What can we learn from a cultural analysis of the village landscape-the interwoven field of physical environment, moral agency, and historical memory in which particular places gather and keep a people's sense of themselves? This landscape approach gives priority to villagers' conscious representations, analyses and understandings of their relationship to place.

Changing government policies in China during the past century have been a conscious effort to alter the relations of production. Thus any portrait of how villagers today conceive of their relationship to the land must refer to an indigenous account of the historical processes through which this relationship has been formulated. Values and beliefs concerning land and place are not static but part of a dynamic interaction between people, policies and experiences and include the knowledge acquired by doing. While notions of place draw on so-called "traditional" constructs, these constructs have been selected and validated by reference to immediate historical and material experience.