Where Have All the Villages Gone?

When I first went to China in the mid-1980’s the rural/urban population ratio was 80/20. Today, after three decades of urbanization, that ratio is roughly 50/50.

Urbanization in China comes in two forms, either by peasants moving from the countryside into the cities or the cities expanding to swallow up the countryside.

One of the by-products of China’s urbanization is the emptying out of the countryside, leaving behind villages with no more people. Last week The Telegraph ran a story about the vanishing villages of China. Visiting a dying village, reporter Tom Phillips writes:

Five generations of the Qiao family have called this isolated rural village home.

They came in the dying days of China’s Qing dynasty and looked on from their mountaintop perch as civil war, revolution, hunger and finally massive economic change swept the nation.

Now, however, the Qiaos’ days in Maijieping are numbered as tens of thousands of Chinese villages are driven towards extinction amid what has been dubbed the greatest human migration in history.

“The younger generations find life here too hard,” sighed 58-year-old Qiao Jinchao, who is one of only four remaining residents in a now eerily deserted village that was once home to 140. “Once they have gone out and seen more, they aren’t willing to return.”

Here is the video clip that accompanied the article:

Since so much of the growth of the church in China has taken place in the countryside, urbanization and the de-population of villages is having an impact on the church. What happens to the churches in these vanishing villages? Where do the urban migrants worship in the cities? How are rural Christians adapting to urban life? These are only some of the issues facing the church in an era of urbanization.

To read more about how urbanization is impacting the church in China, check out these resources:

The Transformation and Renewal of the Structure of Chinese House Churches (ChinaSource, March 2011)

A Church on the Move (ChinaSource, December 2004)

Migrant Cities (ChinaSource, December 2004)

China’s urbanization means problems for the church (UCA News)

Impact of urbanization on churches in China (ccfellow.org)

Management issues in the rural church (Chinese Church Voices)

(Note: this post was originally published on the ChinaSource Blog.)