HEFEI, Nov. 8 (Xinhua) -- Despite his early arrival in the morning, Deng Wei, a freshman majoring in art, was surprised to find that the river banks were already crowded with students.
Holding their palettes and brushes, they were trying to recreate the vision in front of them -- unique historic buildings and idyllic landscape.
"The picturesque scenery is perfect for us to draw," Deng said, who will stay in Hongcun Village in east China's Anhui Province for 10 days.
Deng is among 400,000 students who rush to Yixian County which administers Hongcun each year, an ideal spot for plein air painting.
The county is home to two renowned villages, Xidi and Hongcun, which have been listed as World Cultural Heritage Sites. With exquisite homes, ancestral halls and memorial archways, Hui-style buildings of Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911) are widely found.
Most students like Deng live in special art bases which can provide accommodation and transportation for those who come to paint outdoors.
Hu Wanchun, 57, is among the pioneers who opened the first such bases in Yixian County. He has cooperated with around 100 art colleges and receives some 7,000 students each year, earning more than 2 million yuan (about 285,900 U.S. dollars) on an annual basis.
Hu also opened a museum to showcase the paintings of the students and Hui-style woodcarvings. "I hope to create a platform for the young painters to display their works," he said.
According to Cheng Dan, director of the local culture, sports and tourism bureau, a total of 100 art bases have been set up in Yixian County, building partnerships with around 1,000 colleges and training institutes nationwide.
The painters who were attracted by the county's rugged beauty have also boosted the local industries of retail, entertainment and catering.
As night falls, the ancient Hongcun Village is invigorated by hordes of students who have finished their daily drawing. They can be found at the cafes, pubs and roadside stands.
Pan Ming, a sophomore from a university of Nanchang, capital of east China's Jiangxi Province, wandered on the street with his classmates. "We have visited almost all the neighboring scenic spots and tasted different local food," Pan said.
Zhang Bin and his wife run a small convenience store in Hongcun Village, selling artistic drawing sets and renting out sketching easels, drawing boards as well as wooden stools. Now the couple also provide laundry service and pool tables to meet students' various needs.
"Thanks to the idyllic landscape of our hometown, we don't need to make a living as migrant workers in big cities," Zhang said.
"The painting-related industry is an important part of tourism in Yixian County. We also hosted art festivals and established an association to draw more painters with our picturesque scenery," Cheng said.