Current conceptualizations of resettlement in China as either voluntary or involuntary are too rigid. New guidelines and policies, particularly around Poverty Alleviation Resettlement (PAR), are emphasizing the importance of voluntarism. Little is known, however, about how the principle of voluntary relocation of villagers has actually been implemented. This study explores this process by examining local implementation and experiences of PAR in Linfen Prefecture, Shanxi. It introduces China's nationwide PAR programme, and then identifies the spatial and temporal characteristics of PAR in Linfen from 1997 to 2010, highlighting the factors that contribute to widespread voluntary resettlement.