Course:FRST370/Projects/Traditional management strategies of the Tujia Ethnic Minority in the Wuling mountain area adjacent to Hunan, Hubei, Guizhou and Chongqing, China

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The Tujia people, with a population of about 8 million, mainly live in the Wuling mountain region of the border region of Hunan, Hubei, Chongqing and Guizhou province. Tujia in Hunan province is mainly distributed in western Hunan Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture. Hubei province is mainly distributed in Enshi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture. Chongqing province is mainly distributed in Qianjiang, Youyang, Shizhu and other districts and counties in the southeast of Chongqing province. Guizhou province mainly distributed in northeast Guizhou province along the river.

They call themselves Bizika, meaning native residents. While their names suggest they are native, their exact origin remains uncertain. Some trace their ancestry back to the ancient Ba people, while others claim they came from the Wumans, who moved from Guizhou province to western Hunan. Some people also believe that they came from Jiangxi in the end of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The only certainty is that Tujia was formed in the early Five Dynasties. 

Wuling mountain area is the eastern extension of Yunnan-Guizhou plateau, with an average altitude of about 1,000 meters and an altitude of more than 800 meters accounting for about 70% of the territory. The region climate belongs to the sub-tropical to warm temperate transition, the average temperature is between 13 ℃ - 16 ℃, rainfall of about 1100-1600 mm. Such geographical location and climatic conditions contribute to more than 50 percent of the area's forest cover and its rich animal and plant species.

Tenure arrangements

There are three types of property, state property, communal property and, freehold property. However, the proportions of these three kinds of property are not constant which means they change over time because of the change in national state.

Before the founding of new China, private property was dominant and most of the forests in China were privately owned. Farmers had a small share, and landowners and wealthy families had an unbalanced amount of forest, with dozens of acres less and thousands more.

Communal property also accounted for a part which mainly owned by community groups, temples and clans, such as "church hill" of churches, "temple hill" of temples and "clan hill" of ancestral halls. These lands are mainly used for large-scale sacrificial activities.

State property accounted for a small percentage. It was divided into two situations. One was on public land (such as cemeteries) in the suburbs of the county and part of the barren hills. The other part was the remote, cold and inaccessible woodland. This kind of forest cover area and utilization degree were very low.

After the founding of new China, a large amount of land was expropriated by the state. Therefore, the state property has become the biggest part and communal property was preserved. However, the freehold property became the smallest part. 

Traditional management strategies 

For a long time, China's ethnic minority areas are independent of each other, so the management authorities are usually the village committees.They have been managing the community forests with customary laws.In Tujia area, some traditions accumulated over a long period of time have become people's beliefs, and some have played an irreplaceable role in the protection of forest resources as advanced experience.Tujia people have passed down a large number of myths and legends from generation to generation. Superstitious taboos have exerted an important influence on people's ideas and restrained forest development to some extent. In the customary, People are not allowed to cut down some trees, or do not carry out forestry operations in some dates, and others have changed people's ecological consciousness through education, which is conducive to the protection and recovery of forest resources. Here are some important strategies which are beneficial for forest:

  1. Block the mountain to cultivate trees: This method is generally governed by convention. There are three different block methods including blocking all the area of forests, blocking the areas by turn, and blocking only in the specific time. This method can effectively restore the forest and achieve sustainable development.
  2. Develop wasteland and plant trees: This method is common in alpine areas. Under the condition of ensuring food production, Tujia people will continue to open up wasteland for afforestation. Villagers usually start planting trees after the lunar New Year, which lasts for one month. Because of the cold climate in alpine areas, there is snow on the mountains during the first month, so they cannot engage in other agricultural production. Moreover, it is difficult to plant trees on the mountains during this time. This method can effectively increase the forest area.
  3. Plant trees near the home: Tujia people like to plant trees around their homes for beauty and defense. what's more, in order to maintain the fertility of the land and prevent soil erosion, villagers will set aside a special area in the middle of the farmland for planting trees.
  4. Plant economic forest:Tujia people have the habit of planting fruit trees and tea trees as economic forests, mainly to subsidize household use and the number is uncertain.
  5. Trees around the graves of forefathers cannot be cut.
  6. Plant cypress trees along the river for good geomancy.
  7. The worship of trees and animal totems. This kind of worship urges people to protect it effectively, which plays a positive role in maintaining biodiversity and protecting forest resources.

Affected Stakeholders

The villagers and committee are affected stakeholders.

1. villagers:

Tujia people are mainly engaged in agriculture-related production activities, but they also plant tea trees and fruit trees as economic trees. They collect fruits and tea-leaves and sell them.

Wuling mountain area is located in the subtropical, mild climate, suitable for the growth of a variety of medicinal materials. According to the census data of medicinal materials in xiangxi autonomous prefecture, there are a total of 1,834 kinds of medicinal materials, including 1,140 kinds of animal medicine, 28 kinds of mineral medicine and 1,666 kinds of plant medicine. This area is one of the important producing areas of medicinal materials in China, with abundant medicinal materials resources. Medicinal materials enjoy a high reputation at domestic and abroad. For example, Shizhu Tujia autonomous county in Sichuan province, the main producing area of chuan lian, is known as "the hometown of huang lian". According to the statistics of the department of medicinal materials over the years, more than 500 varieties have been purchased, and over 300 tons of papaya, chuanlian and eucommia ulmoides have been purchased each year. The villagers got benefits from selling herbs.

2. The committee:

Xiangxi Tujia autonomous prefecture is rich in tourism resources and has developed into a new type of tourist attraction integrating landscape, ethnic customs and cultural relics appreciation. The development of tourism brings a lot of benefits to local committee.

Interested Outside Stakeholders

The outer businessmen, NGOs, and government are interested outside stakeholders:

  1. The businessmen who collect the fruits, tea-leaves, and medicinal materials from villagers.
  2. NGOs:Folklore scientists apply some Tujia traditional culture as intangible cultural heritage. Tujia people have lived in the heartland of China since ancient times, at the intersection of east, west, south and north of China. Because of its unique geographical environment and prominent geographical location, it has always been a gathering place of various cultures. The cultural accumulation is very rich, and the original ecological forms of many cultures have been preserved. For example, maogusi, nuo culture, and hand-waving dance are all precious cultural heritages left by Tujia ancestors, which are of living fossil value for our understanding of early human life and social appearance. However, under the impact of globalization and modernization, tujia intangible cultural heritage is gradually disappearing.
  3. Government:The state wants to build Xiangqi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture into a national forest city. The 2018 national forest city construction symposium was held in Shenzhen, at which the approval decision of 2018 national forest city title was announced. Xiangxi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture has become the first of the 30 ethnic autonomous prefectures in China to be awarded the title of "national forest city".


  1.  Aim: Applying foods and income for now and establishing a sustainable community forest for offspring.
  2.  Assessment: Traditional management strategies focus on the environmental protection and sustainable development,so the goal will be achieved.
  3. Conflict: The biggest conflict is the villagers may want to get more benefits from community forest. This problem can be solved by education and supervision.       


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This conservation resource was created by Course:FRST370.