Diaowo Village, Farmyard Attraction
The village, previously impoverished and poorly equipped, has developed into “The First Valley for Art in Eastern Beijing,” with beautiful scenery and a simple lifestyle.
All the way from downtown Pinggu east to the Eastern Beijing's Great Stalatite Cavern then to the north, you may sink into a picturesque scene, with soaring mountains, rippling rivers and trees casting shade, occasionally tinted by a yellowish red of a torch tree. The Huangsongyu Reservoir, where reflections of the towering Shilin Valley teases the tranquil blue water, with the backdrop of the mountains and trees, is worth looking at. Here lies Diaowo Village of Huangsongyu Township.
Diaowo Village came into a meagre existence during the Qing Dynasty (1644– 1911) and got its name “Diaowo (eagle nest)” from the legend that eagles used to live in caves nearby. Leaning against a river on one side and surrounded by mountains on the other three sides, clinging to Hudongshui and Shilin Valley, the two well-known tourist spots, the village has a unique geography. With exciting scenery and a simple lifestyle, the village has become an exciting destination for those going on vacation.
Standing at the entrance to the village and look across into the distance, and you may catch Shilin Valley's mountains stretching endlessly, a breathtaking view that extends in its steep elegance.
Not very large as it is, the village is a hub that gathers mountains, rivers, scenery, and delicious food.
Folk yards, each in its own style, line the roads, all decorated by red lanterns, coloured flags and ears of corn. It was harvest time when villagers flooded the roadside with newly reaped walnut, jujube, chestnut, red fruit and wild mushroom, a colourful display of a bumper harvest.
The most eye-catching were cauldrons with installed chimneys above them. Several advertisements dot the cauldrons which read “steamed chicken with pumpkin, stewed fish pot with pancakes, steamed fish with fermented soya beans, roasted lamb legs, and braised beef,” all rural treats and easy to spot.
Diaowo Village accommodates over one hundred people, 57 households, each of which runs folk tourism business. From door to door, their farm yards are hospitably open to welcome tourists. However, their services are not duplicate and differentiation is seen everywhere: a typical pastoral scene with a small vegetable garden, tables and chairs beside it and a large pot being heated by firewood; a bar or Western restaurant with European windows and low fences; a wooden building with a courtyard, a fishpond with goldfish and lotus. The village is filled with various farmyards reminiscent of Sanlitun in Beijing.
Fu Zhonggang, the Village Party Secretary, told us that over 10 years ago, Diaowo Village was impoverished, poorly equipped, and struggling amid a filthy environment. In 2002, it began to explore potential in its tourism based on its geographical edge. The environment was soon redone, houses were repaired, folk tourism launched, and vegetable-and-fruit-picking business was developed. A batch of local food brand names were created, including “Diaowo Roasted Lamb Leg,” fruits like walnut, persimmons, red fruit, wild kiwi and wild raspberries, as well as windflower, a local commodity that has its own production base. As of now, tourism has become Diaowo Village's pillar industry. Over 200,000 tourists are received every year, bringing in over an annual revenue of 5 million yuan. The per capita net income of the whole village has risen to over 30,000 yuan from a little more than 2,000 yuan 10 years ago.
A two-storey building named “Laohao Farm Yard,” which accommodates a yard, flaming red lanterns hanging on the roof and a large pot heated by firewood, has lamb hoofs mixed in a stew. Puzzling were red lanterns and coloured flags with Chinese characters Lao Hao Le, meaning “very good.” The hostess Wang Shuyi grins, explaining that the Chinese character hao, meaning “good,” is pronounced the same way as her husband's family name “Hao.” When guests say Lao Hao Le, it could also refer to Hao's family, bringing them closer together. The yard features northeastern Chinese cuisine, the most popular and iconic dishes being roasted lamb leg and fish stew that uses fish from Huangsongyu Reservoir. Covering 600 square metres, this farmyard provides food and accommodation services and its annual revenue reaches up to one million yuan.
Close to Laohao Farm Yard is another named “Yihua Courtyard,” with its plaque seen on the lobby wall through loft windows. Cui Yi, the host, told us with pride, “The name was given and written by Wang Meng, a famous Chinese writer.” According to him, Wang sent them an inscription as a gift because he liked his wife's name, Zhang Xiuhua. “He is easygoing and very modest,” Cui Yi said.
It turned out that early on, Diaowo Village's scenery, fresh air and simple lifestyle had attracted cultural celebrities to settle down. Wang Meng, former Minister of Culture and famous writer, was the first to buy a house in the village nestled in the so-called “tenmile gallery.” Strolling through the mountains, relishing every sip of pure mountain spring water and every breath of fresh air, he lived as he created. Even a poem dedicated to the village was written by Wang Meng.
Several other celebrities also followed in Wang Meng's footsteps, among whom were famous print artist Ye Youliang, writer Hao Ran and landscape painter Chen Keyong, who settled down in Diaowo Village, built art galleries, produced artwork and experienced rural life. Today, Diaowo Village owns seven art galleries and receives over 3,000 celebrities every year, endowing it with another title—“The First Valley for Art in Eastern Beijing.”