PRESERVATION OF THE THATCH-ROOFED HOUSES OF THE HAINAN LI PEOPLE

In the early 1980s, How Man visited Hainan Island twice, once for the National Geographic. Although he explored all counties and cities of the island, the main focus was on the indigenous Li minority. Howman made some pioneering raw film footage of the Li people during that 1984 trip.

In 2007, CERS revisited the island mainly to look at the situation of the Li people after over 25 years. Today the Li comprises about 1.2 million of the population in Hainan. In western Hainan, inside the confines of the Bawangling Mountain Range, the CERS team travelled to the most remote village in Wangxia, a place that How Man had visited in 1984. A road had recently been opened all the way beyond Wangxia to the most remote Li village - Hongshui.

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LEAVE IT or FIX IT

Wong How Man
Hong Shui, Hainan – 06
December 2009

A renovated village houseA renovated village houseWhen you come across a dilapidated village clinging to the last vestige of its past, a wise person will choose to leave it alone. Few would choose to fix it as there would be a long string of hurdles to overcome, including finding the time and resources. CERS, unfortunately, is cursed with many such unwise individuals.

My team and I first set eyes on Hong Shui Village in March 2007. The village’s fate was almost sealed with the demolition of the entire village scheduled within two weeks. It was to be replaced by cement and brick houses which the government encouraged as substitutes for the traditional “makeshift” architecture. I could have lamented the demise of yet another icon of a unique ethnic group, written about it, and mourned its departure. I could have documented its passing with a few photographs and some video footage. That would have saved my colleagues and I heaps of trouble over the next few years, and most people would have chosen that route.

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