Community blemish or new dawn for the public realm? Governance challenges for self-claimed gardens in urban China

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

6 Scopus Citations
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  • Jin Zhu
  • Bao-Jie He
  • Weicheng Tang
  • Sian Thompson


Original languageEnglish
Article number102750
Journal / PublicationCities
Online published4 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


In China, self-claimed vegetable lots are emerging in urban communities through the appropriation of public green lands, a paralleled ‘guerrilla gardening’ phenomenon. However, disputes and conflicts arise due to the contested method of garden acquisition. Moreover, these gardens are rather stigmatised due to the urban-biased regulations embedded in China's aggressive urbanisation agenda, indicating the gap between grassroots spatial demand and top-down regulations. Using the case of Hangzhou, this paper aims to understand the governance challenges of self-claimed gardens in urban China through stakeholder interviews and survey. Findings reveal that the attitudes, interests and influences of gardeners, non-gardeners and community officials contribute to a cyclical spatial transformation between green land and gardens. The stigmatisation of and conflicts around gardens result from both an unfair stereotype of ‘uncivilised behaviour’ and inconsiderate ways of growing vegetables. The case study has also demonstrated that gardens have provided benefits in setting up social ties and strengthening a sense of community in China's high-density built environment. The governance structure of gardens should be shifted with the help of planning system refinement to de-stigmatise and legitimise gardening and increase the promising possibility of gardens becoming a new dawn for the public realm.

Research Area(s)

  • Community governance, Disputes and conflicts, Guerrilla gardening, Rapid urbanisation, Self-claimed gardens