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Stars see how villagers defeat poverty

By Xue Mengchen and Xu Fan | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-01-29 07:48
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From top: Hu Qiaohua, host of the reality show Precious Countryside, goes to fetch water in a village in Enshi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture, Hubei province. Singer Kong Xue'er learns to make handicrafts with wheat straw and corn leaves. Actor Xiong Ziqi cuts tea leaves in a local tea garden. CHINA DAILY

Aside from the landlocked province of Qinghai, the show's production team has traveled to the mountainous Leishan county in Guizhou province, home to the world's largest ethnic Miao population. The crew was treated to a traditional ceremony-more than 30 Miao villagers clad in their best outfits and donning jewelry to "persuade" celebrities drink up to 12 bowls of homemade rice wine.

In addition to experiencing traditional culture and customs, the celebrities have also seen how rapidly expanding internet access has influenced and changed local life in rural villages.

For instance, during a trip to Enshi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture in Central China's Hubei province, the celebrities were surprised to see villagers use a car-hailing app to reserve taxis-a convenient way for them to travel from one village to another.

"When I was little, in most people's minds, rural areas were mostly dirty places, consisting of muddy lanes and shabby cottages," says Hu, a native from Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. "But China's rural areas have undergone a huge transformation. We were amazed by the modernization in the countryside during the filming."

With internet access, most villagers accept new things willingly, with some young villagers even turning into internet celebrities by promoting local products on livestreaming platforms.

As the initiator of the show, Hu came up with the idea to produce Precious Countryside in 2017, when he was participating in Beijing Satellite TV's reality show Creative China, which showcased an array of creative cultural products.

Impressed with some of the cultural projects being developed in villages at the time, Hu says he was inspired to explore more of the charm and beauty of the country's far-flung areas, where hospitable locals and picturesque landscapes are an inspiration for big-city artists. This led to scenes of homestay hotels-designed by architects from big cities-in the rural areas of Zhejiang and mountainous regions in Guizhou.

Recalling stumbling upon a villager in her 80s at a local food market in Leishan, Guizhou, Hu says he was surprised that the woman insisted on inviting all of the crew members to her home for dinner."We numbered more than 100, but she didn't hesitate at all. In some sense, people living there are living more simply, happily and warmheartedly," says Hu.

A veteran television industry insider who has won wide acclaim from hosting the 2007 variety show Do You Remember, Hu has traveled to many cities and locales as part of his job. Nevertheless, the Precious Countryside show has given Hu new knowledge of the countryside.

"We once believed that locals in less-developed or impoverished areas need help, but sometimes they are helping us to rethink about what has been lost in urban life," he says.

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