Tradition helps overcome poverty

Miao ethnic group taps local resources and digital platforms to showcase its cuisine, dances

By FENG ZHIWEI in Changsha and ZHANG YU | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-07-17 08:45
Share - WeChat
A view of Shibadong village in Huayuan, a county in the Xiangxi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture, Hunan province, on May 14. SONG JINLIANG/FOR CHINA DAILY

Editor's note: With China set to meet its goal this year of eliminating extreme poverty before next year's 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, this series looks at the efforts of different areas of the country to erase poverty and improve livelihoods.

The young woman is dressed in striking local ethnic attire, with matching embroidered pink-green sleeves and pants. She sits next to a traditional huotang open hearth, feeding it generously with firewood to keep the flames burning bright.

"This is our way of keeping warm. The huotang can be used to make larou (Chinese bacon) at the same time," she said, pointing to the mouthwatering strips of salted pork hung over the fire for smoking.

Shi Linjiao, 24, is not just introducing a local delicacy to visitors. She is part of a scene in a video being shot at Shibadong, a village of the Miao ethnic group in the Xiangxi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture, Central China's Hunan province. Shibadong is named after the village's 18 natural caves.

Shi returned to Shibadong after she graduated last year from the Zhejiang Conservatory of Music in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang province, and had a job at Liuyang, a county-level city in Hunan. She quit the job several months later to go back to her hometown.

The video is part of a series used to promote her hometown. Shi herself is tasked with appearing on camera, while other village returnees Shi Zhichun plans the programs and Shi Kang edits the clips.

Shi Kang once worked in the field of new media in Changsha, capital of Hunan, before he was inspired by Shi Zhichun's idea of starting their own business at their hometown last year.

The trio returned from cities after graduating from their respective colleges since 2017. Once back home, they decided to work together, promoting their hometown to the outside world through modern communication channels.

Like many other impoverished remote areas in the country, the village is located amid the highlands, in the Wuling Mountains endowed with breathtaking scenery and clean water, but having inadequate transportation and other infrastructure.

Villagers used to rely on the little income they could reap from crops, including corn and rice, planted on scattered farmland.

Shi Zhichun, who earned a graduate degree at Jishou University in Jishou, Xiangxi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture after majoring in English as an undergraduate at the Central South University in Changsha, chose to leave the city to return to Shibadong following his studies in 2017.

Attracting tourists

"I want to make my hometown known to the rest of the world, so that tourists can be attracted here and Miao villagers' specialties can be sold online," the 31-year-old said.

He soon figured out an effective way to promote Shibadong's attractions and specialties, by posting short videos and livestreaming on major social networking platform Douyin.

"Through the videos, we can show the culture and traditions of the Miao ethnic group, such as our activities in the field, our cuisine and our songs and dances," he said.

It did not take long for the increasing number of fans of the trio's videos to start buying the larou products made by households in the village.

Shi said they have been selling hundreds of kilograms of the meat, with the villagers earning about 60 yuan ($8.5) for every kilogram of larou they sell.

Other local agricultural products, including peppers, rice wine and kiwis, are also being sold through the digital platforms. Their account on Douyin has attracted more than 90,000 fans, Shi said.

He is planning to set up a company to sell more local produce, with even a food processing factory in the future.

The village returnees are not the only ones to embrace a bright future for Shibadong.

Sitting on a workbench, Shi Shunlian deftly threads a needle through a spread of fabric-she is stitching an elaborate scene of a high-speed train, in white and black.

Shi, 66, is a former Party chief at Shibadong. After retiring in 2014, she picked up miaoxiu (traditional ethnic embroidery) hoping the skill can help the needy villagers earn some additional income.

1 2 3 4 Next   >>|
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349