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Where are the Villages?

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 accompanying video:

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 Christians, and their churches adapting to urban life? These are only some of the issues facing the church in an era of urbanization.

If you’d like to read more about this phenomenon and how it is impacting the church, check out these resources from ChinaSource:

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

A Church on the Move (December 2004)

Migrant Cities (December 2004)

Other recommended articles:

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

Impact of urbanization on churches in China (

Image credit: The Farm, by Mark Heath, via Flickr

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul …View Full Bio

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