CFHR Garden Building & Experiential Learning Project
Grantee Organization: China Folk House Retreat (CFHR)
Fund Type: Non-restricted Fund
3-year Granting Plan:
Table 2: Bedrock Foundation’s 3-year Granting Plan to CFHR
Grantee Nonprofit Organization
(Unit: Thousand US Dollars)
Garden Building & Experiential Learning Project
China Folk House Retreat
Cross-cultural communication education
Grantee Organization Introduction
The China Folk House Retreat (CFHR) is a non-profit 501c(3) organization providing experiential learning programs for students of all ages, families, and life-long learners in the greater Washington DC region. CFHR offers a range of experiential learning opportunities, from day visits to the house site as a “living museum” to weekend workshops on sustainability and cultural programs, to a series of intensive two-week apprenticeships during the summer craft school.
Official Website: https://www.chinafolkhouse.org/
Grantee Project Introduction
The Bedrock Foundation plans to provide three gifts in a total of 150,000 US dollars between 2021-2023 to The China Folk House Retreat (CFHR) for the Garden Building & Experiential Learning Project.
The China Folk House Retreat (CFHR) preserves a farmhouse from the village of Cizhong that would have been inundated by a dam on the headwaters of the Mekong River by documenting the house and its landscape, disassembling and moving the physical structures, and then reassembling the homestead along the Shenandoah River at the Friends Wilderness Center in Jefferson County, West Virginia.
CFHR’s project mainly includes two dimensions, one is construction, and the other is educational activities. The project’s research goal is to understand the house as a text of its place, as a location of skill and craftsmanship, and as a tool of agricultural production, connected to its fields, orchards, and pasture. CFHR believes that rebuilding the house at the site along the Shenandoah River is ideal for this project of cultural translation because the similarities of landscape and folkways will make the CFHR a center for cross-cultural programs in experiential education, folklife studies, and environmental sustainability. When all the building projects are completed, CFHR will serve as an experiential, interactive museum showcasing the diverse folk cultures, vernacular architecture, agriculture, handicrafts, and folklife of northwest Yunnan.
As of the end of July 2021, CFHR has completed the construction of the gate（Figure 1） and the main structure of the main house (Figure 2).
Figure 1 Gate of CFHR
Figure 2 Main House of CFHR
The gate wall and the main house were constructed with hempcrete, an eco-friendly material mixed with hemp hued, lime, and sand. The project uses this kind of material because it is similar to the original house’s traditional craft in Yunnan, China, and meets governmental building requirements. The green value is part of the educational meaning of this house.
The kitchen (Figure 3) and bathroom (Figure 4) are under construction.
Figure 3 Kitchen of CFHR
Figure 4 Bathroom of CFHR
The kitchen, bathroom, and main house’s roof are expected to be completed before the summer of 2022.
The garden is the next major construction project of the CFHR Center. At present, CFHR has completed the garden project’s map surveying and feasibility assessment (see attachment for details). The working modules of the garden project will mainly cover the construction of a Chinese pavilion, two ponds, and a botanical garden.
The overall elevation view draft of the garden project is as follows:
Figure 5 Elevation view of Chinese Pavilion across the pond
Figure 6 Elevation View of CFHR from the dam
The Bedrock Foundation plans to invest 40,000 and 50,000 US dollars in 2021-2022 to support the construction of the CFHR garden project, including the overall planning and design of the garden, the silt dredging of two ponds, the structure of the barrier, and the construction of the Chinese pavilion. In 2023, the Bedrock Foundation will invest 60,000 US dollars to support the continued construction project and the educational activities, including the garden path and decoration, planting and maintenance of flowers and trees, and those cross-cultural educational events based on the house and garden. A possible plan is to open a three-dimensional planting yard in the garden to show that Chinese farmers use such agricultural technology to maximize space efficiency and deal with scarce arable land.
Currently, CFHR has conducted three cross-cultural educational camps in 2019, 2020, and 2021.
The inaugural program in the summer of 2019 was the reassembly of the timber frame of the China Folk House at its new home, the Friends Wilderness Center in Jefferson County, West Virginia, by a team from the Timber Framers Guild in the Harpers Ferry area, high school and college students participating in an experiential work-study program, and community volunteers (Figure 7).
Figure 7 CFHR experiential work-study program, June – July 2019
In 2020 additional student and community volunteers worked through the summer and fall to enclose the house in hempcrete walls, covered with lime render. Master Builders Jonathan Morrison and Mathieu Lamarre continue to design and build the main house and other structures in the courtyard (Figure 8).
Figure 8 Students are making the hempcrete walls in June-July, 2020
In the summer of 2021, a group of students and community volunteers worked together to complete the filling work of the hempcrete on the second floor of the main house, the reinstallation of doors and windows, the picture restoration, and the reorganization of Tibetan furniture （Figure 9）.
Figure 9 Students are introducing their work in summer camp, July 2021
In 2022 or 2023, the building and the garden will be served as the “China Folk House Living Museum” after completion. The theme of this museum includes not only the presentation of traditional Chinese aesthetics but also the intervention and destruction of the inheritance of beauty by external forces such as politics through historical events. The educational goal of this museum is not only to let people feel and marvel at traditional Chinese culture but to further arouse people’s reflection on the faults of historical and cultural inheritance.
On weekdays during the school year, CFHR can host school groups who come for a half-day or full-day to learn about folkways and the historical lessons about the cultural revolution in Yunnan by touring the house and gardens and taking part in some hands-on activities related to agriculture, cooking, tools, and traditional building practices.
The Living Museum will charge visit tickets and provide lunch service and events to support part of its operating cost to supplement donations.
Besides the regular visit and event, CFHR plans to initiate a new project, “China Folk House Craft School,” to host an ongoing series of cultural exchanges and experiential education workshops with craftsmen and artists from Yunnan. CFHR will hold four consecutive two-week craft schools (typically from June 15 to August 15) to enroll up to 24 high-school-aged students in hands-on apprenticeships with Masters of Chinese crafts found in the China Folk House home region of northwest Yunnan. Each year the program will focus on a different craft: silversmithing, wood carving, traditional tie-dye, jicama woodblock printing, landscape, and sacred tangka painting, or learning to play musical instruments such as the erhu and sanxian. In addition to “embodied learning” in the apprenticeships, students will learn from CFHR staff about each craft’s cultural and historical contexts, including different levels of Chinese language lessons customized to the work activities. Students will also participate in other camp activities, including hiking, swimming, and canoeing/kayaking on the Shenandoah River, gardening, cooking, and a host of wholesome games and activities. The Craft School is a residential program at CFHR with college interns serving as camp counselors and CFHR staff instructors providing classes and facilitating the residencies of the Craft Masters.
Based on three visits and several meetings, Bedrock Foundation decided to support CFHR in designing and developing the above educational activities and encouraging the organization to explore the sustainable operation model by providing non-restriction funding and involving community volunteers and network resources (Figure 10).
Bedrock Foundation and Daofeng and Angela Foundation bridged a Chinese American community volunteer group to visit CFHR, July 2021