Love Me and My Food

Short video apps be­come a new chan­nel for ru­ral res­i­dents to pro­mote their prod­ucts

Beijing Review - - NATION - By Yuan Yuan

Hold­ing an elec­tric drill, a young pig­tailed woman wear­ing a cam­ou­flage tank top drills into a bam­boo trunk. A small stream of pink liq­uid squirts out as she re­moves the drill. She then lets the sap flow into a bam­boo con­tainer in her hand.

“This is waxberry bam­boo liquor brewed inside the tree,” she says, while mak­ing an arc with her arm around the bam­boo. “All the bam­boo trees in this area have liquor brew­ing in them.”

This is the scene in a re­cent video clip up­loaded to Kuaishou, a short video shar­ing plat­form, by Yuan Gui­hua, a 20-year-old woman in Leizhai Vil­lage, Tianzhu County, south­west China’s Guizhou Prov­ince. By shar­ing videos about her life in the vil­lage, she has amassed al­most 3 mil­lion fol­low­ers on Kuaishou in two years.

For her, it is sim­ple and fun; any­body in her fam­ily with a smart­phone can make a video of her. “We don’t need to do any edit­ing or worry about shak­ing or any tech­ni­cal prob­lems while mak­ing the video,” Yuan told Bei­jing Re­view. “My fol­low­ers don’t mind.”

From fun to busi­ness

In 2016, Yuan posted her first video on Kuaishou of her herd­ing cat­tle in the vil­lage. Within a day, the then high school stu­dent got over 1,000 fol­low­ers. This ig­nited Yuan’s in­ter­est in up­load­ing more videos to the plat­form, which had more than 120 mil­lion daily ac­tive users in June.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from high school, Yuan didn’t go to col­lege. In con­trast to many other young peo­ple in the vil­lage seek­ing to move to big ci­ties, Yuan chose to stay at home to help with the farm work. She is the youngest of three, with an older brother and sis­ter.

In 2017, Yuan’s num­ber of fol­low­ers in­creased dra­mat­i­cally. Most of her videos fea­tured her ei­ther eat­ing or cook­ing on an open wood fire in her fam­ily’s court­yard. Her meals, ex­clu­sively made with home grown and home­made in­gre­di­ents, al­ways made view­ers’ mouths wa­ter. Even­tu­ally, some be­gan to of­fer to buy the pre­served meats or sausages, which were a reg­u­lar part of Yuan’s recipes.

“Most of the buy­ers are na­tive to Guizhou but work some­where else. They miss the com­fort food of their home­towns,” Yuan said. “The pre­served meats and sausages are the most com­mon foods in my vil­lage and ev­ery­one here can make them.” The pre­served bean curd and chopped red pep­per made by Yuan’s mother also be­came pop­u­lar.

Yuan started to sell pre­served meats and sausages through Wechat, the largest so­cial net­work­ing ser­vice in China by num­ber of users, which also has the added func­tion of pay­ment. “At first, my mother didn’t be­lieve that I could sell things in this way,” Yuan said. “But when I sold sev­eral thou­sand kilo­grams be­fore the Chi­nese Lu­nar New Year, she was re­ally sur­prised.”

The pe­riod around the Chi­nese Lu­nar New Year, which usu­ally falls in Jan­uary or Fe­bru­ary, is the peak time for Yuan’s busi­ness, as fam­i­lies are busy mak­ing pre­served foods in prepa­ra­tion for the tra­di­tional fes­ti­val, which is a time of fam­ily re­unions.

“I have never been out of Guizhou, but through post­ing my videos online, I have made many friends from afar,” Yuan said. “I feel very grateful for this.”

“She is so dif­fer­ent from other young women we see ev­ery day on the In­ter­net,” a fol­lower wrote un­der one of her videos. “She doesn’t put any makeup on. She eats hap­pily out of a big bowl, not like those who don’t dare to eat so as to keep a slim fig­ure. She is so nat­u­ral and pretty in her own way.”

Yuan’s ru­ral life is also new to many. “I never knew that liquor could be brewed in bam­boo trunks,” com­mented another fol­lower. “I think a lot of peo­ple like me still know lit­tle about vil­lage life.”

In ad­di­tion, Yuan’s busi­ness has ben­e­fited other house­holds in the vil­lage by help­ing them sell their own prod­ucts.

Ear­lier this year, Yuan set up a co­op­er­a­tive with 33 house­holds strug­gling with poverty in the vil­lage to plant Kadsura coc­cinea, called Xueteng­guo in Chi­nese. The fruit, which tastes like a ly­chee, can only grow in a cli­mate sim­i­lar to that in Yuan’s vil­lage. The first batch of the fruit is ex­pected to hit the mar­ket in late Oc­to­ber.

Yuan is con­sid­er­ing reg­is­ter­ing a brand for her prod­ucts but wor­ries that a brand might sound too in­dus­tri­al­ized and may lead to her los­ing cus­tomers who ap­pre­ci­ate her nat­u­ral el­e­ments.

Home­town prospects

Yuan’s bam­boo liquor is nor­mally not for sale. She gives some away as gifts to friends and the rest is strictly for her grand­fa­ther, who loves it.

But there are many such bam­boo liquor sell­ers on Kuaishou. Jiang Jinchun, a 40-yearold vil­lager from Hengfeng County in east China’s Jiangxi Prov­ince, is one of them. In his videos, Jiang, nor­mally dressed in ancient cos­tume, holds a bam­boo con­tainer with liquor in one hand and home­made food in the other, eat­ing ei­ther by the river­side or in the nearby for­est.

“He eats and drinks so hap­pily,” a fol­lower com­mented. “The food and drink look re­ally de­li­cious.” This has be­come a new busi­ness chan­nel for Jiang, who re­turned to his home­town with his wife in 2012 af­ter be­ing in the

“It is a good way to cre­ate a di­rect link be­tween vil­lage res­i­dents and their fol­low­ers. We have wit­nessed many en­cour­ag­ing sto­ries and be­lieve the fu­ture of this busi­ness mode is promis­ing.”

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