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Korean culture draws visitors to village in Jilin

China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-19 09:18
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Villagers stage a traditional Korean dance in Bailong village in Tumen, Jilin province. CHEN JUNQING/XINHUA

CHANGCHUN — As night gradually falls, a rising wave of smoke emitted from a stove curls out of a tranquil folk village on the banks of the Tumen River in Northeast China's Jilin province.

In the village, Jin Jingnan is preoccupied with heating up the stove inside a Korean-style house that is over 140 years old.

"The tourists will soon arrive," the 71-year-old said.

Much to his surprise, his residence, the oldest in Bailong village, is now a popular site. Facing south, the house was built in 1880 using the traditional mortise-and-tenon joints instead of nails and screws to join pieces of wood. Experts say the structure is a rare and well-preserved example of a Korean-style house.

In the village, situated in Yanbian Korean autonomous prefecture, Korean-style dwellings are connected by wooden bridges and flagstone roads, while crocks used for making and preserving soy sauce are neatly placed between the yards.

Fewer than 100 people live in the village, and most are over 60 years old, according to Jin.

"Few people came to the remote village in the past, but now, their visits allow us to live a much better life," he said.

Jin, who used to make a living by working in South Korea, decided to return to Bailong and settle down in 2005 after seeing how the infrastructure and streetscape had undergone tremendous transformations in his hometown. He also began to reconsider the value of the ancient Korean-style houses.

"The history of our village is a microcosm of the history of the Korean ethnic people in China," he said.

Tourists now flood the village every day to take photos, marvel at the houses, savor Korean cuisine and experience the customs of the Korean ethnic group.

Last year, the village welcomed over 100,000 tourists, according to Jin. Zhang Wenli, from Sichuan province, recently visited the village with three friends.

"It's an unforgettable trip," Zhang said. "We will definitely recommend more of our friends to visit."

Jin said the village has more plans in store for tourists.

"This year, we plan to open more culinary tours, so people can learn how to make foods such as spicy cabbage and rice cakes," he said.

The village has also set up a team to give Korean-style performances to visitors. "I can make an additional 3,000 to 4,000 yuan ($422 to $563) a month by performing," said Wu Zhenghua, a local resident.

Other villagers are taking advantage of the deluge of visitors by starting their own businesses.

Zhang Xiangshun, 45, opened a beauty salon in Bailong last year, mainly doing makeup for visitors on photo-shooting tours.

After graduating from university, Li Xuanzhu, 24, moved to the village to run a homestay.

"At first, my relatives and friends said that I made a 'bold' decision, but I was quite optimistic. Now, after seeing the influx of visitors, they've realized that my decision was a good one," Li said, adding that she is planning to invest more money into the ancient village.


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