Crayfish college to add flavor to growth industry
Empty-handed tourists find it challenging to trek the mountain path from the Jieyindian cable car station to the Golden Summit of Emei Mountain in Sichuan province.
The station and summit are 2,540 and 3,077 meters above sea level respectively.
However, Deng Shufang, 42, has to carry building materials such as cement, sand, steel and bricks from the station to the summit 12 times a day.
Each trip, she carries a bamboo basket with 100 kilograms of building materials on her back, earning 24 yuan ($3.50).
Deng, a farmer in Huatou town in Jiajiang county, Sichuan, used to plant tea and crops, and could carry between 50 and 100 kg of grain in one go.
Because of her strength, a fellow villager introduced her to Emei Mountain in the second half of last year when a mammoth reconstruction project started at the summit.
The project, scheduled to be completed in 2019, will involve the building of a hall of the Goddess of Mercy, known as Guanyin in Chinese. A large amount of building materials have to be carried to the summit, said Wu Jian, a member of the administrative committee of Emei Mountain.
Before his recent retirement, Wu was an information officer with the committee.
After building materials are transported to the Jieyindian cable car station, they have to be taken another 1 km to the site of the reconstruction project on the summit.
There are about 200 labor- ers ages 20 to 60 who carry building materials to the summit and live in dormitories at the site.
“What is unusual about Deng is that she is female, but can carry more than most of the men,” Wu said.
Life is tedious for Deng and fellow workers, but she is satisfied because of the money she can make. “I need money to support my son, who will soon enter second grade at middle school,” Deng said.
Because of the relatively high income, her husband has also joined her in carrying building materials to the summit.
Their village is not far away from Emei Mountain.
But the couple had never visited the sacred Buddhist site, which was included in the UNESCO World Natural and Cultural Heritage List in 1996, before they started working on it.
Emei is a poetic term for “beautiful women” in Chinese. Spread over 154 square kilometers, the mountain offers a panoramic view of the landscape throughout the year.
The couple are happy to be able to work on the picturesque mountain, which many people are unable to have the joy of visiting.
After their son’s summer vacation started in early July, they took him to the mountain so he could experience the stunning scenery.
With a cane to support her body, burdened with a bamboo basketful of building materials, Deng has to take a rest every two or three minutes on the mountain path.
Moved by her hardship and determination to support her family, some tourists offer her water, snacks and napkins to wipe away her sweat.
“It feels good to earn the respect of strangers through my hard work,” she said.
Crayfish, a popular snack in China, has spawned a new professional industry, with an occupational school in Hubei province set to train students in all aspects of the crustacean, thepaper.cn reported.
The Jianghan Art Vocational College in Qianjiang has enrolled 86 students in crayfish-related majors. From the fall semester, students will study two- or three-year courses on catering management, marketing, and cooking and nutrition.
The city is one of the major producers of crayfish in China. Cooking and exporting the freshwater crustacean is a main source of income for farmers.
In May 2016, the college set up a crayfish school, the only one of its kind in China, as the city aimed to boost the industry by cultivating more crayfish breeders and chefs as well as opening more crayfish restaurants.
“Despite the rapid growth of the crayfish industry, managerial professionals are still in shortage,” said Xia Zhizhong, a recruitment officer at the school.
China is the world’s largest crayfish producer. By mid2016, the number of restaurants selling crayfish reached nearly 18,000, three times the number of KFC outlets in China.
Deng uses a cane to prop up the load she is carrying while taking a short break on the mountain path. Deng shares snacks given to her by tourists with her fellow workers.