Recovering tradition in globalising rural ChinaHandicraft Birdcages in Da’ou village

Authors Organisations
Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)661-684
JournalSociologia Ruralis
Issue number4
Early online date06 Sep 2019
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2019
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This paper explores how an historic artistic practice – the hand crafting of bamboo birdcages – has been revitalised in one Chinese village to provide social and economic stability and resilience in a time of an extensive rural restructuring. In so doing, it considers the role that arts and crafts can play as endogenous resources that may be mobilised as responses to globalising tendencies, and how the recovery of such traditions is negotiated across a terrain of new technology, mobilities and consumption practices. In Da’ou village in Shandong Province, the historic craft of birdcage making has been revitalised with demand from urban consumers who attach cultural value to the artefacts. The revitalisation of birdcage-making has brought prosperity to the village and has enabled it to avoid issues of depopulation and hollowing-out found elsewhere in the Chinese countryside; yet it has also involved a negotiation of tradition and opportunity – for instance, e-commerce, with potential to open new, international markets, and tourism - with these innovations commonly driven by women and younger residents of the village, thus recasting social relations. The research is based on semi-structured interviews conducted in 2016 with respondents including local leaders, craftspeople, suppliers, and sellers. By looking at prosperous Da’ou village, this paper reveals an atypical rural context were forms of niche innovations are driven by traditional artistic expertise on bamboo handicraft. Yet, it discloses the contestation of such spaces and how indirect forms of globalisation are creating new development trajectories combining traditional handicraft with technology