Ru­ral life­style

Xian­ren­dong village, which drew 3 mil­lion vis­i­tors last year, once faced a short­age of food

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By YANG FEIYUE, LI YINGQING and SHI WENZHI Con­tact the writer through yangfeiyue@chi­

The village of Xian­ren­dong in Yun­nan prov­ince, which drew 3 mil­lion vis­i­tors last year, once faced a short­age of food.

Twenty years ago, Xian­ren­dong was a village which was short of food. There were ba­si­cally no in­dus­tries, in­clud­ing tourism. Lo­cal vil­lages mostly could only rely on mea­ger in­comes from grow­ing crops on their own small patch of land.

But now, as we took a boat to the village early Au­gust, we could see yel­low-brick houses of two or three sto­ries at the foot of green moun­tains as we trav­eled along a shim­mer­ing river to get there.

Be­sides, lush grass laid siege to the houses.

The vil­lagers wore big smiles and gave us a warm wel­come as we stepped ashore.

The village, which sits in Qi­ubei county intheWen­shan pre­fec­ture of south­west­ern China’s Yun­nan prov­ince, is home to 196 house­holds and com­prises the Sani peo­ple be­long­ing to the Yi eth­nic group.

“Most of us earned only 300 yuan ($45.1) each in 1993,” says Fan Chengyuan, a lo­cal vil­lager.

“But now our an­nual in­come can be as much as 30,000 yuan.”

Fan was one of the first in the village to es­cape the poverty trap.

The 36-year-old worked as a tuner at a ho­tel in Qi­ubei for six years from the age of 9, and dur­ing this pe­riod he stud­ied ca­ter­ing and ho­tel ser­vices.

He opened a restau­rant in his village af­ter he left the ho­tel be­com­ing one of the few lo­cals who had their own busi­ness.

Later, in 2005, as he sensed that lo­cal tourism was set to grow, he built farm­houses with his 1-mil­lionyuan sav­ings.

His bet paid off as the num­ber of vis­i­tors be­gan to surge in the fol­low­ing years. Soon, there weren’t enough rooms. But prob­lems fol­lowed too. Soon, ev­ery­thing de­scended into chaos.

There was no proper sewage sys­tem in place.

And, many vil­lagers blindly took down their houses and tried to build tall mod­ern-look­ing build­ings, which were not con­sis­tent with the sur­round­ing scenery.

Fan was elected head of the village in­2012andtried tomake things right.

He guided the lo­cals to build folk ho­tels.

Soon, pri­vate folk ho­tels sprung up across the village, and be­came a well-known tourism at­trac­tion in the county.

“High-rise build­ings shouldn’t have been built in a village, where only folk dwellings fit” says Fan.

Fan’s own ho­tel Chachaya cov­ers an area of 700 square me­ters and of­fers 11 rooms.

Busi­ness has been brisk and Fan’s bank mort­gage of 2.6-mil­lion-yuan has ba­si­cally been paid up.

Now, the village is show­ing signs of pros­per­ity.

There is no foul smell of sewage, and park­ing lots have been built.

On a typ­i­cal morn­ing, vil­lagers wake up early and pre­pare break­fast for their guests.

The morn­ing mar­ket is some­thing one should not miss.

It was filled with peo­ple, and lo­cal spe­cial­ties and fresh veg­eta­bles are dis­played for sale.

The crowds be­gin to thin out at around 11.

Mean­while, the Puzhe­hei scenic spot where Xian­ren­dong is lo­cated now at­tracts a lot of at­ten­tion.

It came into promi­nence af­ter it was fea­tured in the hit re­al­ity show Dad, Where AreWe Go­ing? in 2013.

Liu Zhao from Chengdu the cap­i­tal of Sichuan prov­ince, says: “It’s a great place for a fam­ily trip, and has mademy visit worth­while.”

Liu brought his wife and six-yearold daugh­ter to the area for the sum­mer va­ca­tion.

He got to know of the place through the re­al­ity show. The area is very fam­ily friendly While chil­dren can play at a play­ground at the end of the village, adults can hang out at lo­cal inn, sa­vor­ing red wine, or cy­cle along the river and ad­mire the pris­tine nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment fea­tur­ing karst land­form, wil­low trees and a pro­fu­sion of lo­tus.

Some vis­i­tors splash wa­ter on each other, while oth­ers join dances ini­ti­ated by lo­cals.

The in­creas­ing fame of the area is now also draw­ing vis­i­tors from abroad, who come mostly to sa­vor the nat­u­ral beauty, a tour guide says.

Tim Roger from the UK says: “Ev­ery­thing is beau­ti­ful here, and I like the scenery and the peo­ple.”

The area re­ceived 1.4 mil­lion vis­i­tors in the first six months of this year, gen­er­at­ing 810 mil­lion yuan in in­come.

In 2015, 3 mil­lion vis­i­tors came, con­tribut­ing 1.7 bil­lion yuan in in­come.

Tourism has un­doubt­edly greatly ben­e­fited Xian­ren­dong.

As Fan says: “Ear­lier most of vil­lagers re­lied on agri­cul­ture for a liv­ing, but now the farm­house busi­ness is do­ing well and many young peo­ple have re­turned home to start busi­nesses.

One of them is Fan Haix­i­ang, 23, who has re­turned from Shang­hai, and is cur­rently man­ag­ing her fam­ily inn.

The inn is filled al­most on a daily ba­sis, she says, adding that daily in­come can some­times hit 10,000 yuan.

But she is not an ex­cep­tion and many like her are flock­ing back and de­vot­ing them­selves to the lo­cal tourism busi­ness.

Ear­lier, girls from the village used to typ­i­cal­lyget­mar­riedat 20, but­now many are de­lay­ing get­ting hitched as they are very busy with work.

Look­ing at the fu­ture, Fan hopes that the vil­lagers will re­turn to a tra­di­tional way of life and vis­i­tors will come and envy their unique life­style.


From top: A vis­i­tor was tak­ing in the view of Xian­ren­dong from a lo­cal inn; a horse wagon passed by a road in Xian­ren­dong village.

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