Agriculture and Landscape Ecology

The Influences of Various Factors and Interest Demands on Linpan Landscape Evolution in the Chengdu Plain: A Qualitative Study based on Oral Histories

  • ZHOU Lian ,
  • HUANG Xueyuan , * ,
  • ZHANG Lei , *
  • College of Landscape Architecture, Sichuan Agricultural University, Chengdu 611130, China
*HUANG Xueyuan, E-mail: ; ZHANG Lei, E-mail:

ZHOU Lian, E-mail:

Received date: 2021-07-15

  Accepted date: 2022-02-22

  Online published: 2023-01-31

Supported by

The National Natural Science Foundation of China(52008278)


Traditional rural homegarden agroforestry systems in the Chengdu Plain of China are often referred to as “Linpan” in Chinese, which integrates the landscape of ecological functions and human production activities. In recent years, due to the influences of urbanization and the aging population, the Linpan landscape has changed dramatically. Clarifying the factors which influence Linpan landscape evolution is a critical way to improve rural landscape renovation. Through oral history interviews, the deep-seated factors driving the evolution of the Linpan landscape form from 1949 to 2020 are explored using the grounded theory. The results show that in the process of Linpan landscape evolution, beneficiary groups, the material basis, and cultural characteristics are the prerequisites for changing the Linpan settlement landscape. The demand of production and life and government-led behavior are the two main influencing factors, and landscape change is the final result. The demand of production and life from the residents is the primary internal driving force of landscape change, while government-led behavior is the main external driving force of settlement development and evolution. The nature of the main driving forces behind the evolution of the Linpan landscape in the Chengdu Plain can be divided into three stages. (1) From 1949 to 1980, it was characterized as a balancing of government forces and social forces. (2) From 1981 to 1993, it was characterized by social forces suppressing government forces. (3) From 1994 to 2020, it was characterized as a stalemate between the government and social forces. From the perspective of the evolution of the Linpan settlement landscape, the traditional Linpan form and settlement layout have been unable to meet the new requirements of the rural social and economic transition period. They are facing the challenges of rural reconstruction and rural revitalization. In the future, village and town planning and the design of new settlements need to comprehensively consider the demands of different interest groups.

Cite this article

ZHOU Lian , HUANG Xueyuan , ZHANG Lei . The Influences of Various Factors and Interest Demands on Linpan Landscape Evolution in the Chengdu Plain: A Qualitative Study based on Oral Histories[J]. Journal of Resources and Ecology, 2023 , 14(1) : 124 -136 . DOI: 10.5814/j.issn.1674-764x.2023.01.012

1 Introduction

Linpan is a typical rural landscape in the rural areas of the Chengdu Plain, China, which integrates production, life, and ecology (Liu et al., 2018). While maintaining the supply of ecosystem services and biodiversity, it integrates the landscape of ecological functions and human production activities (Liu et al., 2019b). The Linpan landscape has more than 4500 years of history and is still playing a role today (Min et al., 2020). However, with the rapid development of urbanization and the aging of residents in recent years, as well as the lack of infrastructure in the Linpan settlements and the improvement of residents’ demands for modern life services, these factors have led to the gradual hollowing out and extinction of the Linpan settlements (Yang, 2011), and the corresponding cultural landscape has also undergone significant changes (Fig. 1). Since the overall construction of urban and rural areas in Chengdu was conducted in 2003, Chengdu has been approved as an experimental area for comprehensive urban and rural area reforms. Through the comprehensive consolidation and circulation of land, rural residential areas gradually carried out a “demolished and enlarged” strategy and have built up the prelude to constructing a new countryside. Then, building a modern pastoral city strengthens the influences of the external factors of the city on the countryside, promotes the improvement of the environment in rural areas, and has positive significance for the coordinated development of urban and rural areas. Under this guiding ideology, some of the Linpan settlements with profound cultural connotations can be preserved. However, many of the valuable heritage and landscape resources have been destroyed (Li et al., 2019; Li et al., 2020). Moreover, the rapid progress of urbanization has fundamentally changed the scattered characteristics of the Linpan landscape (Huang et al., 2020). Therefore, some scholars have analyzed the climate regulation function (Liu et al., 2019a), and the spatial pattern and distribution characteristics (Guo et al., 2017) of Linpan from a macro point of view. Alternatively, some have identified the cultural landscape genes of multiple Linpan settlements and a single Linpan with the “Cultural Gene” theory (Chen et al., 2019) from a micro perspective. The driving forces of Linpan landscape change and typical cultural landscape characteristics can be revealed quantitatively.
Fig. 1 The change in the traditional Linpan landscape
Regarding the research on landscape changes and their driving factors in rural residential areas, some scholars have discussed them from the perspectives of landscape ecology and social culture (Hasselmann et al., 2010; López-Carr et al., 2012). Such studies have found that the natural environmental elements are only the primary conditions for the changes of the residential landscape, and the change in the farmers’ mode of production and way of life is the leading factor driving changes in the rural landscape. Since the reform and opening-up, with the increase in the economic income of the residents, their requirements for the quality of life have gradually improved, and the residents will accordingly transform and repair their external environment and housing, such as changes in the house structure and the hardening of the ground around the house (Fan, 1994). Subsequently, the scale of rural settlements in China generally shows a trend of rapid expansion (Long et al., 2009). However, the degree of hollowing out and aging of villages is gradually increasing, and the government’s inadequacies in the construction of new-style houses and the management of rural areas have gradually emerged (Wang et al., 2005). The acceleration of urbanization, the construction of infrastructure, the expansion of urban land, and changes in farmers’ way of life, mode of production, and concept of thinking will change the structure of rural settlements to a certain extent (Xing et al., 2007). Government policies, planning, and construction plans are the main factors driving the changing rural residential structure and distribution (Song et al., 2020). The construction of new communities and the formation of industrial agglomeration areas have led to significant changes in the traditional rural macro settlement system and meso spatial form. There is also a specific relationship between the evolution of the spatial structure of rural settlements and the culture with local characteristics (Wang and Zhou, 2011). Many scholars have explored the characteristics and patterns of rural landscape changes by digging up residents’ memories (Wang et al., 2008, 2015; Zhang et al., 2019; Wang et al., 2019). Some scholars have also begun to use oral history to study the changes in the rural settlement landscape. For example, Guo (2019) proposed that traditional villages be protected and studied through memory protection to investigate aboriginal oral history. Zhou (2019) believes that carrying out the “oral history” project in rural areas can find cultural roots and spiritual support for rural revitalization on the one hand, while it can also find problems and solutions for rural revitalization on the other hand.
In summary, the factors driving rural settlement evolution which are constantly discussed include various unnatural factors such as road traffic (Yang, 2017), urbanization construction (Li et al., 2015), regional culture (Wang and Wang, 2014), and socio-economic structure (Jian et al., 2021). The method of social investigation is mainly used to analyze the structure and evolution of rural settlements, and the method based on farmers’ memory and oral history is becoming more widely used in the study of rural settlement evolution. Studying the process driving the evolution of traditional rural settlements in China’s Chengdu Plain can first enrich the content of studies on the spatial evolution of rural settlements and provide some scientific reference for the protection and development of rural settlements. Second, in terms of the mechanism of the formation and evolution of the Linpan landscape, most of the existing studies analyze the formation and evolution of the Linpan landscape from a historical point of view and the macro-scale, but they seldom analyze the driving mechanism of the landscape evolution of the Linpan landscape from the meso and micro perspectives. Third, the previous research on the evolution mechanism of Linpan settlement has been mainly based on the collation and analysis of the published literature (Wu et al., 2020), with much less from stakeholders’ perspective, and there is a lack of farmers’ opinions on landscape planning and construction. For these reasons, this study uses the qualitative research method of combining oral history and grounded theory, with “the evolution of the Linpan landscape since 1949” as the main theme. The deep-seated reasons for the evolution of the rural landscape from the social and governmental forces are explored, and a conceptual model of the factors influencing landscape evolution is constructed to explore the critical influencing factors and the mechanisms of the influencing factors. The results can provide a reference for the protection and transformation of Linpan and the protection and utilization of agricultural cultural heritage in the future.

2 Materials and methods

2.1 Methods

Grounded theory is one of the essential methodologies in qualitative research (Sun, 2012). It uses hierarchical conceptual coding to extract concepts and categories from large sets of original data and it constantly improves the fundamental methods’ core categories and categories. From the perspective of characteristics, the grounded theory is not limited to empiricism but it also draws lessons from others, so the result is objective. Grounded theory is a data analysis strategy, not a data collection method (Li, 2007), so this study uses oral history to collect the data.
Oral history is a method for obtaining raw materials, which records valuable oral materials in the form of transcripts and recordings (Wiesner, 2021), including the personal experiences and feelings of the narrator, which can supplement and explain specific historical events. As a witness of historical events and based on the narrator’s memory of their experiences of specific historical events, the narrator can reflect the time and space of the event and witness the emotion of the group, as well as the process and result of the evolution of the event (Harte and Hazley, 2021). Oral history is especially suitable for studying the cognition and feelings of marginalized and vulnerable groups in mainstream society.
In the process of field research and interviews, it is found that different people and even government officials have a different understanding of landscape evolution. Therefore, it may not be adequate to directly design a single structured questionnaire and conduct a large quantitative study on the various people who have experienced the evolution of the Linpan landscape. Therefore, there are several steps in designing the outline of oral history interviews. First, the local archives, statistical bulletins, local chronicles, related works, and related papers are used as the primary literature (Li and Wang, 2016) to sort out the materials related to the subject and develop the interview outline. Second, a pilot pre-interview is conducted to supplement the shortcomings of the outline. Third, experts are invited to modify the interview outline. Finally, the formal interview outline for the oral history interview is established.
There are also several steps involved in actually conducting the interviews. First, evaluate the interviewees’ physical condition and their listening and speaking ability in the interview, and confirm that the interviewees are suitable for formal interviews on the subject. Second, record the interviewees’ demographic characteristics and the interview setting. Third, conduct a complete interview on the life history of the interviewees, and gain an overall understanding and grasp of the life experiences of the oral subjects to better understand the interviewees’ experiences during the oral theme in the context of their lives. According to the virtual nodes in the history of life, and according to the prepared memorabilia and interview outline, interview each participant on the specific historical details, combine the national, local, and individual levels (Wang, 2011), and take the critical events in the history as the starting point. The interview should include the local policy practices and public reactions and the individual experiences and the perceptions of the person as an oral source.

2.2 Data sources

Because the grounded theory requires the subjects of oral history interviews to understand the research problems, the people who have experienced the landscape changes of Linpan settlements are classified and analyzed. According to the attributes and interests of different groups, they are divided into: 1) Ordinary residents; 2) Rural cultural groups (village cadres, peasant entrepreneurs, clan leaders, teachers); 3) Government officials; and 4) Tourism managers. The methods of oral historical discussion and on-the-spot observation records are adopted to obtain the original qualitative data. From 12 January 2020 to 3 March 2021, 31 interviewees were selected in the traditional Linpan distribution areas such as Pidu District, Wenjiang District, Shuangliu District, Chongzhou City and Dujiangyan City, Chengdu City, Sichuan Province. This step was followed by the snowball method, where each interviewee suggested other people worth interviewing. The snowball method is justified to gain trust (Storie and Bell, 2017), however, care was taken to avoid network homogeneity (Luyet et al., 2012). Morse (1994), a famous American scholar, believed that when using the grounded theory to do research, the number of interviews should be in the range of 30 to 50 people, and the numbers of interviews based on oral history in China are mostly between 10 and 30 people (Xu, 2019). The number of oral history interviews in this paper meets these requirements, as the interviewees included 13 ordinary residents, six rural cultural groups, six government officials, and six tourism managers.
The questionnaire for the semi-structured interviews was divided into three broad sections of the life history of the individual interviews, the rural experience in Linpan, and the role of rural governance in Linpan. For ordinary residents and rural cultural groups, the interviews focused on three broad topics: quality of life at each stage; what has happened to the local landscape and how it has changed; how to adapt to these changes; as well as what they perceived to be the quality of the landscape. The government officials and tourism managers were asked about the policy at all stages, how significant regional developments have impacted the residents’ production methods, and what changes they have seen in the village. The interviews were recorded and lasted for two hours on average. A total of more than 460000 words of oral history materials were obtained. The basic statistics of the respondents are shown in Table 1.
Table 1 Basic statistical information of the respondents
Type Classification standard Number of people Proportion (%)

Male 17 54.84
Female 14 45.16


≤ 40 yr 2 6.45
40-50 yr 3 9.68
50-60 yr 6 19.35
60-70 yr 4 12.90
70-80 yr 11 35.49
80-90 yr 3 9.68
≥ 90 yr 2 6.45
Education level

Primary school education and below 12 38.71
Junior high school education level 10 32.26
Education level above senior high school 9 29.03
Ordinary residents 13 41.95
Rural cultural groups 6 19.35
Government officials 6 19.35
Tourism managers 6 19.35

3 Category extraction and model construction

3.1 Open coding

Open coding is a preliminary analysis of the data that is useful for refining concepts and naming them (Wang et al., 2017). Open coding aims to identify phenomena, define concepts and discover categories. The oral history materials including more than 460000 words collected from the interviewees on the landscape change of the Linpan settlement were imported into Nvivo 11 software. The data were then conceptualized one by one. The data were classified, summarized, and explained with a short name or phrase, and the initial concept was gradually enriched until the extracted initial concept covered all the connotations of the interviewees’ cognition of the landscape change of the Linpan. After conceptualizing all the oral materials and eliminating the initial concepts with a shallow frequency (less than three occurrences), a total of 270 initial concepts were obtained. Through the repeated comparison of the initial concepts, those initial concepts with similar meanings, the same type, or the existence of causality were classified and merged. The higher-level concepts of these initial concepts were extracted to form the nomenclature of the preliminary category. Through analysis and comparison, a total of 43 preliminary categories affecting the change of Linpan settlement landscape were extracted and later translated into English, that is, 43 main factors (Appendix A).

3.2 Axial coding

Axial coding mainly classifies, synthesizes, and organizes the results of open coding; it merges and clusters the results of open coding to make them more directional and theoretical, and it establishes the relationships between the preliminary categories and the primary categories (Wang et al., 2017). In the spindle coding stage, the extraction covers six main categories of the 43 initial categories, namely, beneficiary groups, material basis, cultural characteristics, production and life needs, government-led behavior and landscape changes (Fig. 2).
Fig. 2 Analysis diagram of the extraction results of the 43 major categories
The extraction of the ideas of the main categories has six components. 1) The interviewees play different roles in the changing process of the Linpan settlement landscape, and the will of the villagers is affected by differences in expectations and civilized literature. The interaction between crowd characteristics and influencing factors forms particular beneficiary groups. Since the interviewees’ cognition of the Linpan settlement landscape change is affected by the crowd characteristics, civilization literacy, expectation differences, villagers’ will, and other factors, and there is a logical causal relationship between the interviewees and the Linpan settlement landscape change process, it can be summarized as the beneficiary groups. 2) Under the beneficiary groups’ domination, the Linpan settlements in the areas with better soil conditions, ecological backgrounds, and location conditions can be better preserved, and these places also have advantages in traffic conditions, supporting facilities, and plant species. At the same time, they are more able to resist natural disasters. Although these elements do not belong to the same content, they constitute the material basis of the Linpan settlement landscape. 3) The composition of the Linpan settlement landscape is inseparable from its cultural connotation, so the elements such as Linpan culture, farming culture, water conservancy culture, and local culture can be summarized as cultural characteristics. 4) As a compound rural settlement form formed by agricultural houses and the external environment in the Chengdu Plain, the function of production and life is the most important for the residents. The production activities of residents involve land use, water conservancy disputes, water quality, agricultural machinery, forest use, and grain production. The local complex, country life, livelihood choices, neighborhood relationships, economic income, industrial transformation, and other factors constitute the main memories of residents in different stages of rural life. Therefore, from the perspective of influencing factors, the demand of production and life can better cover the influencing factors. 5) In addition to the social forces, the government forces also occupy an important position in changing the Linpan settlement landscape. In different historical stages, government publicity and policy conditions have promoted tourism development, development and management, centralized residences, and environmental improvement. Therefore, these elements can be summarized as government-led behavior. 6) Under the influences of the demand of production and life and the government-led behavior, the settlement landscape of Linpan is bound to change; and this change is embodied in the overall style and features, residential landscape, field landscape, water conservancy landscape, forest landscape, road landscape, animal landscape, public space, and market-town development.

3.3 Selective coding and conceptual model construction

Selective coding is used to select a core category that can dominate all concepts and categories after a systematic analysis of the concepts and categories which are analyzed, so that all of the analyses can be focused on the core categories (Cai et al., 2018). In the open and axial coding stage, the extracted main category has covered all the necessary elements of “factors influencing Linpan landscape change”. On this basis, the reserved oral material is embedded into the extracted main category, and after verification, if it is found that the extracted main category cannot cover all the comment sentences, then the new main category is further extracted. On the contrary, if it has reached a saturated state, then we can stop further data collection and the conceptual model can be constructed. Through this triple process of coding, a six-dimensional conceptual model of “factors influencing Linpan landscape change” is formed, which is composed of “beneficiary groups-material basis-cultural characteristics-demand of production and life-government led behavior-landscape change” (Fig. 3). Among them, the beneficiary groups, material basis and cultural characteristics are the prerequisites for the factors influencing Linpan settlement landscape change, while the demand of production and life and government-led behavior are the core factors. Landscape change results from the influences of social and government forces.
Fig. 3 The conceptual model of factors influencing Linpan landscape evolution

4 Model interpretation and research findings

4.1 Rural landscapes of different periods and types

In the oral history interviews, two important time points for the change of the Linpan landscape were found. First, China’s Sichuan Province began to implement the new policy of reform and opening-up in 1981, which realized a complete change in the mode of agricultural land use. Second, the rural economy and culture of Sichuan Province entered a period of rapid development after 1994. Before and after these two time points, the villages of the Chengdu Plain had different development patterns. Therefore, the modern evolutionary process of the Linpan landscape is divided into the three periods of agricultural collectivization (1949-1980), rural socio-economic reform (1981-1993) and rural socio-economic transition (1994-2020).

4.1.1 Period of agricultural collectivization (1949-1980)

Before 1949, Linpan was the residence of self-farmers and sharecroppers, while the landlord class often controlled large Linpan settlements. The founding of the people’s Republic of China in October 1949 brought about a series of land and economic system changes. After the land ownership of the landlord class was eliminated, the Chinese government redistributed the land, and the ownership of the Linpan settlements changed. The residents of the Linpan settlements were no longer a united whole, but individuals who had moved in from different places. During this period, the Linpan settlements in the Chengdu Plain had many similarities with the villages in other parts of China. Under the promotion of collectivization, a series of infrastructure facilities, such as road systems and water conservancy facilities, were comprehensively built, which changed the external landscape pattern of the Linpan settlements. However, due to the production requirements of agricultural collectivization, residents had changed from being scattered to relatively centralized to facilitate management. The wooden houses and trees in the excess settlements were used as fuel for public canteens, resulting in a significant reduction in the Linpan settlements. Obviously, during this time, the internal order of the Linpan had changed. As China’s population policy led to the continuous increase in the population, the living space inside the settlement showed a tight development trend.
However, agricultural collectivization also had some advantages to a certain extent. During this period, some farmland infrastructure construction which would be difficult for individual farmers to complete could been carried out, which enhanced the ability to resist natural disasters. The tortuous irrigation canal system was transformed into a square canal system to enhance irrigation efficiency. The fields, which were initially uneven with different sizes and shapes, were unified into standardized farmland. This practice changed the local farmland texture, made the field more compatible with square irrigation canals, and facilitated the vertical laying of agricultural canals. This measure improved land cultivation, which laid a solid foundation for increasing grain production and income. A uniform field can also form a very consistent landscape.

4.1.2 Period of rural socio-economic reform (1981-1993)

After the implementation of China’s reform and opening-up policy, the farmland changed from collective farming to individual farming, which increased farmers' enthusiasm. The income of rural residents increased significantly, and sufficient savings were accumulated in the 1980s. Therefore, it became commonplace and urgent for residents to repair and rebuild their houses in the 1980s. Moreover, due to the opening of economic policy, the development of township enterprises brought about land annexation. Some residents needed to move to other places to live, which motivated the following landscape changes.
In 1986, the establishment of the villagers’ committee meant that the rule of the village had devolved from the national level to the grass-roots level, and the village had embarked on the road to autonomy. The importance of traffic location also began to be highlighted. In the process of settlement expansion, the influence of external factors such as traffic conditions gradually increased. In the process of housing renewal, the accumulated demand for human settlement space during the collectivization period was alleviated in the building boom. Part of the traditional culture was preserved under the influence of modern materials and cultural needs. The rural settlement at this time had both traditional and modern characteristics, showing a transitional form.
On the other hand, in the early 1990s, the popularization of hybrid rice and chemical fertilizers significantly increased grain production, resulting in a sharp decline in the economic value of grain and the benefit of farmers’ cultivated land. Farmers became more inclined to go out to work in their livelihood choices. It should also be pointed out that the bamboo and forest declined in function during this period due to the emergence of more robust and more durable agricultural tools made from other materials, and the income of residents was no longer entirely dependent on traditional agriculture.

4.1.3 Period of rural socio-economic transition (1994-2020)

Since the Seventh National People’s Congress, China’s economic development has entered a significant inflection point. Since the mid-1990s, the rate of economic growth has increased significantly. Compared with the comprehensive reform in the previous period, the countryside developed into a relatively stable social environment, and the rural economy and culture developed rapidly. The countryside was no longer an individual entity with independent development but was now affected by modern transportation networks, industrial chains, and information networks.
Since 2003, under the action of “three centralizations (industry to centralized development areas, farmers to towns and new communities, and land to moderate scale management)” actively promoted by the government, rural construction land has expanded in pieces. As a whole, it has broken through the original landscape pattern, and the impact of location conditions on settlement development reflected in the previous stage has continued to strengthen, resulting in a change in the mode of land management in the suburbs. At the same time, the development of rural tourism has led to changes in the local economy and culture, and significant changes have taken place in rural industrial structure, land use, and housing style. In particular, the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008 accelerated the process of some residents with poor housing conditions moving from scattered to more concentrated living conditions. Residential areas in this period tend to be more intensive, and the function and culture of the traditional Linpan are in further decline.

4.2 Analysis of the driving mechanism of landscape evolution

In landscape evolution, the demand of production and life of residents is the primary internal driving force of rural landscape change, while government-led behavior is the main external driving force of settlement development and evolution. However, their effects on Linpan landscape evolution were different in the different periods.
(1) During the agricultural collectivization period (1949-1980), the economic development was slow, the population gradually increased, and people’s demand for housing was not strong, so the reorganization or expansion of the original houses and the new courtyards was mainly based on the traditional courtyards in the village. Inheriting and developing local traditional construction experience showed that the growth of settlements was still driven by meeting the spiritual needs of the people as influenced by traditional culture. It showed an orderly state of the development and evolution of the settlement, followed the internal order of the settlement growth, and could still maintain its relative stability and independent evolution. In this stage, agricultural production was still the main work of Linpan residents, and the agricultural landscape was dominant in the countryside. At this stage, the Linpan landscape showed irregular, free and other morphological characteristics. However, in the early days of the founding of New China, various government systems and policies indirectly led to the destruction of many traditional spaces and cultural characteristics of the settlements. Due to an urban-rural isolation system, the spread of urban landscapes to rural areas was relatively slow. The rural spatial structure and form were very closed and stable during this period, and the corresponding rural landscape spatial pattern was composed of towns, large-scale Linpan settlements and other centers, and widely distributed scattered Linpan. The hierarchical structure between them was clear, the essential characteristics were homogeneous and orderly, the spontaneous growth of space occupied the central position, the human influence was more significant, and the role of government forces was small. To sum up, at this stage, the spiritual demand under the influence of traditional culture was the primary internal driving force, government forces mainly played a role in the overall regulation of the rural landscape, and rural space had the characteristics of spontaneous growth.
(2) During the period of rural social-economic reform (1981-1993), with the rapid development of the economy, the change in the industrial structure and people’s yearning for urban life, the change of residents’ concept of life, led to the rapid expansion of settlements. And the villagers’ houses gradually moved closer to the roads. At the same time, to pursue economic development, the intensity of interference in the countryside was increasing, which was reflected in the landscape as the encroachment of other types of landscape land on agricultural land, but basically in the small-scale occupation of agricultural land. The land structure began to change. The transformation from a traditional planned economy to a market economy was the most crucial factor affecting the landscape form of Linpan settlements, which were market-oriented at this stage. The rapid development of homogenization characterized the Linpan settlements, and the rapid advance of urbanization fundamentally changed the scattered characteristics of Linpan settlements. The original equilibrium of the spatial distribution of Linpan settlements had been broken, and the rural market had become a fixed place under the government’s leadership, forming a single relatively powerful combination of economic center and surrounding Linpan settlement, and the landscape spatial differences gradually appeared. In the rural areas close to the urban construction areas, the regional space of the agricultural landscape began to be occupied, and there were large-scale landscape changes in rural areas, especially in developed areas. The opening of policies, diversification of investors, and flexible land systems promoted rural areas’ construction power, but it was easy to produce disorderly landscape forms, such as abandoned old settlements and new settlements distributed along the roads. To sum up, at this stage, the transformation from a traditional planned economy to a market economy was the primary internal driving force that affected the landscape form of Linpan settlements, while the opening of policies and other factors promoted the construction power of the rural areas. Rural space had the characteristics of homogenization and rapid development.
(3) During the period of rural social-economic transformation (from 1994 to 2020), the development of the economy and transportation has made the rural and urban areas connect more efficiently. With the large-scale invasion of modern communication media and the expansion of urbanization, the cultural model dominated by urban culture has been promoted to rural areas, which has changed the residents’ requirements for a living environment. The Linpan settlement landscape form gradually lost its regional characteristics and tends toward an urban living style in the development process. Architectural styles from other areas spread to Linpan residents in various ways, promoting the diversity of architectural styles in the Chengdu Plain. Rural urbanization has also changed rural residents’ spiritual needs, ideas, and value systems, leading to the disappearance of some of the residents’ identity with the original rural traditional culture and the decline of Linpan culture. For example, the weakening of the clan concept has led to changes in the status of ancestral halls. In the planning and construction of residential buildings, the local government provides a template for the renovation and reconstruction of Linpan dwellings, inherits and develops local characteristics appropriately, makes its rural landscape continue the original texture to a certain extent, and embodies the positive role of guidance. However, the degree of response from the residents has varied. With the government’s robust construction of rural infrastructure, the landscape shape of the original Linpan settlement has been changed. Cities and towns will have an essential exogenous impact on the evolution of rural settlements. There is a close relationship between the town and the Linpan settlement, and the Linpan settlement is characterized as being distributed around the built-up area of the town. With the prosperity of tourism, since some Linpan settlements have better traffic conditions, these Linpan settlements are affected by the extroverted forces of the city and tourism construction has begun to appear in the Linpan settlement landscape. The construction of concentrated residential areas imitates the urban model, showing a simple determinant layout, while the internal space tends to be homogenized, showing noticeable urban assimilation, which is quite different from the original form of the Linpan settlement. To sum up, at this stage, the residents’ spiritual needs and ideas are the primary internal driving forces, but the role of government power is also increasing, and the rural areas show a clear phenomenon of urban assimilation.

4.3 Demands of different groups on the development of Linpan landscape

(1) Ordinary residents appreciate the process of the Linpan settlement landscape change, and the intensity of positive perception is in the following order: the demand of production and life, government-led behavior, beneficiary groups, landscape change, material basis, and cultural characteristics. In terms of the demand of production and life, ordinary residents hope that the government will further improve the maintenance and management of the Dujiang Dam irrigation canal system, improve the richness of rural cultural life, and improve infrastructure construction. Some residents with poor living conditions hope to move into concentrated residential areas as soon as possible. Secondly, ordinary residents fully understand the economic value of landscape changes and hope that the government can guide more tourism development, increase nearby employment opportunities, and show a solidly supportive attitude. Third, ordinary residents feel frustrated by the decline of the cultural characteristics of Linpan and think that Linpan tourism lacks these important characteristics.
(2) The rural cultural groups hope to balance the interests of the relevant subjects and carry out rural development planning reasonably. Most of the rural cultural groups interviewed have a negative attitude towards the protection of Linpan. Rural cultural groups believe that in the landscape changes, the grassroots government audit and control is the primary factor, and the government behavior is based on political achievements, neglecting the protection of traditional culture. In coordinating the relationship between scattered settlements and concentrated residential areas, the farming distance is not considered and, to a certain extent, this has caused the destruction of water sources, which aggravates the phenomenon of the recessive abandonment of cultivated land. At the same time, under the development of “aging” in rural areas, most of the elderly are no longer able to farm, which is one reason why seedlings often occupy farmland. As a result, the degree of recognition of the Linpan settlement landscape is reduced, and the boundary is blurred. Some rural cultural groups believe that under the premise of ensuring the economic income of residents, proper consideration should be given to restoring the original function of the field and the convenience of farming. This would ensure social security and stability, resolve the livelihood of residents, restore the flood-drought rotation system in the Dujiang Dam irrigation area, and appropriately guide residents to restore the traditional Linpan settlement style and field landscape.
(3) As the beneficiaries of the development of rural tourism in the past two decades, tourism managers hope that the government and the media will strengthen the publicity of the culture of “Linpan in west Sichuan” and expand its popularity and influence to attract a broader range of tourists. At the same time, they also believe that the phenomenon of convergence in the development of Linpan tourist destinations is serious, and differential development should be carried out. The phenomenon of “aging” in Linpan settlements is serious, so tourists cannot feel the authenticity of Linpan culture. If the population’s age composition can be restored in the Linpan, then the Linpan culture can be rejuvenated and passed on. In the future development of tourism, tourism managers will regard the cultural elements of Linpan as the design elements guided by “nostalgic pastoralism” to attract middle-aged and elderly tourists with a nostalgia complex, and to attract young tourists for the cultural experience.
(4) From the point of view of managers, government officials are proud of the development of the Linpan settlement. Government officials believe that traditional Linpan settlements exist: first, scattered residences and low efficiency of land resource utilization; second, lag of foundation and public facilities; third, single function and severely hollowed out; and finally, buildings are in disrepair, and there are hidden dangers and other reasons. With land circulation and concentrated residential areas, more land is available for economic development. However, the countryside still takes on the function of agricultural production. Especially in the essential irrigation area of Dujiang Dam which has excellent crop production conditions, it is necessary to strictly protect the valuable agricultural resources from the strategic perspective and the overall regional perspective. Secondly, the forest, water, fields, and other ecological environmental components of the Linpan settlement also provide residents with clean water, a beautiful landscape, a pleasant climate, and other ecological products, and not because the residents break away from cultivated land and unlimited construction land expansion. At the same time, it strengthens the protection of the overall style of the Linpan and residential reconstruction and renovation from the auditing efforts to guide the construction of residential buildings.

5 Discussion

In the course of oral history interviews, when an “outsider” raised the topic of historical changes and modern protection of the local landscape, it initially aroused tension and mistrust of the interviewees. However, in the end, all the interviewees showed a strong attachment and interest in managing and protecting the Linpan. In this study, an interesting phenomenon was found—that the people who benefit directly or indirectly from the rural landscape, such as family farmers and tourism managers, are more sensitive to the landscape. We paid a return visit to the older residents on this issue, and the older residents think that over an extended period, the changes of the surrounding environment were relatively slow, resulting in little difference in their perceptual information. Furthermore, local knowledge is usually related to skills, and older residents do not think that this local knowledge is agricultural cultural heritage.
As stated by García de Jalón et al. (2018), “discussions among stakeholders involved in the participatory process helped to assess the relative importance of changes in agroforestry systems.” Nevertheless, respondents may be more likely to focus on the courtyard where they live and the relatively small area of the surrounding site. The results show that the demand of production and life of the villagers’ will, local complex, water quality, neighborhood relationships, grain production, economic income, tourism development, development and management, and environmental improvement are the main forces driving the stability and maintenance of the traditional rural landscape. In contrast, natural disasters, water conservancy disputes, livelihood choices, forest use and centralized residences are the driving forces which are leading to adverse changes in the traditional rural landscape. In addition, these driving forces have led to changes in the corresponding cultural landscape, and critical issues related to planning and management are occurring today. Government-led behavior sometimes fails to consider the education level of elderly residents, leading to misunderstandings among them. For example, in 2019, the problem of environmental protection in rural areas banned rural residents from raising livestock, so the phenomenon of raising chickens under the forest and ducks in ditches in the forest almost disappeared, and the local government confiscated the pigs from the homes of some interviewees. The interviewees’ requests for self-disposal of these animals were not recognized. Before promoting “ecological civilization,” burning straw as fertilizer was once a common practice, but it is now defined as illegal for possible environmental reasons, but it is still a way to save time and fertilizer costs according to residents. These phenomena show that social needs can make local knowledge obsolete.
Current research shows that rational tourism development is considered to be the best practice of local stakeholders, which can promote the protection and utilization of agricultural cultural heritage and increase the income of some residents (Zhou et al., 2022). However, some studies have shown that the tourism development of farmers’ livelihood may also threaten heritage protection (Zhang et al., 2019). At present, there are few local policies to support traditional agricultural income, and local governments pay more attention to the economic benefits brought by tourism development. However, in the development of tourism, residents are separated from the land due to the change in the role of landscape management, resulting in the loss of traditional knowledge, such as the lack of maintenance of the irrigation canals and farmers becoming tourism workers.
In this study, the selection of interview subjects is comprehensively considered according to their different identities, and the adequacy of the interviewed subjects is ensured as far as possible in terms of quantity and coverage. However, as an exploratory study, there are some shortcomings. First, the scope of the study is limited to the traditional irrigation area of the Dujiang Dam irrigation canal system, and the landscape differences between the traditional irrigation area and the new irrigation area of the Dujiang Dam irrigation canal system are not taken into account, resulting in the limitations of the study. Therefore, the conclusion lacks universality on a large scale. Second, because the interview materials obtained are open, many repetitive or isolated data materials could not be analyzed and summarized.

6 Conclusions

In this study, based on oral history interviews, the process of changes and driving mechanisms of the Linpan landscape from 1949 to 2020 were analyzed. The main conclusions are as follows.
(1) The evolutionary process of the Linpan landscape can be divided into three stages. During the period of economic collectivization from 1949 to 1980, its driving force was characterized by the balance of government forces and social forces. During the period of rural social and economic reform from 1981 to 1993, its driving force was characterized by social forces suppressing government forces. In the period of rural social and economic transformation from 1994 to 2020, its driving force was characterized by a stalemate between government forces and social forces.
(2) In the change of the Linpan settlement landscape, the coupling relationships of various elements are different in different periods. Beneficiary groups, material basis, and cultural characteristics are the prerequisites for changing the Linpan settlement landscape. The demand of production and life and government-led behavior are the two primary influencing factors, and landscape change is the final result. The demand of production and life of Linpan residents is the primary internal driving force of landscape change, while government-led behavior is the primary external driving force of settlement development and evolution. As a result, the overall development and change process of the Linpan settlement has been transformed from relatively stable and orderly self-organizing characteristics to heterogeneous and disorderly expansion patterns.
(3) From the perspective of the evolution of the Linpan settlement landscape, the traditional Linpan form and settlement layout have been unable to meet the new requirements of the rural social and economic transition period. They are facing the challenges of rural reconstruction and rural revitalization. The planning of villages and towns and the design of new settlements need to comprehensively consider the demands of different interest groups, which cannot be achieved through the simple transformation of the infrastructure of traditional Linpan settlements, nor can we simply copy the construction of urban communities. There should be a new type of Linpan settlement to develop a modern forest industry and residents, reflecting the relationship between urban and rural areas in the new era and the rural expression of the Park City.
Table 2 Appendix A Extraction results of the preliminary categories
Initial concept Preliminary category
The government advocates the restoration of Linpan; the government conducts a census of agricultural folklore; the government publicized the Linpan; …… Government publicity
The government encourages farmers to develop sideline activities; lack of policy; quick implementation of policies; respond to national policy; …… Policy conditions
Differential development of rural tourism; the government leads the development of rural tourism; the rise of farm fun; …… Tourism development
Restoration of Linpan during the cultural revolution; the destruction of Linpan by collectivization; the Linpan is dilapidated after the reform and opening-up; …… Historical stage
The government unifies the types of crops; post-disaster reconstruction; there is no plan for the newly built houses; village community amalgamation; …… Development and management
Land occupation and demolition; the advantages of centralized living; change from scattered residence to centralized residence; …… Centralized residence
Improvement of the rural environment; sanitary environment of Linpan; great efforts have been made to improve the environment; …… Environmental improvement
Natural disaster; climate deterioration; …… Natural disaster
There are many kinds of plants; plant level; …… Plant species
Soil differences; the soil quality cannot repair the earthen house; fertilizer use; …… Soil condition
Ecological advantages of planting trees; excellent ecological environment; nearby mountains to cultivate forests; ecological function of Linpan; …… Ecological background
The Linpan is close to the road; the Linpan is close to the water source; shipping is booming; …… Location condition
Construction of a sewage treatment plant; lack of exercise places in rural areas; the infrastructure of the tourist destination is perfect; …… Supporting facilities
Traffic condition advantages; change of means of transportation; improve the efficiency of catching up to the market; …… Traffic conditions
Self-flow irrigation; history and culture of the Dujiang Dam; …… Water conservancy culture
Design elements of farming culture; intensive and meticulous farming; a variety of agricultural instruments; …… Farming culture
Linpan as the material basis of blind date; the cultural characteristics of Linpan; …… Linpan culture
Immigrant culture; temple culture; festival activities; fengshui culture; legend of place name; heritage with local characteristics; …… Local culture
The improvement of ideological consciousness; cultural life pursues improvement; the quality of the Linpan determines the quality of residents; …… Civilization literacy
Rural aging; the origin of people with foreign surnames; educational level; birth element; …… Crowd characteristics
Looking forward to the development of rural tourism; want to live together; a sense of powerlessness towards environmental protection; …… Expectation differences
Spontaneously protected Linpan; spontaneously protect the environment; migrant workers return to their hometown; villagers’ autonomy; …… Villagers’ will
Homesickness memory; hometown develops well; the memory of the water roller; the beauty of the countryside; …… Local complex
Country life; looking for firewood; herding cattle; rural recreational activities; keeping busy with farming; …… Country life
Rebuild the house in situ; land consolidation; land transfer; plant trees in the field; …… Land use
The government protects water sources; source of domestic water; the river water is drinkable; there are fish in the ditch; …… Water quality
Competition for water between upstream and downstream; facilitate the use of water downstream, resulting in a shortage of water upstream; …… Water conservancy disputes
Table 2 Appendix A (Continued)
Initial concept Preliminary category
Change of planting pattern; it is easy to plant flowers and trees; organic vegetable cultivation; go out to work; make a living by craftsmanship; …… Livelihood choices
Machinery takes the place of manpower; electric power development; pumping groundwater to irrigate farmland; …… Agricultural machinery
Trees are used to repair houses; Linpan is the place to draw materials for production and daily life appliances; …… Forest use
Residents help each other; the relationship between neighbors; many families share a well; …… Neighborhood relationship
The function of the oil mill; application of Water Roller in grain processing; use fertilizer to increase yield; …… Grain production
The economic benefit of farming is low; economic advantages of planting trees; increase in income of residents around tourist destinations; …… Economic income
The relationship between tourism and the seedling industry is low; in the adjustment of industrial structure, planting flowers and trees is more than growing grain; …… Industrial transformation
Roof material; tree materials are replaced by bricks; wall material change; the old house is demolished and a new brick house is built; …… Residential landscape
Planting crop type; paddy and upland rotation system; change the field to plant flowers and trees; the practice of improving soil; …… Field landscape
Plant trees to consolidate the embankment; the construction of the highway leads to blocking the water supply; landscape development of the canal system; …… Water conservancy landscape
The style and features of the countryside have changed greatly; Linpan makes the environment beautiful; the composition of the courtyard; …… Overall style and features
Bamboo is devalued and trees are replanted; the number of trees is increasing; flowers and trees beautify the environment; …… Forest landscape
There is a well in the courtyard; like to play in the sun; the public space under the tree; women don’t go into teahouses; …… Public space
Changes in the number of birds; animal species change; …… Animal landscape
Build a greenway; the formation of country paths; improvement of road conditions; …… Road landscape
Workshops sprang up and gradually formed a town; grocery store; wharf; development and construction of the market-town; …… Market-town development
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