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Tourists flock to enjoy colorful ethnic cultures

By Dong Jidong And Yang Jun ( China Daily )

Updated: 2016-07-20

An ethnic prefecture in Southwest China's Guizhou province has built a robust tourism industry based on ethnic culture that has greatly improved people's livelihoods over the past three decades.

The Qiandongnan Miao and Dong autonomous prefecture in southeastern Guizhou launched ethnic village tourism in the mid-1980s and gradually promoted the unique tourism product to all 16 counties and cities under its jurisdiction.

A total of 276 well-preserved ethnic villages in the prefecture are included on a national list of traditional villages, more than in any other city-level administrative region in China.

In the first quarter this year, Qiandongnan received 13.47 million tourists, a year-on-year increase of 40 percent, according to official statistics. Tourism revenue rose 44.7 percent to 11 billion yuan ($1.65 billion).

In 2015, some 51.5 million tourists visited the prefecture, generating revenue of more than 38.4 billion yuan, increases of 21 percent and 23 percent respectively year-on-year.

During the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15), the prefectural government established a reform and development work group headed by the prefecture's Party chief to promote the growth of tourism, which was seen as a strategic pillar industry.

Fan Zhongsheng, director of the prefecture's commission of tourism development, said: "We have made breakthroughs in improving our tourism brands, innovating tourism-related mechanisms and building supporting facilities, including a sophisticated transportation network during the period."

Situated in the Miaoling Mountain area, Qiandongnan was established on July 23, 1956. The prefecture covers 30,300 square kilometers and is home to more than 30 ethnic groups.

With a population of 4.6 million, it is the most populous of all 30 ethnic prefectures in China. Non-Han ethnic peoples account for more than 80 percent of the prefecture's population.

"Qiandongnan is an amazing place that features pristine nature, traditional ethnic cultures and the beauty of social harmony," said Feng Shiwen, head of the prefecture.

In 1997, UNESCO listed Qiandongnan on its "Embrace Nature" list as one of the world's top 10 tourism destinations.

With more than 65 percent of the prefecture covered by forests, Qiandongnan has four national forest parks, five provincial forest parks and a national nature reserve.

The abundant forest resources have made the prefecture a natural oxygen bar that is rich in negative oxygen ions, the level of which is 22 times the national average. There is good air quality in the prefecture for 99 percent of the year.

The Xijiang ethnic Miao village in Leishan county is the biggest Miao village in the world. The local villagers have benefited greatly from the prefecture's strategy of developing tourism.

The Xijiang 1,000-Household Miao village consists of more than 10 naturally formed villages that have long been inhabited by nearly 1,300 Miao households (hence the name).

The village cluster displays the well-preserved distinctive culture and customs of the Miao people. It was named a national 4A-level - the second highest - tourist attraction by the National Tourism Administration in 2011. Visitors can see original Miao dances, customs, rites, costumes and silver ornaments in the village.

By the end of last year, the Xijiang Miao village had been visited by more than 3.4 million tourists, which generated revenue of more than 2.66 billion yuan.

Hou Tianbao, a villager in Xijiang, used to collect waste with his wife and could barely make ends meet. Most of his fellow villagers left to work in big cities.

His and other villagers' fate changed after the third provincial tourism development conference was held in Xijiang in 2008. The government decided to invest 80 million yuan in improving infrastructure to develop local tourism.

Hou used a loan of 200,000 yuan to turn his home into a rural home inn and rented it for 55,000 yuan a year. After he started to run the inn himself in 2015, his monthly income surpassed 10,000 yuan.

"I could hardly imagine that I would become a boss one day and drive my own car," Hou said.

There are 331 home inns in Xijiang, compared to 40-plus in 2007. More and more villagers are choosing to stay in their hometowns and shake off poverty by doing tourism-related businesses, including making silver jewelry and clothes, photography and producing handicrafts.

More than 3 million tourists visited Xijiang in 2015, compared to 2 million in 2011, 1.75 million in 2010 and 777,000 in 2008.

Li Jiaxu contributed to this story.

Contact the writers through dongjidong@chinadaily.com.cn.

 Tourists flock to enjoy colorful ethnic cultures

Clockwise from top: Three young women of the Miao ethnic group greet visitors at a festival in Leishan county in Guizhou’s Qiandongnan. Chen Peiliang / For China Daily The Xijiang 1,000-Household Miao village. Provided To China Daily The ancient county of Zhenyuan, another popular tourist destination in Qiandongnan. Provided To China Daily A beautiful landscape of terraces growing wheat at Congjiang county in Qiandongnan. Ning Jian / For China Daily

 Tourists flock to enjoy colorful ethnic cultures

Middle school students in Rongjiang county learn to sing and play the pipa, a plucked string instrument. Photos Provided To China Daily

 Tourists flock to enjoy colorful ethnic cultures

Young women participate in an embroidery competition in Rongjiang county.

Tourists flock to enjoy colorful ethnic cultures

Tourists flock to enjoy colorful ethnic cultures

Tourists flock to enjoy colorful ethnic cultures

(China Daily 07/20/2016 page24)

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