Productive Urban Landscapes

Research and practice around the CPUL design concept

Aerial photo showing expanse of the symbiotic landscape (source: Zhejiang China 2022)

The Mulberry Dike Fish Pond System, China

One of the food production systems we explored recently is the Mulberry Dike Fish Pond System. Being a productive agricultural landscape in its own right, Dong Chu suggested to revisit it as part of a potential Productive Urban Landscape.

In 2017, the Mulberry Dike Fish Pond System in Huzhou, Zhejiang province, was identified by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as ‘an important global agricultural cultural heritage’ (GIAHS).

Diagram showing the loop of the Mulberry Dike Fish Pond System (source: The Plan Journal, 2022)

The Mulberry Dike Fish Pond System (source: The Plan Journal 2022)

According to historical records, the first Mulberry Dike Fish Pond System was built more than 2500 years ago in the Spring and Autumn period (BC 770 – BC 221) and became prosperous in the Tang Dynasty in the Pearl River Delta in China. It is an early prototype for an agricultural cycle model and an environmentally friendly ecosystem. Because of the wet lowlands and in order to fight flood risks, Chinese ancestors dug and moved the mud to build higher rectangular-shaped dikes for planting crops with water in between for fish cultivation. This productive landscape is able to spread in horizontal and vertical direction like a chessboard.

In Huzhou, based on the original agricultural principle, a balanced ecosystem was built transforming organic substances and leading to sustainable economic development in the region. Mulberry leaves on the embankments feed the silkworms, whose excrete and sloughs serve as food for the fish in the pond whilst the fish excrete fertilises the pond mud. Farmers will bring the bottom mud up and pile it on the embankments as organic fertiliser for the mulberry trees.

Aerial of the Mulberry Dike Fish Pond System in Huzhou, Zhejiang, China

The Mulberry Dike Fish Pond System is a symbiotic relationship system. (source: Huzhou City Council 2019)

The traditional Mulberry Dike Fish Pond System has proven to be an eco-friendly agricultural landscape. It is a model for a continuous productive (urban) landscape with ecological and economic value resulting in energy balance between input and output. It comprises a living recycle system without waste whilst reducing flood risks, improving agricultural production and water purification. Nowadays, comprehensive knowledge has been introduced to optimise the growing processes and build a “stereo cultivation model” to extend the production chain.

You are welcome to discuss with us the sustainable agricultural landscape practice in your country according to your cultural background.

One of the food systems of the Mulberry Dike Pond system (source: Insider Flows 2022)

+++ researched and written by our colleague Dong Chu +++


For further information see the FAO’s website and the website of Huzhou City Council (in Chinese).

Image: Mulberry Dike Fish Ponds from above. (Source: Zhejiang China 2022)

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* circular cities* food systems* landscape* urban agricultureChina

Dong Chu • 2nd June 2017

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