'Fairytale Village' in Jiangxi catches public attention

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Near Dexing city, a village painted in various colors pops out of nowhere among lush green mountains. [Photo/Xinhua]

A "Fairytale Village" in East China's Jiangxi province has caught public attention for its work creating rural tourism.

Near Dexing city, a village painted in various colors pops out of nowhere among lush green mountains.

Qiu Shui'e is making Banguo, a local specialty in Dexing, as tourists swarmed to Huangzhushan village for short trips.

"I used to do nothing on weekends," Qiu said. "But now I cater to a large number of tourists."

On one side of the walls of Qiu's house is a giant blue penguin jumping out of water, and on the other side, a farmer picks honey from a beehive.

"The government invited many professional painters from the Central Academy of Fine Arts to decorate our houses last year," Qiu said. "They wanted to create a 'fairytale village' to attract tourists."

Villagers like Qiu relocated to the area almost 50 years ago, when their former residence gave way to a reservoir. From 1970 to 2017, locals mainly depended on growing rice and potatoes. Currently there are 405 registered residents in Huangzhushan village, but half have left for big cities for better-paying jobs.

"Barely anyone visited our village in the past, because ours was just a plain village by the highway," Qiu said. "There was nothing special here."

But the ordinary village had a big facelift last year.

In answer to the Jiangxi provincial government's call to "beautify rural areas," the local government decided to transform the village into a tourism spot to bolster the local economy.

In May 2017, the Dexing government pumped more than 12 million yuan ($1.9 million) into renovating the village. About 39 hectares of flowers were planted, in addition to stone paintings, a giant windmill and a bunch of cutesy scarecrows in various colors. Artists were invited to use 3D paintings to cover the 65 houses in the village, along with small decorations in front of the houses.

"A 2-km-long sightseeing trail was built throughout the village, and the ditch on the roadside was cleared and widened," Qiu said. "A parking lot and a public toilet were built, too."

But not everyone welcomed the change at first. Some villagers were worried that the paintings on the walls would damage the exterior of their houses.

"Some people just did not believe that the change could change anything," Qiu said. "And some people were just reluctant to change their lifestyle."

But government officials promised villagers that the facelift would be a good thing, and encouraged locals to prepare for big business to come.

"Days before the October opening, officials asked us to prepare specialties such as Banguo and rice dumplings," Qiu said. "But we did not dare make much because we did not believe tourists would come."

Officials assured the villagers that if the specialties failed to sell, the government would compensate them.

On Oct. 1, 2017, a national holiday, the village opened as a brand-new "tourism village." Thanks promotions on social media, TV and newspapers, thousands of tourists visited.

"The number of visitors was just overwhelming," said villager Wang Anni. "The dumplings I made sold out in an hour."

On the second day, more than 20,000 tourists visited. Business was so good that Qiu Shui'e made more than 2,000 yuan selling Banguo, almost the amount she used to make within half a year toiling in the fields.

Since then, the tourists have kept coming, and the villagers have all become involved in tourism, with many making food.

As the land in the village has been transferred to the government to grow flowers, Qiu and other villagers have been employed to attend the flowers on weekdays, when business is relatively tepid.

"The government gives me money for using my land and employing me as a gardener," Qiu said. "Besides, I can make money by making the specialties too."

She said the new life was "much better than sitting around doing nothing but play majong or poker as in the past."

Dexing mayor Ye Shulin said that the fairytale village would keep attracting visitors because it was near the highway exit, the Dexing Railway Station, and another tourist attraction.

"We look forward to sustainable development of the village tourism economy," Ye said.

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