China / Society

Sweet fruit creates bonds of friendship

By Yang Wanli in Hotan, Xinjiang (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-03 07:40

Editor's note: Xinjiang is known for its colorful landscape and diverse culture. China Daily explores this beautiful region through its many faces and facets.

The red jujube fruit in Hotan, in southern Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, not only brings prosperity to the city's residents but serves as a bridge between local Han people and other ethnic groups.

To 39-year-old Amangul, a Uygur woman in Hotan, the jujube provides a comfortable living for her family. Last year, the sweet fruit brought in 500,000 yuan ($80,000).

The business was started by Amangul's husband, Li Kai-qing. Living in a village near the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps' 14th Division, he learned how to plant jujube from the division's experts and decided to try it on a commercial scale. He has been growing jujube since 2000.

"Before that, most people in our village made their living mainly by growing wheat and vegetables, and their incomes sometimes weren't even enough to feed their families," Amangul said.

Rain in Hotan, in the Gobi Desert area, is not only sparse but too alkaline for most plants. But the jujube thrives, growing to about 6 centimeters and producing its well-known sweetness despite the bitter weather and hostile geographic conditions.

With its growing reputation in China, Hotan's price for dried jujube soared from 18 yuan per kg in the 2000s to 120 yuan this year. In Beijing, buyers can expect to pay 160 yuan per kg.

Amangul's family now lives in a two-floor villa, and they bought a car last year. In her house, traditional Uygur wool carpet, colorfully painted, and European-style wooden furniture stand out as marks of prosperity.

The village has 300 Han residents; the remaining 30 are Uygurs and Tibetans.

"Villagers from ethnic groups taught the Han how to raise cattle, and the Han reciprocated by teaching jujube planting," said Dai Yudong, the village head.

Memet Yasen, Amangul's neighbor, whose family makes its primary living from cattle, has also been working in Amangul's jujube fields for more than three years. Besides lunch, which is included in his pay, he earns 120 yuan per day.

During the harvest season from October to March, seasonal workers, whose accommodations are usually provided, can make around 3,600 yuan per month.

The mutual benefits have enhanced friendships among local people. Currently, intermarriages between Han and Uygurs or Tibetans can be seen in 10 families, Dai said.

This year, the local government is making a push to promote language learning among residents. Public servants will be tested at random.

None of his colleagues worried about failing the test, Dai said. "Whether Han or other ethnic group, we are deeply involved in the lives of each other. Jujubes in Hotan are so sweet. It is the reflection of our friendship."

Mao Weihua contributed to this story.

 Sweet fruit creates bonds of friendship

A farmer collects jujubes in Hotan prefecture in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in November. The fruit, welcomed in markets, brings more income to locals. Zhao Ge / Xinhua

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