Across China: Lost village finds its way back through tourism

Source: Xinhua| 2020-10-19 21:33:21|Editor: huaxia

YINCHUAN, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- Li Xuejing, with a bullhorn in her left hand, narrated tales as tourists rambled along with her. She is happy to see the "lost" village return to vitality.

As a century-old village, Dawan, located in Changle Township of Zhongwei City in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, is embraced by the Yellow River, the second-longest in China.

Growing up in the village, the 26-year-old recollected snapshots of life years ago as she walked near a desert date tree standing in front of her childhood home.

"It has been a long time since I left my home village. The first time I re-entered the village, it felt familiar and strange," said Li.

In 2004, a flood destroyed farmland in Dawan, and villagers including Li and her parents were relocated to Zhongwei City.

The village with run-down houses and wild weeds was gradually fading from villagers' memories, until the arrival of a businessman named Chen Zupin seven years ago.

Seeing something special in the dilapidated village, Chen was amazed by the scenery integrating the Yellow River and China's fourth-largest desert, the Tengger Desert, which lies right across the river.

"The earthen architecture deeply touched me," said Chen. "I believe people who visit here will feel refreshed and inspired."

Chen made up his mind to restore the village by means of developing tourism.

To keep the scenery and original cultural landscape intact, he devised methods to preserve the paths and trees in Dawan, and spent six years using local materials like stone and wood to rebuild a cluster of agritainment that matches the village's overall style.

"To make sure that nature comes first, I flew here several times to inspect the progress of the construction. I've seen too many man-made things, and I don't want to let this land down," he said.

Chen was worried whether his efforts would pay off before his agritainment cluster opened to tourists in December 2018. However, his fears were allayed as all of the rooms were quickly booked out.

Huang Qian, a tourist from Shanghai, spent several days with her family and friends in the village. The experience was a rewarding one as her husband read a poem at a campfire party, and her son looked for eggs and milked goats on the nearby farm.

"We feel relaxed temporarily escaping the hustle and bustle in the city," said Huang. "My son has traveled to many countries since he was two years old, and I knew he loved being closer to nature when he asked if we could stay longer."

Dawan Village came alive again with a 78-percent occupancy rate of the agritainment cluster in the past year, attracting many returning villagers including Li.

Li came back to the village to offer logistical support two years ago, and now she is a tourist guide with a monthly salary of 6,000 yuan (about 895 U.S. dollars) during peak season.

"Our guests are from all walks of life and from all over the country, and I always feel inspired by their ideas," said Li.

Like many of her colleagues, Li has a 50-minute daily commute from her home in the city.

Ta Zhaofeng, however, left his urban house empty to run a farm in Dawan.

"I moved to the city for a better life rather than merely eking out a living on farmland, but now I earn more and live cozily thanks to my farm business," said the 50-year-old.

Ta grows peppers, tomatoes and organic vegetables, and also raises livestock like chickens, goats as well as camels on the 33-hectare farm, which is a quiet retreat for children.

"Kids can milk the goats or hunt for eggs to satisfy their curiosity, while their parents can pick fresh vegetables," said Ta.

Dawan Village has become so popular that the rooms of the cluster during this year's National Day holiday were booked out two months in advance, which came as no surprise to Chen.

"Rural vitalization depends on the changes and vitality of people, and I'm happy to see the village rejuvenated," said Chen. Enditem