Agricultural Heritage in China and Its Traditional Production System: Protect or Perish?

Wenjing DONG, Qian TIAN, Cathy Ping XIE


Coptis, as one of the plants in the family of Ranunculaceae, with the major component berberine in its rhizome, has been dominantly researched in biomedical and pharmacotherapy field. As a newly emerging China-NIAHS in 2017, the significance of Coptis is acknowledged as an agricultural heritage system. This study is the first on Coptis to provide an anthropological perspective on the China-NIAHS of Shizhu Coptis traditional production system (CTPS) in Chongqing, China. Since 2002, when FAO initiated the protection of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS), the value and significance, as well as the urgency, of agricultural heritage systems has been widely emphasized. However, such heritage systems, especially the case in this paper, which is currently the only one agricultural heritage system with great medical values, have not been completely assessed for their contribution to the development and civilization of the society, as each reflects a particular context with complexity. Also, the criteria and process of the assessment, the conservation and management of these heritage systems would be complicated. This study, therefore, is sampled purposively to take Shizhu CTPS as a unit of analysis to explore the relationships and features between the agricultural heritage system and its contexts, particularly the watershed in which it is embedded. Four features of Shizhu CTPS with its best “fit” in the watershed were analyzed. The embedded cultural element and proposed approaches were discussed to illuminate the future research of agricultural heritage system through an anthropological lens. It contributes to the related knowledge base and would provide possible approaches and strategies for the conservation and management of such systems in China and globally.


Coptis; Agricultural heritage system; Anthropological lens; China-NAIHS; GIAHS; Coptis traditional production system; Shizhu County

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