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Crowd funding heritage

As Chinese villagers leave for the cities in ever greater numbers, Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) Dynasty buildings in China’s villages are left vacant, in poor condition or at risk of collapse. 


Public funding to support the preservation of rural built heritage is in short supply. There are only a small number of NGOs working in this area, and their resources are limited. Private funding from Chinese property developers offers financial resources but comes with its own problems, with many developer led projects receiving criticism from all over the society for their overly commercial approach.


Crowd funding has begun to emerge in China as an alternative method of raising the financing needed to support the protection of built heritage. The ‘saving the most beautiful village’ campaign was launched in December of this year, and urges potential donors to save the ‘most beautiful village’ in China. Initiated by business owner Mr Wu Zhixuan, the campaign offers potential donors equity crowd funding and reward crowd funding, and aims to attract investment into the protection and development of historic buildings and villages. Over the past 4 years, Wu Zhixuan has saved 6 historic buildings in Wuyuan County by renting the buildings from local inhabitants and restoring them for use as boutique hotels. However, as Wu feared, protection of heritage architecture cannot keep up with the speed at which these buildings are either demolished or collapse.


A similar crowd funding campaign was launched in August 2014 by the village committee of Renli village in southern Anhui province (with the support of a tourism company). Using Alibaba’s Taobao Crowd Funding platform, Renli village aimed to raise the funds necessary to restore 18 of its historic buildings. A fundraising target of 50,000 CNY (£5,000) was set, however the final sum raised was 10 times that (£58,862).


This is in the context of more widespread interest in the possibilities of crowd funding. China’s state council has begun to emphasise reducing the costs to small business of accessing financing, and diversifying the methods of financing available beyond traditional banking. At a State Council Executive Meeting on 19 November of this year, Prime Minister Li Keqiang put forward the equity crowd funding system as a potential way to grow a microfinancing system in China. Subsequently, on 26th November the Securities Association of China organized a forum focused on the registration, monitoring and management of crowd funding platforms, the first time legislation relating to equity crowd funding has been openly debated in China.


Crowd funding legislation currently under development in China has the potential to have a considerable impact not only on small businesses, but also on businesses in the creative sector and even on the protection of China’s built heritage. It creates more opportunities for small businesses and individuals to raise money and develop interesting projects.

Crowd funding heritage in China

BOP Researcher, Yunzhen Yang blogs about the growing trend of crowd funding for heritage protection in China

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Paul Owens

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Paul is a leading international advisor and practitioner in cultural policy and creative economy. He is Co-Founder of BOP, and alongside his fellow directors he has pioneered now well-established methods to measure the impact of cultural policy. 

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Paul Owens

Paul Owens

Co-Founder and Director