Taking a topographical approach, this article provides an account of social change in the village of Xiaocun in Yunnan since the early twentieth century. For a century, the villagers have dwelled in the local environment, both changing and creating the village landscape. This article describes various facets of this landscape transformation, especially land use, and links them to their historical contexts. Today, the farmers and the local government have come to share developmentalism as a common-core doctrine. Thus these farmers on the whole do not adhere to any so-called “tradition,” while they do act on their need to acquire more land, water, food, and living space within political and economic constraints. In many cases, they appeared to be even more radical developmentalists than that of the modernization-oriented state. This, perhaps, is a result of what Michael Herzfeld called “the local knowledge — the ‘intellectual traditions’ — of those cunning planners and scientists who have managed to persuade so many citizens of so many countries to honor them for their ‘vision.’”

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