Tengtou: a perfect village

By Stephen Sacks
0 CommentsPrint E-mail China.org.cn, September 13, 2010
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An old proverb states "a beautiful thing is never perfect," but any individual sufficiently privileged to set foot in Tengtou Village might question that. Indeed, the adjective perfect can be debated; however, no sane person would question the beauty and harmony of this delightful village that lies in Zhejiang Province.


 Tengtou Village, Zhejiang Province. [photo by Hu Di, China.org.cn]


In 2007, the United Nations recognized Tengtou one of the most harmonious villages in the world. The village leaders' steadfast refusal to sacrifice the environment for economic gain has made it one of the world's top ecological villages. And yet, despite taking a principled environmental stand, Tengtou has risen from a poor village in the 1960s to an economic juggernaut, and proven that profits and progress can coexist with staunch ecological protection and preservation. 

Landscape plants in a greenhouse in Tengtou [photo by Hu Di, China.org.cn] 


The urban philosopher Dominic Torreto says, "Only two things matter—what you can and can't do." In Tengtou, businesses can make money, but they can't harm the environment.  


These days, concern for the environment is nothing novel, but as far back as the mid-80s, Tengtou rejected economically enriching business ventures if they were likely to bring pollution. Then, in the early 90s, it had the foresight to create its own environmental protection committee. And this wasn't some toothless committee constructed for public-relations purposes. Any one member could veto a project that threatened the environment, and 46 times business plans have indeed been rejected for their pollution potential.


Tengtou, a village based in agriculture, modernized its irrigation system and crop selection, and then expanded into clothing manufacturing as a way of diversifying, and now the Ningbo Tengtou Group oversees 60 enterprises and has achieved a 17-percent growth rate since 1997.


For whatever reason, harmony is not a term often used or appreciated in the West. Perhaps because there's no way to measure it; it's too abstract a concept. But here in Tengtou, with an invitation-only population of 817, each individual strives for harmony and firmly believes it's attainable and its benefits are tangible.


During our all-too-brief visit to Tengtou, a ragtag group of international journalists, we didn't meet many villagers, as they were busy working amidst the harmony. The few village leaders whom we met solemnly assured us the population was completely happy.


In fact, leaders profess that such is the state of harmony that no one even considers leaving the village, and to further impress, the crime rate is zero, which I suppose isn't such a surprise when harmony is the perpetual objective. For most of us, a perfect state of harmony is impossible to fathom, but for the villagers of Tengtou, according to village leaders, utter harmony is their daily life.


As we strolled through the village, mingling with doves, passing streams so clear you can see your reflection, and occasionally making a necessary pit stop at Tengtou's environmentally perfected toilets, where each flush releases the perfect amount of water, not a drop in excess, a German colleague remarked, "Somehow, they've gone beyond perfect."

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