The Cangdong Village Project is a collaborative research program studying the home villages of Chinese migrants.
During the 1800s, more than 2.5 million people left China’s Pearl River Delta region, creating new communities around the world. Their cultural and economic influences also transformed their home villages, which became known as qiaoxiang.
Cangdong Village is a qiaoxiang located within the county-level city of Kaiping in Guangdong Province. About 25 generations of the Xie clan have lived in Cangdong Village since it was founded during the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368). By the 19th century, it was home to over 400 people. People began to migrate from Cangdong Village to the United States and other destinations in the 1850s.
Today, Cangdong Village has about 50 residents. In partnership with the Qiaoxiang Cultural Research Center at Wuyi University, they established the Cangdong Heritage Education Center to promote the tangible and intangible heritage of local village ways of life and the role of Overseas Chinese in the Pearl River Delta.
In 2016 and 2017, the Cangdong Heritage Education Center invited researchers from the Stanford University Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project to study the material practices of village life during the Late Qing (1875–1912) and Early Republic (1912–1927) periods. Cangdong Village Project is a transnational and interdisciplinary effort. Specialists in architectural history, history, archaeology, and folk life studies are all involved in holistically exploring the daily life and village culture of qiaoxiang and Overseas Chinese settlements. (Click here for more about the project).
Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368): Xie Rongshan founded Cangqian Village. The two sons of Xie Rongshan lived in the eastern and western areas of the village. Eventually, Cangqian Village was formally divided into eastern and western parts, named Cangdong and Cangxi.
Late Qing Dynasty (1875-1912): Many residents migrated to the United States, Canada, Australia, Southeast Asia, and Hong Kong to work and send remittances home. Some settled abroad permanently and others returned. Some of them built their new homes at Cangdong Village with overseas remittances.
Republican Period (1912-1949): Remittance payments from abroad enabled the construction of new homes, ancestral halls, and village infrastructure, along with a regional market and schools. This was the peak period of development in qiaoxiang (home villages) in the Pearl River Delta region.
Today: Cangdong Village is a center for returning Xie Clan migrants and their descendants who come to the village to visit relatives, see their family homes, and honor their ancestors. The Cangdong Heritage Education Center promotes local heritage.