Visiting Shipanyuan village of Qionghai city, Hainan, you are instantly struck by the grey-tiled specious houses, fish ponds, the green lawns, the trees and paved roads.
The village also boasts an open-air theater, parks and a reading room.
The village is a typical example of the transformation of Hainan's rural areas - from backwardness to prosperity.
To date, under a campaign to build "ecological civilization villages" as part of the province's rural reform, Hainan has 7,774 such villages, or more than one-third of the total.
"Building more villages like Shipanyuan is a key part of the drive to create a new socialist countryside," Hainan governor Luo Baoming told China Daily.
"The aim is to combine economic development with improvements to the environment. We are doing this by encouraging tropical agriculture and the courtyard economy," he said.
In 2001, Hainan introduced guidelines for the construction of the ecological villages.
To qualify, villages must have paved roads, a forestation rate of 60 percent - above the national average of 13.5 percent - and designated personnel for sewage treatment.
They should also have environmental improvement plans, and cultural sites.
The construction of such villages is through subsidies from governments, and voluntary donations from residents and companies.
The construction of Shipanyuan village has so far cost more than 8 million yuan ($1.1 million), with one-third of the funding coming from villagers' donations, one-third from the government, and the rest from social organizations and businesspeople, Luo said.
"The program has been a success and well received by the farmers," he said.
In January 2000, the village of Dahu in the city of Haikou began transforming itself into the first ecological civilization village.
As a result, local farmers' annual per capita income increased from 2,000 yuan in 2000 to almost 5,000 yuan last year.
The net per capita income of all farmers in Hainan was 3,791 yuan last year, a 10 percent increase from 2006.
Wu Haixiang, 50, of Shipanyuan village is satisfied with her current life. Her family has successfully run a betel nut business and process nearly 200 tons of betel nut from August to January each year.
During the harvesting seasons, Wu, her husband and her eldest son get up early in the morning to purchase betel nuts from other farmers.
"We have a good living environment, good income and life on the whole is fairly easy," Wu said.
She said her second son will return home to join the family business after finishing his high school education.
(China Daily April 23, 2008)