Native/Soil: Translation, Transplantation, and Medium in Rural China
4: Lavender Fantasia: Soil, Nativism, and the “Beautiful Countryside” Campaign in China
Sunday, March 27, 2022
10:45am – 12:15pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
University of Toronto, Canada
The Beautiful Countryside campaign, launched in 2013 as a cornerstone policy of the Xi regime, has created the fantastic plan to transform China’s countryside from impoverished hollowing villages to desirable tourist destinations. Amid this unprecedented transformation of rural terrains is the fever for “sea of flowers” (huahai), which is conceived as a fast and cheap way to convert a piece of otherwise banal land into a spectacle. The most popular “seas of flowers” are lavender fields. Influenced by the theme park boom in Japan, the rise of leisure farms in Taiwan, and the idol dramas of Korean and Taiwan, lavender was embraced as a symbol of romantic love by Chinese rural youths as much as the urbanites. Hundreds of lavender fields have popped up all over China, even though most had to use “rat-tail grass” (sage) because lavender could not adapt to local soil or climate. The lavender fields in Huocheng County in northern Xinjiang stood out in this craze for their lush and real lavender, which was initially planted in the 1960s by the Construction and Production Corps, a semi-military entity established to guarantee the Han colonization, for its essential oil used in the cosmetic industry, and now repackaged to serve as tourist attraction. Recently, it is declared that a native Chinese type of lavender was discovered there. By examining the lavender fantasia in China, this study illuminates the desire and anxiety anchored in the contemporary imagination of soil in China as well as its contradictions of nativist claims.