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French expatriate enchanted by Chinese village

XINHUA | Updated: 2023-09-22 08:21
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Mylene Mathieu (left) sieves chili peppers during her trip to Huangling village, Wuyuan county, Jiangxi province. XINHUA

NANCHANG — On a scenic platform offering panoramic vistas of traditional gray-and-white Chinese buildings nestled among lush trees, Mylene Mathieu, who is from France, extended her arms, grasping a broad bamboo sieve with hands, tossing red chili peppers up and down.

This is a procedure aimed at properly drying agricultural products, such as chili, corn and peanuts, for longer preservation. The common rural practice is also part of Mathieu's myriad countryside experiences on her trip to Huangling village, Wuyuan county of East China's Jiangxi province.

Mathieu, who moved to Beijing earlier this year after more than seven years studying Chinese, shares her daily life experiences on social media, and has gained tens of thousands of followers in just months. Her trip to Huangling turned out to be a unique experience.

"This is my first time coming to a Chinese village, and I didn't expect to find such a beautiful one," Mathieu says. She posted a video about the chili-tossing on her Douyin short-video account, under a Chinese profile name that translates as "French wife Xiaobengbeng", alluding to her status as the spouse of a Chinese man.

Before coming to Huangling, Mathieu did not have high expectations. "I had this image of Chinese rural areas as old and remote," she says.

However, upon entering Huangling, she was immediately captivated by the village's blend of ancient charm and modern convenience. Traditional architecture intricately adorned the landscape, and wide, flat stone paths connected every corner of the village.

Mathieu was especially impressed with a light festival showcasing folk customs.

"I had only seen light festivals in big cities before, but Huangling combines traditional folk parades with lights, preserving tradition while showcasing the charm of modern technology," she says.

She was also captivated by the village's operating model. Villagers found meaningful employment in the scenic area, leading to a shared sense of happiness and prosperity.

"You can feel their happiness radiating from within. Under the village leadership, everyone shares a consensus to pursue happiness together in this picturesque place," she says.

In just a few years, Huangling transformed from a poverty-stricken village into a rural tourism hot spot. Villagers can rake in tourism-related income from sectors such as accommodation, catering and transportation.

The average annual income per villager increased from 3,500 yuan ($479) before tourism development to over 50,000 yuan currently, with some families earning over 1 million yuan annually through their involvement in the tourism industry.

Today, Huangling is gradually gaining global recognition. It had hosted international summits featuring rural tourism and formed alliances with tourist villages from around the world.

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