Not much time really but it can give us an idea of prices of land and we can get a feel for which area will be more suitable for us to live in. Then we will come back to beijing and save more money. Maybe a year or so after that we will make a commitment to move to the province we most like.
27-06-2010, 03:54 PM
Have you seen this thread, kelvin?
Tropical food forest
28-06-2010, 06:34 PM
Im envious Kevin
dont worry about studying wwoofing in the 'first world'
we dont know anything. Our whole lives are subsidised
with good observation youll learn so much from the old farmers
but youll have to tease the functionality from the doing to be able to use it in design
you are a lucky lucky man!
green with envy
29-06-2010, 01:48 AM
Thanks for the link Pebble-i just sent a message asking if i can meet him while im going through yunnan.
He might be able to give us some useful info and help us get a feel of the place since he's been there a while now.
Cheers for the tip!
29-06-2010, 02:01 AM
Thanks tropical food forest. We accidentally found a 100 or more acre forest farm in the middle of beijing yesterday. It felt really odd to be walking in a concrete jungle then to suddenly venture into an enveloping man made forest. Their main purpose is to raise and sell assorted trees and bamboo, but the rich in years lady workers were telling my wife and I a little about how they grow their own food and the best way to pick and it etc. Made us long to have our own space where we can do it.
But what you just said makes me remember that in general, everyone has a part of them that enjoys to be a teacher when a good student appears. So i hope that like you said, with some book knowledge and help from friendly farmers as well as watching the land we can learn and start to make progress once we are settled on a site!
29-06-2010, 08:28 AM
Change of plan. Instead in about 3 weeks my wife and i will be going to yunnan and hainan to research the landscapes and decide which suits us better.
Let me know if I can be of any help. I just spent three weeks doing similar scouting in the south of Hainan. In addition, I usually spend most of the summer somewhere in Yunnan, so I could perhaps help out with a few locations up there too. Feel free to ask.
29-06-2010, 01:10 PM
That offer sounds great-i will take you up on it straight away!
What were you scouting for in hainan? Can you tell me about your findings in hainan and whether you have any thoughts about yunnan that might be useful for us to consider?
This will be our first trip to both places. We want to find out things like which is most suitable to sustaining a permaculture project? Which do you think is the most preferable for weather in the long run(hainan might be hellishly hot-which is ok, but i get the feeling yunnan has very pleasant weather and might be more comfortable). We should choose a place that is relatively safe drom the government-ie not a place that will be turned into a block of flats the next year! How do you feel they compare for pollution? Prices for land vary from place to place, rural to urban, but how does the price per acre in hainan compare to yunnan. Which place do you like most and why?
There are lots of questions id like to know. Can you share some background about yourself and why your looking there? Whats your feeling for the two different regions? Are you looking to start your own project there? are you westerner or chinese?
Lots of questions haha, sorry...but you did say i could ask away;)
12-07-2010, 08:41 PM
A big thanks to Chris for getting in contact.
To anyone reading, we are travelling on the 15th to Yunnan to start our scouting. We are taking the not so tourist route so that we can see some sites with potential for long term renting/or buying. Our plan is to record our day to day happenings into a diary so others who are interested will be able to use the information. Maybe some others will be inspired to follow and make their own paradise there. We are going to be meeting Chris in Dali after spending a couple of days in Kunming by ourselves, and then we will go to see keith and bob in Lijiang, Im happy we can have their help as they are all experienced veterans. With their help i think this will be more informative and more of a directed and functioning holiday-as opposed to our original plan which was to go to tourist sites and hope we happen upon villages that might suit our goal.
If anyone else can help or give info that might make our trip even more successful then please let us know!
08-09-2010, 02:23 AM
I have studied and traveled in china, and have been practicing and studying permaculture for a number of years in America and abroad. I have always dreamed of settling in china and doing agricultural outreach. I would love to be in further contact... maybe some collaboration is in order, or I would just love to keep in touch so that I can hear about your successes/failures. I am looking into returning to china in the near future, perhaps to teach English, but am oh so open to whatever life offers. Hope to hear from you soon,
08-09-2010, 05:36 PM
Welcome Tiffany - Hope you're being missed by the wildfires near Boulder!
It appears that you may be able to make some good contacts! Now all we have to do is wait till they return from their scouting mission and find you here.
(... I can't stand the suspense~)
23-04-2011, 01:46 AM
Hello everyone. I havent been on for a while what with so things going on. To fill in what happened with regard finding our paradise...we found it...but alas it wasnt meant to be just yet.
We went to yunnan for our honeymoon. It wasnt a typical honeymoon to be honest because we were intent on using the time to travel around and find an area which had land availible for us to use!
Once we got there we met chris who was a contact i met through this sight. He was really helpful and took us around da li with him checking places out. We then went to li jiang to meet a man some refer to as the mayor of li jiang. A very kind western man called keith. He was rediculously knowledgeful about the going ons of li jiang and introduced us to lots of people. Sadly though with all that help we still didnt find anything that suited our price range or idea of what would be a paradise. Then one night while i was checking out a little bed and breakfast close to ours i met a guest called franklin . He is a great man who is full of life. He is living in li jiang with his wife and 3 children and he just happened to know all the right places with by far the most beauty by far the best prices.This is because he had spent a year there searching in his 4by4 for exactly the same place. The places he showed us were further out than we had been trying since we had no car, but these villages were perfectly connected to the city via a new road that passed close by.
The village we settled on has a total of about 13 courtyard houses. Thats it!! And the rest was rolling valley and surrounded by mountains. In fact it was ON the side of a mountain! Iv tried to put some pics on but they are all to high quality. So If you want just ask and put your email. Iv got some great ones to send if you’d like to see them.
Anyway, It was all going well, we got the contract sorted with the owners who were locals. And agreed on a 20 year renting. The place was amazing by anyones standards. Some acres of land, with an already established orchard, surrounded by a landscape which was so natural.
Anyway, we agreed a date that they should move out by and this is when the problem came. I will be very honest so others are warned about similar situations before they proceed. When the date arrived for them to move out and we will pay, they told us they cant move out with out the money all in advance. The original agreement was to first pay 20,000 rmb for them moving, then the further 70,000 after we were in. But they insisted they couldnt move unless they had all the money upfront. Sadly for this family we happened to know the people who had rented his brothers courtyard house, and we knew that that family had blown the first 20,000 given them, And then asked for more money and promised to be moved out on time. My friend was living close by so they paid the full amount. But after 2or3months the family was still living there and had made very little effort to move out. Knowing this we just decided its better to leave this one alone. Not worth the risk if they try to give us trouble like his brother.
I would still recommend trying the many beautiful villages around li jiang if you want to settle. Its better if you can live there and do it so you can be more hands on. I was still working and planned to come out after some months, which made it harder to trust the owners as we couldnt be there to keep an eye on things.
Sadly though, one thing that seems impossible to do anywhere in china is to buy land for life. In places like Li Jiang, the government only allows wetoners and in fact other chinese people to rent from the minority people that own the lands. The parts of Li Jiang that are apartments can be owned for 70 years of course, but for obvious reasons they lack appeal. I would actually like to know that after cultivating a place for 20 years, i wouldnt be forced out because the contract has ended. So whether i should consider another country or not now i dont know.
My wife and I are currently still saving money in shen zhen china, and i would love to buy land to follow this dream.
24-04-2011, 01:08 AM
Sorry everyone. I noticed i wrote some price information incorrectly. We was supposed to write i should have given the owners 20 as a deposit and then paid the 270,000 when we moved in. If you want to rent land and a house there it will cost around 20,000 to 30,000 rmb per year. and owners normally ask for the first 10 years up front.
24-04-2011, 07:42 AM
Thanks for the update. Sorry you've had those problems but it does sound wise to step back a bit. Do the leases have rights of renewal?
11-05-2011, 10:05 AM
I am almost ready to buy a ticket to china (one way) and am hoping to visit permaculture farms. I am thinking of leaving colorado in June or July and staying indefinitely. I just spent the last 4 months getting Toby Hemenway to boulder, and planning that event, but now I am unsettled and need to figure out what to do. If you have found land or have contacts for people who are working on permaculture in China, I would love for their contact information. Also, it would be great to get updates of what you are doing! I have been practicing and learning permaculture for 6 years, I have created intentional community, I have worked on a permacluture farm in palestine, I have lived in china, and I am easy and fun to be around! Would you have room to have me hanging around for a bit?
Thanks for any information!
19-05-2011, 04:05 PM
There is a little donkey farm in Beijing that you can visit http://www.littledonkeyfarm.com/index.aspx ). The farm is supported by Renmin University of China, they are experimenting "CSA" (Community supports Agriculture) and sustainable farming is integral part of what they are promoting, and as I know there is a CSA network forming in China. Through this network, you might now more organic farming, or permaculture or what ever labled agriculture. China has thousand of years of farming pratice, a lot of farming wisdoms just being abandoned in the recent 30 years. So much to know before you start. Good luck.
That's not my blog Kelvin (I haven't been to China), but the person who wrote has been to China and I'd suggest contacting them.
Also in the other link are several people, including one in China currently:
19-05-2011, 04:27 PM
Are you in Shenzhen now? I am in Hong Kong? Hope we can meet some time.
Hongyun(If you log in WPN and you will be able to find me)
30-05-2011, 05:34 PM
This is my first post. I was reading the forum to see if I could get any information about doing some volunteering on a farm while I am in holidays in Australia when I came across Kevin's post.
I have been living and working in China for nearly 10 years. I live in a large city, Dongguan in Guangdong province.
I am lucky in that I have a small garden. The apartment was new when I moved in 3 years ago and just basically clay. I have improved it no end and things are growing more by luck than design. A papaya tree self seeded while I was on holidays and is enormous, flowers are begnning to form near the trunk. I digress. A friend of a friend (Chinese) is in the process of renting more land that would adjoin his land, he wants to make some sort of living a tourist thing. Once he has signed a contract we will go and have a look (prices automaticaly go up if seen sniffing around) and come up with ideas. I like the idea of an eco village. I remember hearing about a very famous man that wrote the encyclopedia of farming. He gave advice on every aspect of running a farm and a household. I thought that was interesting at the time but I didn't write down his name. If any readers could give me his name or a link, most grateful.
I was thinking that to make reference to ancient farming methods in the eco village would be more successful and relevent than imposing a forieng blueprint, if you catch my meaning. Chinese are becoming more interested in green and clean food. I can now buy organic rice, buckwheat and loads of others in my local supermarket
Kevin last October holidays I was invited to a beautiful spot in the neighbouring province. We traveled in a convoy of 5 cars and stayed in a very small village, like you I fell in love with the place and wanted to rent land build a house and so on. It is truely fantastic. I slept on the roof one night beneath a sky filled with more stars than I had seen since I camped in the desert in Australia.
The landlord wanted me to rent his land 3000Rmb for 1 mu a year and attract tourists. This wonderfull little hamlet had great attractions brillilliant caves stone mountains home to moinority groups. The area has a reputation for long life. There is a river that looks like the Chinese character for long life.
Wonderful mud brick houses.
Unfortunately the locals are turningthe stone mountains (which are protected) into building bricks. It ischeaper for them to build with these bricks than the labour to make the mud ones.
I really think I am a frustrated farmer, living in isolation from like minded people. The closest I get to a farming community is when I commandeered the plastic bags of grass clippings and dig them into my garden. I gave some of the gardeners some hot chestnuts for their afternoon tea and was rewarded with a bag of white crystals which I took to be fertilizer. I sprinkled them on the my camelias (I think they are camelias) and they actually flowered for the first time.
I am rabbiting on a bit, I get few opportunitiesto talk about gardens/farming.
Anyway I will have 2 months holiday, July and August. I would love to offer my labour for the chance to work on a farm.
Also I can offer accommodation for any of the forum members who may be passing through.
02-06-2011, 06:54 PM
I am new to the forum. I wrote a very long post which for some resson hasn't been posted. I did write to the MOD team.
I alos live and work in China and have a small garden which I started from scratch more a flower.shrub garden than anything edible. Although my grape vine is in it's second year and bearing fruit. Last year something ate the fruit as it ripened. I blame it on a couple of suspicious butterflies.
Anyway today I have created a raised bed into which I have been putting vegggie scraps and grass clippings over the years, it is fairly friable although mostly clay. I dug in some bags of potting mix. Spread seeds, lettuce, both cos and rocket, bell chili peppers, dill, basil and some parlsley.
I have been trying with limited success in small pots and now I am going out on a limb and sowing directly in the ground. The garden bed gets full direct sunlight for most of the day, so I have erected a shade cloth over the bed. I will look up how to make a natural pesticide as they get into the seedlings.
I will go back to Australia at the end of the month for 2 months holiday and would be interested in doing some volunteer work on a farm.
Thanks for the link to the worms, may look into it when I get back.
22-10-2011, 11:56 PM
For all of you with an interest in permaculture in China, you might be interested in the new thread I just started: http://forums.permaculture.org.au/showthread.php?11965-PDC-in-China
25-05-2012, 10:55 PM
Dear Kelvin, I wonder if you have already chosen the place to establish and how is it going!? Me and my girlfriend are heading to China and would highly consider to volunteer in such project.
All the best!
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