SHOWBIZ> Hot Pot Column
Same old village but brand new livelihoods
By Debbie Mason (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-06-10 10:31

A solitary farmer makes his way up the track with some kind of crude tree-pruning implement resting on his shoulder. Another chops wood outside his home with an axe that looks like it came out of the Stone Age.

Same old village but brand new livelihoods

Hens cluck around his feet, and their pecking and the splintering of wood are the only sounds in a rural scene that has probably not changed much for hundreds of years.

But despite the appearance of a yesteryear world out here in Beijing's outskirts, I've noticed a remarkable transformation since I rented a courtyard here.

Policy changes and the easing of restrictions have meant a change in lifestyles that none of them could have imagined 30 years ago.

Wang Shuhua is one of hundreds of fruit farmers who have opened nongjiayuan, family countryside guesthouses, where city dwellers stay at weekends when they go to climb hills and gawp at skies that really are blue and really do have fluffy, white clouds in them.

Years ago, opening one's home to outsiders was strictly forbidden, but now, many households are enjoying a dual means of income.

Wang tells me his son Wang Haidong started the guesthouse. "People come from Beijing to stay. They love the fresh air." As the family also grows fruit, Wang says life is "much easier than it was years ago".

Down the hill, a red sign directs weekenders to Wang Chunlian's guesthouse, where flowers blossomed in the yard as early as the end of winter.

Wang opened her guesthouse ten years ago, and since then dozens of others have sprung up. "Competition is stiff now. Lots of farmers do it because it's nicer work and pays better. But I have regulars who only come to my house. We don't just depend on guests, we still have our land. We all grow fruit and corn and other vegetables."

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