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China: Remote Sichuan village prospers via tourism

Sichuan Province, ChinaA once impoverished remote village in southwest China's Sichuan Province has emerged as an idyllic retreat for urban dwellers, leading the villagers to prosperity.

Wulong Village is deep in mountains and some 20 kilometers away from the nearest city. One homestay run by two grannies in the village has become sort of an internet sensation. The two hosts, 85-year-old Wang Suqing and 76-year-old Du Yunzhen, were surprised to find the homestay a huge success, with travelers constantly coming from afar just to have a taste of country life and a close contact with nature.

"All the roads were dirt ones before. There was no tourist coming to us here. Where could we find income? Now we rent five rooms at 3,500 yuan (roughly 500 in U.S. dollars) a year. I also get paid 500 yuan a month for working here. All adding up, it comes to 10,000 a year," said Du.

"With the homestay opened, lots of outsiders have come,and it's bustling. This is the life I've wanted. The life is good, and I'm happy, and the happy life is quite satisfying," said Wang.
Travelers say sitting in the homestay, immersed in the rural scenery while tasting a cup of hand-ground coffee made by the two grannies is ultimately a fascinating experience.

"Drinking the coffee made by the grannies, breathing the fresh air and enjoying a beautiful view, what a wonderful feeling this is. Once we are hear we find it hard to leave," said a tourist. Behind the homestay's success is Wulong's poverty-eradication drive which began in 2017. Under a plan to develop the mountain village into a rural life tourism attraction, roads were paved and bike tracks were built, with flowers planted, and old houses renovated to give Wulong a fresh new look.

Villagers' traditional way of life and old craftsmanship have also been utilized to create the authentic rural experience for visitors. Miao Wenxing, a senior villager, used to make a living in an oil pressing workshop. With machines gradually replacing the ancient way of oil making, Liao's craftsmanship was outdated and he was in destitute. Yet things have changed when a rural culture experience hall opened in Wulong. Now many old rural craftsmen like Liao have a place to demonstrate and pass on their traditional skills, while making a good living from it.

"We get 30 yuan of subsidy from the company (every day), 20 yuan from the government. For instance, we extract cooking oil, if it is sold, the income from the sales belongs to us. Never could I imagine I'd be living the happy life I enjoy now with this old skillset," said Miao.

Since 2017, Wulong has received over 800,000 tourists and made an annul income of over 50 million yuan, significantly improving the living standards of the 584 households in the village. "Especially the environment here, the roads are clean, the farmers look cheerful. It has changed so much. That's why we'd come from very far away to enjoy ourselves in this place," said a tourist.

"Nowadays tourists are no longer satisfied with general sightseeing. They want to find solace to their souls in country life and feelings. So we try every means to make this idyllic nostalgia a productivity that helps alleviate poverty. We'd continue to tap on our rural culture tourism resources in the next step, building our beautiful village to materialize the general secretary's instruction of preserving clear waters and green mountains and bearing in mind the country feelings," said Zhang Jun, the village head.

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