While the regime in China controls the lives and ways of thinking of its inhabitants, there are still people who feel the call to take action, walk their dream and be the change; creating a sustainable lifestyle which they believe will not only benefit themselves but also Nature. ‘The Second Home of Lifechanyuan’ is the first ecovillage in China. Our author, Conglong, sees in it the beautiful and promising future of humanity.
In the last decades, China has been through unprecedented economic reform. It is transforming from a country historically closed to the outside world, to an irreplaceable international economic entity. Changes have never been so dramatic: infrastructure constructions; a wide variety of supply goods in the supermarkets; quality restaurants and hotels; skyscrapers in all the big cities; private houses; new model cars… all are signs indicating that this country is determined to get away from the labels of “poverty” and “underdevelopment”.
However, economic reform is not a perfect solution. High GDP is accompanied by increasingly worsening environmental pollution, and material wealth is being accompanied by more stress, emptiness and depression. Is this really the ideal lifestyle that people are longing for? Does “Developed” truly equal happiness? Where is the true future of China?
Ecovillages may be a solution, with their focus on harmony, sustainability and peace. Today, in China, there are many people who not only see the emergency, but also feel the call to take action, live their dreams and be the change they wish to see in the world, creating a sustainable lifestyle which they believe will not only benefit themselves, but also Mother Nature and the whole world.
‘The Second Home of Lifechanyuan’ is such an ecovillage, a place where I can see the beautiful and promising future of humanity, like a bright star lightening the dark night.
‘New Oasis for Life – The Second Home of Lifechanyuan’ is located in Yunnan Province, China – a place with picturesque scenery and pleasant weather all year around. The ‘New Oasis’ consists of three communities: ‘Anning’, ‘Chuxiong’ and ‘Lincang city’. The whole area extends over approximately 145 acres. It was established in April 2009 with the vision to create a sweet and big family for hard-working, kind, simple, trustworthy people to live a life that is worry-free, full of love, happiness, joy and freedom, while co-existing in harmony with Nature and other living beings.
While aiming to build a big family to replace the traditional nuclear family, The Second Home of Lifechanyuan is also very spiritual. ‘Chanyuan’ is the pronunciation of “禅院” in Chinese. It means a “universal learning space for spiritual growth”. The Chinese word for Lifechanyuan is “生命禅院”; which means a universal space for human beings to learn the meaning and purpose of Life from observing nature, from the teachings of ancient saints and sages, to self-cultivation by living those teachings, purifying one’s soul and reach enlightenment, finally to enter the kingdom of the “Greatest Creator”.
Lifechanyuan has a profound theory system in the form of knowledge that encompasses the wisdom essences of Jesus Christ, Sakyamuni Buddha, Mohammad, and Lao Tzu, and the wisdom of its spiritual guide Xue Feng, who claimed himself as an enlightened being.
Xue Feng wrote all the books ten years ago and is still writing almost every day. He is the founder of the Second Home, contributing all his personal wealth to the community.
The core values of Lifechanyuan are: Revere the Greatest Creator, Revere Nature and Revere Life. The fundamental faith for all community members is that to the Greatest Creator, who is interpreted as the grand creator of the universe and all living beings, the birthplace of wisdom, the driving force and energy center of the universe.
Therefore, the community understands that the relationship between human beings and the Greatest Creator is the most fundamental of all relations. The Greatest Creator is also the primary productive force. Therefore, human beings need not conquer or transform Nature, for, as long as they exist and live naturally in accordance with natural laws, everything will be just fine.
Lifechanyuan believes that human beings were created as the Will of the Greatest Creator, and they were made on this earth for a purpose – to experience the fullest glory and joy. Their purpose is to live together in harmony and happiness.
There are 150 permanent residents living at The Second Home at present. The community has about 6000 fruit trees (pear, peach, apricot, passion fruit, bayberry etc.) and 10 vegetable gardens. There is an abundant supply of fresh vegetables all year round including cabbages, chives, spinach, eggplant, carrots, potatoes etc.
500 chickens and 150 ducks are raised across three branches to meet the demand for fresh eggs to all community members. In addition, animals, birds, fishes, squirrels, cats and dogs are also part of this big family. They are the good company for kids and add so much fun to many people’s daily lives.
In the gardens, more than 70 different kinds of flowers blossom in different seasons, which brightens up the community’s living environment, making it even more beautiful.
The Second Home is quite self-sufficient, and although the produce is not 100% organic as yet, they are making every effort towards achieving it. Some years ago, the concept of Permaculture might be have been completely new to most of people in Mainland China, but now, Permaculture has become an important part of life in the community. In March 2013, The Second Home was honored to have two permaculture experts, from Panya Projects in Thailand, visit the community. They conducted a meticulous field inspection and gave the community very valuable consultations.
All three branches have started implementing permaculture principles at different levels in daily farming ever since, which has taken the Second Home to the next level in the aspect of ecological sustainability.
In the last couple of months, permaculture principles have been applied in many areas: existing resources are recycled and used to make compost; crop rotation is being applied, and perennial plants are incorporated in vegetable fields; seeds from flowers and vegetables are collected; and the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has been discontinued in almost all the fruit and vegetable gardens; the toilet system in Lincang branch has been rebuilt …and a whole lot more!
Apart from implementing permaculture in the fields, The Second Home also put a lot of emphasis on ‘human permaculture’. Lifechanyuan sees the most severe crisis for the world today is the crisis of the Soul. When everyone has a pure soul/mind, peace comes automatically.
Since the establishment of the community, the most important task for the member of the community has always been “Soul garden beautifying”, which means that the members shall try to remove all emotional ‘weeds’ such as pessimism, jealousy, selfishness, anger, suspicion, arrogance, blame, comparison, competition etc.
People endeavour to be consciously aware of their “weeds”, and remove them by means of introspection and group activities, for example, group games, study and the weekly community meeting. They believe that when every member has a relatively perfect human nature, the community will be able to reach a status of harmony and peace. And also when members have a pure soul, they will be able to experience real happiness and joy.
Monday and Wednesday nights are group study time; the subject could be “800 values for new era human beings”, or the new articles Xue Feng wrote that focus on “soul garden beautifying”. Members of the three branches study together via SKYPE.
Friday night is the time for community meeting; each branch holding its meeting separately. Any problems arising from daily life can be publicly discussed or solved in this meeting. If a member has any complaints, worries or any questions, she/he may raise it openly and publicly. Complaining or gossiping on other occasions is regarded as a behavior that would destroy the harmony of the community.
The meeting is chaired by the branch manager. Except for the Friday night meeting, there are no more meetings in The Second Home.
In The Second Home, all resources are shared and everything is taken care of by the community. All residents “own nothing, but have everything”. Individuals do not own any property or money. Currency is not useful inside the community, and money transactions have almost disappeared. The storeroom is open for everyone to take what they need. There is no distribution and supervision. Everyone can ask for what they need. If a member needs anything that is not available in the community, it will be purchased on demand, as long as it is not a luxury.
Moreover, the Second Home is also a paradise for the next generation! There are 14 children living in the community; their ages are from 4 to 15. Children receive home education and teachers are chosen from members who either have a strong background in education, or have teaching experience.
Unlike many Chinese children who suffer stress and psychological problems, study in The Second Home is relaxing and enjoyable. Children here have plenty of time for playing! There are no exams; happiness is the first priority in the classroom as well as in their daily life.
They learn not only the basic knowledge but also have the opportunity to be close to Nature and learn from it directly! The children are taught to be optimistic and independent, and trained to take part in some light labour work such as tea leaf picking, or weeding. That children get most joy out of life is no longer a dream in this big and sweet family!
Elders, as well, are highly respected in the community. They can choose a job within their physical capabilities as well as having more flexibility in their work.
The cultural and recreational activity is also quite varied in The Second Home. People play table tennis, badminton and Chinese Chess, read books, dance, or play musical instruments in their spare time. Some people take a walk in Nature with their fellows after dinner.
However, the biggest recreational event is the monthly party; it is the time most members look forward to. It is the occasion for everyone to share their talents in singing, dancing, instrument playing and other artistic fields. It is also a chance for them to express their love for the community and life, in the form of art.
All members are encouraged to perform on the stage. The party usually lasts for a whole day – half a day for game playing and half a day for stage performing. It is always a day teeming with laughter and cheerful music.
The Second Home maintains a very good relationship with its neighboring farmers, and provides support when it is needed.
Because of the unique lifestyle and great environment, The Second Home of Lifechanyuan is getting increasing attention since its establishment. Many people had come and visited. These include local people, and international visitors from the USA, France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and India. They were all very impressed by the harmonious atmosphere, beautiful environment and the lovely people.
In addition, The Second Home has built good relationship with some ecovillages in other countries, i.e. Tamera in Portugal, and Konohana Family in Japan. One of the members visited Konohana family as exchange member in July this year, and she will stay there for a period to experience Konohana life, and exchange values and thoughts.
These are just a few steps that The Second Home has taken to reach wider communities, build friendships and share its values and new lifestyle. The vision of Lifechanyuan is to build alliances with like-minded communities or individuals so that people all around the planet can work together to make this world a real paradise.
Lifechanyuan sees itself more involved in a wider ecovillage network like GEN, in the future, and is very keen to share, contribute and learn. Most importantly, the vision is to keep promoting the ecovillage lifestyle to wider audience so that more people’s consciousness will be shift to think ‘sustainability’.