Celebrities attend the recent launch event for the reality show Ha Ha Farmers. [Photo provided to China Daily]
Dirty hands, happy mind! That's the advice being touted by celebrities on a recent reality TV show. The stars, drawn from sport, stage and screen, are seen living and experiencing a self-sufficient rural life in the show, Ha Ha Farmers, which has been airing on MGTV, an online video platform based in Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province.
The group includes actors Jia Nailiang and Jin Han, pop star Wang Yuan, singer Yang Chaoyue and former national fencing team member, Dong Li. All of them experience a farmer's day-to-day life in rural areas, learning how to plow fields, sow and reap crops, and fish.
Jin explains why he was willing to join the show. "My childhood was spent in the countryside. The show reminds me of the days when my grandfather rode his tricycle and took me to the wheat fields. He picked off the wheat and handed the grains for me to eat. That's the flavor I remember from my childhood."
He was also impressed by the industriousness and frugality of the villagers, which helped him understand how laborious the process of farming can be.
Jia says it was a great opportunity for him to get away from the fast pace of urban life and reconnect with nature.
"Sometimes when you fail to come around to an idea, maybe nature can help straighten you out," says Jia.
So far, the celebrities have visited tranquil villages in Xishuang Banna and the county town of Tengchong in Southwest China's Yunnan province with the show's production unit.
Yuan Baili, director of the show, explains her reasons for choosing the two locations.
"Xishuang Banna boasts various tropical fruits and the unique culture of the Dai ethnic group, while Tengchong features a sea of cole flowers and magnificent snowcapped mountains," says Yuan. "Imagine what an idyllic life it is when farmers are cultivating the land in such picturesque villages."
In Tengchong's Shajiaba village, the celebrities lived in a simply decorated farmhouse with a big yard where they fed cows and pigs in their pens, and cooked meals using an outdoor stove that needed to be heated by burning wood, crop residue or charcoal.
Yuan also says she hopes that, by immersing these celebrities in such bucolic surroundings, the show can help vitalize the development of rural tourism and promote the agricultural products that abound in these locations, such as pineapples, bananas, honey and organic vegetables.
Yang Xingzhong, head of the Shajiaba village, says he plans to eventually turn the farmhouse used by the entertainers into a hostel.
"Cole seed oil provides a major source of the village's income," says Yang. "Through the show, audiences will get some idea of the beautiful sights here and they may then wish to come and see it for themselves, enabling us to explore a new way to fuel the economic development of the village."
In recent years, reality shows that focus on leisurely pastoral lifestyles have become increasingly popular among Chinese viewers.
For instance, the second season of the show Back to Field, which relocates a group of celebrities to a rural household in Tonglu county in East China's Zhejiang province, has notched up over 2 billion hits on MGTV's streaming platform, according to box-office tracker Maoyan.
Hong Yi, a white-collar worker based in Beijing, is an avid watcher of such reality shows.
The 24-year-old says the programs help urban residents to relax and enjoy the pleasure of going back to nature.
"We often face, or have become part of, the 'phubbing' phenomenon (being snubbed in favor of scrolling through a phone) in our daily life, so I'm really touched when I see the participants of the show sitting around a small table and chatting with one another cheerfully in a place with fresh air, green fields and clear lakes," says Hong. "To feel a strong bond with people in such a social setting is the life that I yearn for."
Jia Nailiang (left) and Yang Chaoyue cook meals on an outdoor stove at a farmhouse. [Photo provided to China Daily]
(Source: China Daily)
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