Course:FRST370/Community-based management of Feng Shui forests by Hakka people in Longyan, Fujian Province, China

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Fengshui has long been recognized as a cosmological concern for self-governed lineage villages in southern part of China. This concept is conductive for practical actions, enabling collective management of natural resources such as forests [1]. Specifically, Fengshui forests are preserved to maintain a high-level diversity of species, rather than economic value produced from it [1]. Fengshui forest manifests the community-based forestry, and they are forest patches cultivated by Chinese Hakka villages build on the traditional geomancy [1]. This paper will introduce the Fengshui forests in Longyan, Fujian Province in China, and the evolution of tenure arrangement in community forests is revealed by the involvement of local villagers and government. At national level, the administrative organization has started to release the policy and strategy in responding to the usage of forest resources and relative rights. At local level, people create their own rules to punish forest destroyers in the customary management system. A comparison has been made for affected and interested stakeholders, between the national governance of forest lands and local villagers' collective means to protect forests.


Location of Longyan, Fujian Province, China

This paper focuses on Fengshui forests in Longyan, Fujian Province, China. In Fujian, there are three forest tenure types including state forests, collective forests and household forests. It shows that Fujian has eight Fengshui woodlands. Longyan is rich in natural resources such as important mineral deposits and forest zones. Longyan in the west is known as the "hometown of Hakka people". Changting township is often called the Hakka township, and the ting river is called the "mother river" of Hakka. Hakka people play a great role in Fengshui forest and there are 3 million Hakka people living in western Fujian, scattered in villages in 10 counties (county-level cities and districts) in Longyan and Sanming prefectures. Fengshui forests are located immediately behind and up-slope from the village on master (or owner) mountain. In China, it’s considered best to “sit in the north facing south”, as well as villages or individuals are ideally “face” the sun in the southern sky of the year [1]. That is because direct sunlight from the south can promote the rice crops' growth, and sun’s ray provides the warmth for the village in winter. Winds from the north are blocked by the mountain behind the village [1]. In Fengshui forests, Feng (wind) and Shui (water) is the term for ancient Chinese way to conceptualize and regulate force or substances' flow. Fengshui theory and related practices are to optimize the locations and site condition of the house buildings, tombs, temples and settlement, so as to harmonize the human realm by the combination of supernatural power and agency with nature [1].

Tenure arrangements

In central subtropical broadleaved evergreen forest region, Fengshui was originally prohibited by Chinese government. Due to inadequate official state recognition, many Hakka villages tended to protect the Fengshui forest by different means, which ultimately impedes the systematic conservation for future forestry development planning [1].In Longyan city, many village committees collectively owned forest reserves and reserved them for collective use and ceremonial activities, while assigning other forests to families [2]. In evolution of Fengshui forests tenure arrangement with time, xxxx?



  • In rural regions of southern China, there’re no state control and anarchy prevailed for peasant village, but that does not mean chaos and strife. Instead, dependence over the mutual-aid helps to preserve the order and efficiency. In other words, Fengshui is an “unique science of site planning”, which plays a big role in mediating the social relations among villagers. The strategy or planning to achieve the peace was to 1. building house, village or grave located on a slope or raised place. 2. projecting spurs are required to partially encircle it. 3. trees and plants need to growth lushly, and especially a grove of large trees just planted (upslope from) the village [1].
  • Local residents stated that there were customary punitive means to prevent the tree cutting in Fengshui forest. It’s worthy to notice that in some communities, people believe the supernatural retribution can be a warning to punish those offenders, and it’s not necessary to have a system of surveillance. Traditional punitive measurement have already make people fearful for supernatural effects. However, president Mao Zedong targeted Fengshui as a superstition which was the major structural barrier for modern progress [1].
After 1949
  • land distribution was carried out. During the Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1961, croplands, bamboo forests and Fengshui forests were designated as collective lands[1].Only those productive land which are far away from the village belong to national forests. In this case, although the prohibition for the public to practice Fengshui, Fengshui forest were effectively protected as before and regarded as a socio-ecological legacy for local management institutions. Villagers in southwest Fujian explained that many of Fengshui forest couldn’t be used for industrial purpose due to the forests were too remote [1].
  • During the Backyard Iron Smelting movement, when fengshui forest are made conflicts with and threatened by state projects, villagers often defended themselves for the practical grounds of protecting village from natural disaster such as wind or erosion, in providing a shady area for those field workers to have a rest [1].


  • China implemented overall management of forests at the village level. After the implementation of the "three determinations" policy, the collective forest ownership system has undergone great changes [3].Collective forest right includes forestland use right and ownership begin to move forestland farmer. Fines imposed by the government, state or local village managers substitute the traditional form of prohibition over cutting [1].
  • Fengshui forest have been subject to state enforcement and policies, and many of illegal activities in the forests are assumed to be villagers’ responsibility. Regarding to decision making for the potential resources in Fengshui forest, it’s clear that there are no state involvement for plant propagation, gathering and understory clearance [1].


  • Fujian has been the first pilot area of the development of tenure reform for collective forest and a new phase of reform of the tenure system. The main signs are following by “advice on promoting tenure reform for collective forests” from the Fujian Provincial Government in April 2003 [3]. Currently, Fujian province is planning to set up a provincial forest tenure trading center. By the end of 2007, 13 more provinces had announced new policies for collective forest rights [3].
  • By 2010, the number of provinces implementing forest rights reform had increased to 20. The collective forests dominate strongly in Fujian because state-owned has 10% of forestland and 8.1% of forest resources, and collective-owned has 90% of forestland and 90% of forest resources [4].

(Z, He)

Now, in some areas, the rural individual household-based management system has been transformed into a joint-stock forest farm. This new management form is the combination of technical innovation and social and economic reform, which reflects the farmers' free will and participation in the reform of forestry economic system such as "Unification of production and rights", "separation of enterprise functions from enterprise functions", "autonomy of management" and "assumption of profits and losses", etc [5].The goal of the model is to "develop the market outside the mountain area based on the mountain area and at the foot of the mountain area, using technology and education to improve production efficiency" [3].

Administrative arrangements

State-owned & Collective forest regulation

  • In past 30 years, land in China is either state owned or collective owned, and this is mentioned by the law stating that forest resources belong to the State unless they are regulated as collectives, with legal representatives by township governments and village committees. In state-owned forest, trees and lands are managed by state-owned forest enterprises [6].By comparison, ownership of collective forest can be owned by households or jointly by different private or public entities, which is not only limited to collectives.Those forests remain owned by the entities out of collectives have been classified under "private forests " category. In aspect of policy change, there is inefficient resources exploitation in state forest sector, whereas collective sector turn to a privatized management model, with a greater autonomy granted to households [6]. Fengshui forest, in this case, is regarded as a collective forest protected by local villagers, with their strictly enforced rules and customary punishments for better conservation.

Provincial Committee and Government

  • Chinese state makes effort to promote the lineage village model for land ownership rights and incorporation in the administrative system. In 2003, the forestry administration (government) of Fujian, which is China's largest collective forest province, launched reforms to encourage family forest rights. Three years later, almost all villages in the province had adopted household forest management [4]. On November 7, 2006, by the Fujian provincial Committee and Government, the making rights and issuing certificates was released.There are 66 national forest service centers, whose main business is to manage forest ownership registration and provide services for forest rights trading in Fujian province. This cover almost all the counties and cities in Fujian province (except the horizontal areas outside the city). Generally, there are 466 township forestry administration service centers, and these have played an important role in providing services for forest farmers, promoting forest rights trading and the reform of forest rights system [4]. As for fengshui forest protection, it is mainly determined by villagers' awareness and degree of exploitation.

Specialized office

  • For the administrative management system, Longyan Forestry Bureau is a regional forestry department in the government structure of Longyan city. According to the provisions of the forest ordinance in Fujian province, it is responsible for implementation of forestry development, and administration of forestry ecological environment construction, laws, rules and regulations [7]. In the institutional setting, there are specialized offices that govern different aspects of forests, which can be shown in the table.
Longyan Forestry Bureau Branch                               Role
                        Main office      Guide forestry construction of ecological civilization
          Policy and Regulation branch     Research and put forward policy recommendation
  Forestry resources management branch        

                (wildlife conservation)

         Evaluate forestry resources and organize

                        sustainable strategy

      Flower & Bamboo management office                   Formulate city’s afforestation plan
        Technology development branch    Formulate policy of optimal allocation of resources
          Planning and finance branch    Supervise municipal forestry state-owned assets
                    Greening office              Propose planning and target work
            Forest Fire Protection office            Implement forest fire prevention plan

(Z, He) [7]

Affected Stakeholders

Local Villagers and Communities

Local people and communities holds a medium power with a high degree of care because they formulated their collective rules in protecting the forests, which were an informal or customary practice at the local level [2]. Their role has been contrasted with government as the formal institution at the societal level. Informal rules and regulations in day-to-day governance are major in protecting Fengshui forest [2]. These rules are usually made by villagers or village committees who are closely associated with their traditional culture or norms. In the study area (Longyan city), many village committees collectively owned forest reserves for collective use and ceremonial activities, while assigning other forests to families [2].

Hakka Community

Hakka community holds a medium to high power with a high care of use of religious beliefs and cultural taboos, as well as traditional ecological knowledge to protect and manage forest resources. In terms of the Fengshui forests, around 88% (15 out of 17) of villages were inhabited by Hakka, and the primary economic activities for Hakka villages consist of a combination of 70 to 80% of young adults' labor out-migration and land usage production in relation to agriculture and forestry.[1]

Interested Outside Stakeholders

State-level Government

State government such as Forestry Bureau of China and State Council have the highest power in decision-making, with medium care for forests management or the Fengshui forests in the study area (Longyan city) [8]. State government makes decisions on the allocations of state-owned forest, collective forests and household or individual forests. And also makes decision of tenure and management types ranging from joint to share-holding to individual household management [9]. And Fengshui forests were usually designated as collective lands and only productive forests and other lands at greater distance from the village were designated as national lands.

Local Government

Longyan, Fujian, China

Local government such as Forestry Department of Fujian Provincial, Fujian Provincial Tourism Development Committee, City Council of Longyan and Forestry Department of Longyan also have high power but lower power than the state-level government in terms of decision-making for forest management [8]. And local government holds higher degree of care than the state-level government. Nowadays, in spite of the prohibition of overt practices and public discourse on Fengshui, Fengshui forests are in many case as effectively protected as before, and this was a socio-ecological legacy of centuries of local management institutions.


Longyan in western Fujian province offers visitors the opportunity to stay in the circular Tulou, taste local cuisine and experience the rich Hakka culture. Therefore, it can be considered as a tourist development from Fujian Provincial Tourism Development Committee which also becomes part of the economic source. Tourists can provide economic sources for community forestry in the study area, but hold lower power of decision-making and care of forest tenure or managements.


Overall, there's no legislation and direct national government documents to manage fengshui forestry. The state classify Fengshui forestry as part of collective forests, and ways of regulating collective forests are applied. In comparison, local villagers are involved much more in protecting forests. Some villages considered that traditional punitive measurement have already made people fearful for supernatural effects, and it’s not necessary to have a system of surveillance. This belief passes from generation to generation without formal recognition, and it goes against the future forestry conservation for the nation. Due to Fengshui is a traditional theory to guide local people's life, it can be challenging to systematically govern forest lands while Fengshui forests conflict with state projects. Today, fines imposed by the government, state or local village managers substitute in place of the traditional form of prohibition on over cutting. It reflects the current means of punishment and gives up the supernatural practice in the past.

Villages devote nearly all of agricultural lands of the valleys in producing commercial vegetables in mountain slopes, which significantly influences the ecological protection of Fengshui forests, and compared with the previous growth of broadleaved species in forests without human selection, propagation or direct management, at present, Fengshui forest encounter the pressure of land transition and exploitation [1].

Main problems existing in the development of community forestry in China:

1.   The limited recognition to community forestry: There is no complete concept of "community forestry" in China. At present, community forestry does not

seem to be as easily accepted as "commercial forestry" and "ecological forestry" in some areas. These restrict the development of community forestry.

2.   Tenure system reform: The participation and freedom of farmers are neglected.

3.   The imbalance in development in different regions: Community forestry has spread in some areas, but the development is uneven in different areas.

4.   The unharmonious and complex relations between governments and non-governmental organizations [5].


Local villagers, Hakka people and communities have the highest level of care to Fengshui forest, but this kind of power can only be followed by the illegal rules which are not recognized by the nation. Fengshui were originally prohibited by the government. Due to inadequate official state recognition, many villages have tended to protect the Fengshui forest by different means, which impedes the systematic conservation for future forestry development planning [10]. Local village committees publish rules by themselves in order to regulate people’s action, with respect to the forests and villagers follow the rules [10]. Fengshui forest have been subject to state enforcement and policies, and many of the illegal activities in the forests are assumed to be villagers’ responsibility [1]. The state-level and local government have higher power of decision-making that is legal and written in law. For example, dividing forestland into state-owned forests, collective forests and household forests. Fengshui forests has been designated as collective lands and was a socio-ecological legacy of centuries of local management institutions. And the ecological potentials of the Fengshui forests are also recognized in five-year policy plans of biodiversity conservation and sustainability enhancement for government [11]. What’s more, forests have been regarded as conservation-related land-use zones which are part of statutory urban planning systems. It includes conservation areas, greenbelts and so on [10]. Fengshui Forests are part of the resource for government to achieve conservation and recreation goals.Therefore, tourists have low to no power of decision-making over the forest and low level of care, because they represent outsiders or consumers in the forest.


It is strongly recommended that more communication and cooperation be made among Fujian province, Longyan Forestry Bureau and local community in establishing a clear regulation system dedicated to Fengshui forests. In formulating the policy and decision-making, the governmental forestry agency will take into account both local people's culture and spiritual attachment for Fengshui forest, and municipal sustainable forest development in order to achieve a win-win situation. Supervision of Fengshui forest should form a complete process that does not destroy local people's benefits, but protects their rights to forest lands [12].


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 Coggins, C., Chevrier, J., Dwyer, M., Longway, L., Xu, M., Tiso, P. and Li, Z., 2012. Village Fengshui Forests of Southern China – Culture History and Conservation Status.  ASIANetwork Exchange: A Journal for Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts, 19(2), pp.52–67. DOI:
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Hong G., Yi X., Zhiyun O. (2018). Local perceptions of ecosystem services and protection of culturally protected forests in southeast China, Ecosystem Health and Sustainability, 4:12, 299-309, DOI: 10.1080/20964129.2018.1546126
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Rome. (2010). Assessment of Forest Tenure Trade Centers in Fujian Province. Retrieved from
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Jintao X., Juha V. S. (2006). Forest Tenure Reform in China. Resources.Retrieved from
  5. 5.0 5.1 Weichang L. (n.d.). Community Forestry in China: Current Status and Perspectives. Retrieved from
  6. 6.0 6.1 Démurger S., Yuanzhao H., Weiyong Y. (2009). Forest Management Policies and Resource Balance in China. An Assessment of the Current Situation. Retrieved from
  7. 7.0 7.1 Web Library. (n.d.). Longyan City Forestry Bureau. Retrieved from
  8. 8.0 8.1 ChinaDaily. (2018). Departments of Fujian provincial people’s government. Retrieved from 08/21/content_36800156.htm
  9. Nuyun L. (n.d). collective forests and Fast-growing Plantations in Fujian: Experiences and Lessons. Retrieved from
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 S.Y.Li. (2018). Community-Based Forestry and the Functions of Institutions: A Case Study of Fung Shui Forests in Hong Kong. Retrieved from
  11. Shu H. (2019). Forest coverage targets according to the 12th five-pear plan in China until 2020. Retrieved from
  12. Yuan, J.; Wu, Q.; Liu, J. (2012). "Understanding indigenous knowledge in sustainable management of natural resources in China taking two villages from Guizhou province as a case". Forest Policy and Economics. 22: 47–52.

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This conservation resource was created by Zhifang He, Wendy Liu.