Defeating poverty

By Cheng Yuezhu| (China Daily)| Updated : 2020-11-10

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Zhujialin is a big draw for tourists and entrepreneurs, with its idyllic landscape and overall enhanced infrastructure.[Photo provided to China Daily]

An eastern county in China offers tourists a modern rural setting, Cheng Yuezhu reports in Linyi, Shandong province.

The idyllic scene in the countryside of Yinan county, with small cottages sprinkled over verdant grasslands, gives no sign of its dilapidated past.

The county located in Linyi, East China's Shandong province, is now home to various resorts and sightseeing destinations suitable for family road trips. A leading example is the Zhujialin Pastoral Complex.

Lying deep in the mountains, the area saw a gradual decline, with young people going to work in the cities, leaving the elderly in the villages. As time rolled by, many houses had collapsed and old trees nestled behind the shabby courtyard walls.

But today, the complex incorporates farmlands, orchards, boardinghouses, galleries and museums showcasing traditional culture, as well as other tourist attractions. Covering 2,870 hectares, the area is home to 16,000 residents in 23 villages.

The transformation has also drawn more young people back to the countryside, one of them being Wu Sanmei, a young social media practitioner who moved to Zhujialin in April.


Old farmhouses are transformed into cafes.[Photo by Cheng Yuezhu/China Daily]

"My husband and I have always been very fond of the natural, unpolluted environment of the countryside, and we longed for the self-reliant rural lifestyle. Because our working hours are flexible, we came to Zhujialin to record the idyllic life with short videos," Wu says.

Both natives of Linyi, Wu and her husband started researching the renovated villages in the area and went on trips, eventually choosing Zhujialin to settle down.

"It has peaceful surroundings, with mountains and rivers, a well-protected environment and overall enhanced infrastructure. There is a lot of young creative talent in the complex, so it also provides a good atmosphere to undertake one's own startup."

Wu says they have posted 20 short videos about the idyllic lifestyle after arriving in Zhujialin, receiving a total of over 20 million views and more than 500,000 followers.

The old buildings have been renovated into bed-and-breakfast spaces, cafes and small cinemas, yet retain their antiquated rustic look. The museums and galleries display regional handicrafts, including paper-cuts, embroidery and rattan works, fresh farm produce and related products.

The local government has launched policies favorable to companies and talent, so far attracting 18 entrepreneurial teams and landing 26 industrial projects in the Zhujialin area.

"Compared to conventional villages, Zhujialin is more in line with young people's expectations of a modern rural life. Its natural environment, entrepreneurial atmosphere and governmental support provide a guarantee for young people who work in the countryside," Wu says.

Xu Congjiang, chairman of the Zhujialin Rural Construction and Development Co Ltd, says the company has developed 42 family-friendly projects, such as making sachet bags.


A local resident rests in front of his renovated house in Zhujialin.[Photo by Cheng Yuezhu/China Daily]

Five villages in the complex used to be listed as provincial-level poor villages, incorporating 2,043 households, all of which have now been elevated from poverty.

The county has invested approximately 600 million yuan ($91 million) in tourism infrastructure construction and environmental remediation, building and upgrading over 40 highways, establishing bus routes to tourist destinations across the county, and restoring 18 rivers.

Changshanzhuang, another mountainous village in Yinan county, has been transformed into a national 4A scenic spot, with a film production site having produced more than 300 films and TV series so far.

The village also established several museums and memorial halls centered on the history of the Communist Party of China, as well as a landscape sketch site able to accommodate 900 university students.

More than 2,000 people from surrounding villages have been working in Changshanzhuang and its tourist sites. In 2019, the village's average per capita disposable income exceeded 15,000 yuan.

Other tourist sites in the county include Zhuquan village, situated in a vast bamboo forest, and the Zhisheng Hot Spring Resort, also a national 4A scenic spot. The Songshan hot spring healthcare resort is under construction, as the combination of tourism and healthcare has become a key strategy for the county.