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Millions follow duo for glimpse of rural life

China Daily | Updated: 2023-09-25 09:30
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NANCHANG — Standing beside an orchard, Liu Suliang addresses the camera in front of him with passion and humor, jokingly removing a spoon from his pocket and readying himself for a feast.

"I have been longing for passion fruit from the orchard for several months, and now I finally have my wish," said the 34-year-old, who describes himself as the "neighborhood foodie".

Liu's lighthearted online antics are just a few of the many ways he is helping the farmers in his hometown sell their agricultural products.

Liu and his cameraman, Hu Yueqing, are known on the internet as the "Huanong Brothers", literally meaning "Chinese farmer brothers". For almost six years, they have been filming the non-filtered rural life in Gujiaying village, their hometown in Quannan county, Jiangxi province.

The duo has amassed more than 6.27 million followers on Bilibili, a popular video-sharing and streaming platform in China, placing the pair among the ranks of several other online sensations from rural China.

"The original intention of our videos was to record daily life and bring happiness to viewers," said 35-year-old Hu, who was once a factory worker. "That intention remains unchanged."

Hu has had an interest in shooting engaging videos since he was very young.

In late 2017, his ideas struck a chord with his former classmate Liu, and thus the "Huanong Brothers" came to be. The voluble and gregarious Liu became the on-camera guy, while Hu, who is much more shy and quiet, is responsible for filming and video editing.

Their casual and humorous video clips went viral in 2018 and soon shot them to online stardom.

Sponsorship deals and followers have brought them wealth and opportunities to leave their relatively underdeveloped hometown, but the pair prefers to stay and help boost the county's development by contracting rural land and selling local agricultural products.

In 2020, they contracted over 14 hectares of land in Gujiaying for animal husbandry and crop farming, and employed villagers to manage the farmland. The village has also provided a colorful backdrop for their videos.

The pair constantly incorporate local agricultural products — such as mushrooms, honey and navel oranges — into their video content, so they've also established an online platform for the communal sales of these products over the years.

Within three months of the bumper navel orange harvest last year, the "Huanong Brothers "received more than 200,000 orders, bringing the local farmers an income of 8.4 million yuan ($1.15 million).

Rural content creators or influencers like Hu and Liu have flocked to Chinese social media apps such as Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, and Bilibili.

Over the past year, Douyin added more than 459 million videos themed on China's rural life, which have garnered over 41.5 billion likes, according to a report released by the platform in April.

Chow Hong-yu, a 43-year-old Hong Kong resident, is a fan of videos depicting life in the Chinese countryside. Having grown up in the big city, Chow has always yearned for the idyllic natural environment and the slow-paced rural life portrayed by Hu and Liu.

Since 2019, Chow has volunteered to translate the subtitles of their videos into English and has shared them on YouTube. The account has garnered subscribers from countries including the United States, Malaysia and Indonesia.

"I would like to share the authentic Chinese rural life with people around the world, and to make the rural lifestyle understood and the voices from people there heard," Chow said.


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