Ageing With Grace

Ann Wang

Huangtian, China. January 2015

Huangtian, a quiet village in Anhui, traces its history back to the Ming Dynasty (1368 -1644). But as its young people have migrated to big cities in search of work, its population has dwindled to around 300, leaving only the elderly to tend to its upkeep. Huangtian has lost its youth: not only has its population aged, its stock of century-old architecture has fallen into disrepair.

There may yet be hope. This quiet village between hills of tea plantations has been designated as an historical site by the government, which has prompted reconstruction of its old houses and the building of a parking lot and ticket booth at the entrance to the village.

Huangtian is on the edge of becoming either a ghost town or a tourist hot spot.

Following Laoshi Su, a local tea farmer, one can get a glimpse of the everyday life in the village. Trimming the tea plants, chitchatting with neighbors, and slaughtering a pig once a year for the upcoming Chinese New Year feast. For the residents of this village, what will happen to Huangtian village is completely out of their hands. And life goes on.