Red tourism destinations with unique features gain increasing popularity

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Red tourism destinations with unique features gain increasing popularity-- Beijing Review

Farmers check how their peach trees are coming along in Jinggangshan, Jiangxi Province, on July 16, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

Since childhood, Mao Haofu has been hearing stories about revolutionary figures and the revolutionary base in his hometown—Jinggangshan City in Jiangxi Province—from his grandfather Mao Binghua, former curator of the Jinggangshan Museum.

In 2015, Mao Haofu graduated with a master's degree in accounting and finance and began working for a company in Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi. However, spurred on by his desire to record and pass on the revolutionary legacies, two years later he decided to return to his hometown and become a tour guide at the Jinggangshan Museum.

"I hope that through my introduction, visitors can develop a deeper understanding of China's revolutionary history and culture, even if they had little knowledge of them prior to coming here," Mao Haofu told

Jinggangshan is one of the hottest destinations of red tourism, a term which refers to visiting historical sites with a revolutionary legacy of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Red nostalgia has fueled this popular type of tours for people to take during national holidays.

This year, during the Tomb-Sweeping Day holiday, which fell on April 3-5, the Jinggangshan scenic area received 34,700 tourists and realized an overall tourism income of 22.9 million yuan ($3.5 million), an increase of 3.58 percent and 5.26 percent, respectively, over 2019.

Cradle of revolution

Jinggangshan is known as the center of early revolutionary activity of the CPC. It was home to the CPC's first rural revolutionary base, established in 1927. Since then, revolutionary bases had been gradually established in the country, which strategically facilitated the overthrow of the feudal land ownership system that had been in place for thousands of years and eventually resulted in victory of the CPC-led revolution in China.

Among the most frequently visited locations in the area are the former residence of the late Chairman Mao Zedong, under whose leadership the first rural revolutionary base was established, the Jinggangshan Revolutionary Martyrs' Cemetery and the Jinggangshan Revolutionary Museum.

Jinggangshan, a city named after the Jinggangshan Mountain, had been hard to reach due to its difficult geographical terrain. That was one of the main reasons for the CPC to establish its first rural revolutionary base there. Due to the rugged terrain and inconvenient modes of transportation, despite its natural beauty that has remained intact in the past decades, the area suffered rampant poverty.

Shenshan Village, with its treacherous mountain roads and barren lands, was one such example. Peng Xiaying, a local, recalled that in his most difficult times, all he owned inside the four walls of his house were three pairs of chopsticks and a few bowls.

After the government rolled out poverty alleviation endeavors, roads have been paved across the area. Villagers have started to grow tea and peach trees, both suiting local climate conditions, as well as developed rural tourism. The area's natural scenery and revolutionary sites attracted increasing numbers of tourists, and more than half of the villagers, including Peng, started up their own countryside homestay businesses. The number of tourists received by Shenshan soared from 90,000 in 2016, to 320,000 in 2019. In 2020, despite the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic, the number of tourists still reached nearly 200,000.

There are many villagers like Peng in the Jinggangshan region who have benefited from this booming travel industry, with their income increasing substantially. In February 2017, Jinggangshan became the first region in the country to be taken off the impoverished counties list.

Yu Meng is one such villager. In 2008, Yu and his wife Zuo Juan set up a factory that mainly manufactures the Red Army uniform costumes and started a rental service catering to tourists. Currently, they have the capacity to rent out 200,000 to 300,000 costumes every year. Yu, in the meantime, has also expanded his business to other red tourism regions like Yan'an City in Shaanxi Province and Xibaipo in Hebei Province.

Red tourism destinations with unique features gain increasing popularity-- Beijing Review

City of revolutionary museums

Yan'an hosted the CPC headquarters from 1935 to 1948. In March, the local government issued an implementation plan on transforming Yan'an into a city of revolutionary museums over three years.

The city is home to over 440 sites of the CPC's early revolutionary activities and boasts 30 revolution-themed museums. Yan'an will enhance the protection and utilization of revolutionary relics and showcase its urban and rural culture and natural features, according to the plan.

New technologies will be applied to improve the visitor experience. Documentaries and other videos will be shot to present the stories behind the revolutionary relics, sites and figures. Presently, the city has set up seven online venues where people can visit revolutionary sites on their mobile devices with a little help from the virtual technology. In addition, a think tank will be set up, staffed with experts specializing in various fields such as cultural relics, Party history and military history, to carry out research on and restoration of revolutionary cultural relics.

"Such efforts will help attract more tourists to red tourism destinations, bring profit to related local businesses and boost the incomes of residents who have made personal sacrifices in the city's struggle to strike a balance between economic development and the preservation of relics," Ji Naijun, a Shaanxi-based expert in the preservation of revolutionary cultural relics, told Xinhua News Agency.

While developing red tourism, Yan'an will continue to grow into a first-class education and training base in China. "The revolutionary sites have witnessed history. They offer vivid teaching materials for people to learn more about the past," said Wang Tao, a professor at the China Executive Leadership Academy in Yan'an.

Clean environment

Similar to Jinggangshan and Yan'an, red tourism has boosted both economic development and people's income in Xibaipo, a village located in the middle of Pingshan County.

In May 1947, the CPC Central Committee Work Committee moved to Xibaipo from Yan'an. From May 1948 to March 1949, the village became the site of the CPC Central Committee and the headquarters of the People's Liberation Army. During this time period, the CPC leadership led a series of major military successes against Kuomintang troops. In March 1949, the CPC Central Committee moved from Xibaipo to Beijing. The People's Republic of China (PRC) was established about six months later.

Before the relocation to Beijing, the Second Plenary Session of the Seventh CPC Central Committee convened in Xibaipo. This historic meeting made arrangements for achieving victory over the Kuomintang and for the founding of the PRC.

With national victory in sight, chairing the meeting, Mao Zedong called on all Party members to remain modest and prudent, free from arrogance or recklessness on the job, and to preserve the merits of plain living and hard work.

Today, 72 years after that particular meeting, China has developed from a war-torn country into the world's second largest economy. Modesty and prudence are still virtues required of Party members.

The village, with a greener and tidier look, has become a popular tourism destination. In order to attract more tourists and improve the living environment of the locals, the government organized villagers to renovate their houses. Hundreds of trees were planted and the walls were color-painted to feature historical events that had taken place there. Street signs, store and restaurant fronts, as well as regular door nameplates all received a makeover.

A regulation on the protection and management of the tourist area in Xibaipo will come into effect in August. It targets those problems brought about by tourism such as unlicensed tour guides, poorly regulated parking management, and disordered stalls clogging the roads.

Making innovations

More and more young people are contributing to the boom of red tourism. According to Tongcheng-eLong, 57.3 percent of visitors booking flights through the online travel agency to red tourism destinations during the public holidays in April and May are aged 20 to 39.

Fliggy, another online tourism service provider, said that bookings to red tourism destinations during the Tomb-Sweeping Day holiday grew the fastest for those travelers born after the year 2000, with a year-on-year increase of over 630 percent.

In addition to face-to-face presentations, the younger generations also like to learn about tourism destinations through social platforms such as WeChat and Douyin, said Mao Haofu.

Today, he posts videos telling tales of the red history of Jinggangshan on various video-sharing platforms, to appeal to younger viewers in a way that is more easily accessible to them. Virtual figures are fashioned to act as the storytellers in these videos.

In February, a circular issued by the State Council addressed the vitalization of old revolutionary base areas, which encourages innovation-driven development across these areas including improving new-generation information infrastructures such as 5G, industrial Internet and the Internet of Things.

The new blueprint gives Mao Haofu stronger incentive for innovation. He plans to develop a course introducing revolutionary cultural relics so that tourists can learn in great detail the stories behind them. 

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