Southern Villages Fuel Tourism Through Folk Customs

December 27, 2018
Editor: Wang Qian
Southern Villages Fuel Tourism Through Folk Customs
Villagers in Shuangletun dance with tourists at a bonfire party. [China Daily]


Sitting in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region's Huanjiang Maonan autonomous county, the village is home to ethnic Maonan, Miao and Yao people, which makes for an ideal environment to experience distinctive Chinese folk customs.

"The number of tourists usually peaks on weekends, and villagers will perform traditional guest-welcoming shows," says Wei Yulong, the village head.

Every guest will be served a bowl of liquor before entry, and locals will dance and play reed-pipe wind instruments during the ceremonies.

The women's heavy silver accessories are quite a sight, and the roasted pork is something one shouldn't pass up.

Bonfire parties at night will transport even the most ardent urbanite from the hustle and bustle of the city back to a soothing, simpler, primitive state of mind.

The traditional singing and dancing of local ethnic people have drawn outsiders' attention since 1998, when they were invited to give performances across the country.

In 2009, villagers began to run tourism businesses and raised 1.35 million yuan ($195,800) on their own to build rural restaurants and hotels.

As the nation's precision poverty-alleviation program has progressed since 2016, the Huanjiang government has invested more than 10 million yuan to upgrade infrastructure in Shuangletun.

Roads, parking lots, toilets and an art-and-sports center were improved, while a pavilion and an artificial lake were built, giving the old village a much-needed face-lift.

Shuangletun is expected to receive 31,000 visitors in 2018, and tourism revenue is projected to hit 3.8 million yuan, says Zheng Zhiyong, director of Huanjiang's tourism authority.

Now, as tourism booms, the lives of the locals have also changed for the better.

"We lived in simple shed made of wood and grass, and survived by hunting and growing millet," Wei recalls.

Annual per capita income barely hit 500 yuan.

Now, however, locals have moved into spacious brick houses and developed an orange plantation and a duck-raising business.

"Travelers will pick fruit in the orange garden and taste the duck, chicken and other fare cultivated by the farmers," Wei says.

Many villagers who used to work in cities have returned home, and annual per capita income has surpassed 10,000 yuan.

Shuangletun is only one part of the Huanjiang government's efforts to use the pristine natural environment and rich ethnic elements to develop tourism and improve local residents' lives.

"We have lush forests, karst landscapes, waterfalls and historical sites," says Huang Rongbiao, Party secretary of Huanjiang county.

The unique songs and dances of Maonan people were recognized as a "living fossil of Chinese opera and national cultural heritage" in 2006.

The Huanjiang government is working on the development of two highly rated national scenic spots. The goal is to turn Huanjiang into an international destination, Huang says.

Wei is in charge of ethnic-dance trainings and rehearsals on Friday and Saturday nights.

The trainees are as young as 6. The oldest are in their 40s.

"We want to improve villagers' literacy and carry on Miao singing and dancing," Wei says.

(Source: China Daily)

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