The Evolution of Collective Living in China

With increased urbanisation, rural chinese farm workers are having to adjust to life outside of their traditional commune lifestyle. With the development of the Chinese middle-class, more and more families are relocating and altering their way of life, which has left many members of the older generation struggling to adapt.

Collective Living in Rural China

When the Communist Party of China (CPC) came into power between 1921 and 1949, its main goals was to improve the lives of the average Chinese citizen. Since most citizens at the time lived in rural areas, the CPC took great efforts to transform rural life in key areas. This was mainly due to the introduction of collective living, whereby control of land was appropriated by the state from traditional landowners.

Collectivization of rural China

Collectivization of agriculture began in 1955, and by the following year 96% of all farming households had been absorbed into cooperatives. This system was supplanted by the commune system in 1958, in which the government redistributed the land as well as the resources in order to create a more fair system of agriculture and industry in rural China. During the process, village elites were ousted and replaced with new village leaders who showed support for the movement.

The redistribution took place on a massive scale, with cooperatives of thousands of members from up to 100 villages each being merged into communes. Approximately 20 to 30 cooperatives were merged into a single commune during collectivization, each comprising of over 20,000 members from 40 to 100 villages.

By 1959, almost all Chinese farm workers were members of communes, each overseen by an economic and administrative unit that controlled the labour force and all means of production from central management of industry and commerce, as well as education and military affairs. Any land, equipment, or cash still held by the peasants all became the property of the commune.

Image source

Communal living

As the name suggests, communal living in rural China meant that workers had shared resources and worked as part of a centrally-controlled unit. Workers would perform industrial and agricultural tasks in order to farm their assigned areas, and they would utilise shared facilities such as communal nurseries, bathing facilities, barber shops, etc. Every aspect of the operation was controlled by the state, including wages and prerequisites, and everything was marketed through state-controlled agencies.

Within the commune system, the household was the basic unit of consumption, and the standard of living was fairly uniform throughout rural territories. However, there was little chance for any upward mobility of workers unless they banded together to form a ‘commune cadre’ or obtained a scarce technical position such as a truck driver.

Image source

The inefficiency of large collectives proved to be the downfall of Chinese communes. They were decentralised in the early 1960s, with some being divided into private farms, and in the 1970s individual households were given the opportunity to purchase long-term leases for their farms. A fixed amount of their production was then paid to the state and the farmers could consume or sell the rest. Farmers were now allowed to sublet their land, recover capital investments, hire additional labour, own machinery, and make agricultural decisions.

The disappearance of communal lifestyle

With several generations all living under one roof, individualism was discouraged and privacy was never expected. Friends would wash together, students share crowded dormitories, and children were encouraged to put the needs of the group first and their own second.

With the emergence of the middle class, individuals were able to afford to buy their own homes and personal space, as well as their own transport and overseas travel away from the rest of the family. With more money circulating this new middle class, new aspirations, and even new values, are emerging.

Image source

China's new middle class is not just buying houses and cars, it is buying a new lifestyle. In old China, communal living and communal values went hand-in-hand. But now many Chinese aspire to their own space and a new culture of individualism may be emerging.

Open architecture competitions

  • Closest Deadline first
  • Project competitions first
  • Ideas competitions first
project COMPETITION
Legendary Bird Home 2020

Design a bird home to fund wildlife charities

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PRODUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Dec 13
Feb 11
May 14
Register now
ideas COMPETITION
SKYHIVE 2020 Skyscraper Challenge

Redefine the modern-day skyscraper

Prize: MONETARY AWARD
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Dec 17
Feb 14
May 17
Register now
ideas COMPETITION
San Francisco Affordable Housing Challenge

Design solutions for San Francisco affordable housing problem

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PUBLICATION IN THE BOOK
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Dec 20
Feb 18
May 21
Register now
project COMPETITION
Vale De Moses Meditation Cabins

Design meditation cabins in Portugal

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Jan 10
Feb 21
May 24
Register now
project COMPETITION
Abu Dhabi Flamingo Visitor Center

Design an iconic visitor center for Abu Dhabi’s unique wetlands natural reserve

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Jan 14
Feb 25
May 28
Register now
project COMPETITION
Mega Dunes Eco Lodges - Abu Dhabi

Design comfortable, sustainable visitor huts for the Abu Dhabi protected nature reserve

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Jan 17
Feb 28
Jun 01
Register now
project COMPETITION
Monte d'Oiro Wine Tasting Room

Design an iconic space for guests to enjoy the wines and the views of this Portuguese vineyard

Prize: MONETARY AWARD
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Jan 21
Mar 03
Jun 05
Register now
project COMPETITION
Kurgi Observation Tower

Design an eco-farm observation tower in UNESCO biosphere reserve

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + CONSTRUCTION
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Jan 24
Mar 06
Jun 08
Register now
ideas COMPETITION
RE-Stock London Housing

Submit affordable housing solutions for the one of the world’s most iconic and expensive cities

Prize: MONETARY AWARD + PUBLICATION IN THE BOOK
Eligibility: OPEN TO ALL

registration deadlines

Jan 28
Mar 10
Jun 12
Register now

ARCHITECTURE COMPETITIONS

Newsletter