Linking island's past and future
with Culture Resonance

Social Innovation Design in Mayu island, Guangdong


The disappearing Mayu culture

More than 800 fishermen  live on Mayu——a small island with a 400-year-old culture and four temples. They live by the sea, are familiar with the island's history and culture, and have rich fishing experiences. Due to a lack of resources and inconvenient transportation, they lead a life of poverty. More and more people leave the island to find a better life, and the memory of Mayu Island is gradually disappearing.

Opportunity or Trouble?

In 1995, the bridge leading to Mayu Island was completed. People in the nearest urban area only need fifteen minutes to get to the island. But this has not boosted the local economy well—Inexperienced islanders don't know how to attract tourists other than opening restaurants. Instead, tourists disturbed their peaceful life: the island became noisy, and the beach was full of garbage. Faced with the island's integration into the strange changes, the residents are both contradictory and confused.

“There is nothing here...”

Walking on the island, we often hear this from the locals. In fact, Mayu has a primitive island ecology. The four ancient temples on the island are still maintained and operated by people, and the fishermen who have lived for generations keep the island's memory.

These natures, traditions and cultures are unique.  How can we preserve these precious cultures and help Mayu to achieve development and life balance during this transformation?

"Cultural Resonance"

Goal and challenge

In 2022, we, local associations, and design companies jointly launched a design action in Mayu. Project members include social workers, designers of different professions, district officials and university students.

During the research, we found that the island's culture is the core reason that attracts people. More specifically, it should be called "cultural resonance": people feel the slow pace of life they expect or the origin of their own culture on this island.

Similar trends can also be seen in other regions: People gradually prefer experiential tourism to explore local history and culture. Especially in life affected by the epidemic, they are more inclined to feel the surrounding places in a deep and relaxed way.

We realised that the culture contained on the island is no longer just the residents who have lived here for generations, but also the tourists who come here and resonate with the island.

Therefore, "cultural resonance" is the core starting point of our project. What we need to do is to transform the island‘s culture into touchpoints that resonate with tourists, to activate the development potential of Mayu.


Through ethnographic research and design workshops, we have gained insight into the local people, social relations and cultural changes. We have been working with local people and organisations to develop a sustainable development plan for Mayu, focusing on "cultural resonance". We are currently working with government and corporate support on design initiatives in the plan, including "seed workshops", etc.

Please click and view our work and output in the action report below:

Current Actions



Exploring island culture through ethnography



Portraits: the status quo and plight of islanders and tourists


Design Plan

Mayu island revitalization framework:
Connecting future with Culture Resonance

Ruiqi Yao


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Shantou University

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