Across China: Overseas returnees, villagers team up to revitalize rural China
Xinhua 2022-12-06 09:50

Guo Shanqiuyun (3rd L) and Zhang Li (2nd L) attend a meeting with villagers in Tangjiazhuang Village, Huangshan City of east China's Anhui Province, June 20, 2020.(Xinhua)


HEFEI, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- In her spare time, Guo Shanqiuyun likes to stroll around in a mountainous village, holding her chubby baby in her arms, chatting with local villagers along the way, and enjoying the human touch in the countryside.


Guo and her husband, who both have studied abroad and worked in southern China's metropolis of Shenzhen, chose to settle down in Tangjiazhuang Village, Huangshan City of east China's Anhui Province, after years of a drifting life in big cities.


The sleepy village may not appear unique compared with Anhui's abundant ancient villages featuring a long history and profound cultures. However, to the couple, bringing such a village back to vim and vigor is a challenging but charming cause worth one's devotion.


"Instead of just running a homestay, we want to contribute to the development of the countryside," said Zhang Li, Guo's husband, an architectural designer who was fed up with the lackluster modern urban scenes. The distinctive rural scenery of Tangjiazhuang seems more appealing to him.


In 2015, Guo and Zhang, with expertise in marketing and design respectively, invested and built a comprehensive rural tourism resort that encompasses a boutique homestay, a camping site, a restaurant and bar, and so on.


"Rural revitalization can't be achieved simply by investing money. Our philosophy is that we should put people first and achieve win-win cooperation with the villagers," Guo said.


Their idea coincides with the plan of the village. "Although our village is endowed with beautiful scenery, it has not seen a lot of incoming tourists because of its remote location," said Jiao Guibao, the village's Party secretary, adding that almost all the young people tended to leave the village to chase their dreams in big cities, leaving the elderly behind.


"We have teamed up to build Tangjiazhuang into a happy community in rural China. Guo and her husband have brought us industries and talents, attracting youngsters back to their hometown," Jiao added.


"The newcomers can provide more job opportunities, and vocational training courses for locals, while the novel industries can draw tourists into the village," Guo said.


Li Weifu, a 70-year-old bamboo craftsman, witnesses and benefits from the changes in the village in recent years. He used to sell his bamboo products at the local markets. Now, a bamboo exhibition hall has been set up in the village to display his handicrafts.


"Many tourists are interested in my weaving skills and purchase bamboo products such as home-decorating ornaments," Li said.


Zhang Yi, a retired dancer, rented an idle house in the village in 2020. Now, he would come to live in the countryside every year.


This photo taken on April 27, 2021 shows a view of Tangjiazhuang Village in Huangshan City of east China's Anhui Province.(Xinhua)


"I feel reassured living here, as the villagers are warm-hearted and often send me pumpkins and wax gourds. They just leave the gifts at your door, and you don't even know who sent them," Zhang said.


The arrival of new villagers has opened up more opportunities for the village and greatly broadened the locals' horizons. "I never thought we could have bars and bakeries here," said Jiao.


At present, a dozen old houses have been renovated and leased to newcomers, with negotiations for new houses currently underway.


Guo holds high expectations for the future of Tangjiazhuang. The couple plan to introduce educational institutions to the village, focusing on natural education and other courses.


"Nature is the best teacher. During the winter and summer vacations, parents can take their children to experience the real rural life in Tangjiazhuang without worrying about their children falling behind in school," Guo explained.