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Sani village revives ethnic cottages to boost tourism


08-25-2016 13:08 BJT

The tourism industry continues to expand in China. Along the Puzhehei Lake in southwest China’s Yunnan, people belong to the Sani group, a branch of the Yi ethnic minority. The village has been working to revive its traditional culture, in particular, its unique ethnic cottages. And the plan has paid dividends.

In the Sani village of Xianrendong, you can immerse yourself in tranquility, and natural beauty. The tourist industry started here in 2005. Since then incomes have grown steadily but slowly. Fan Chengyuan is the village head. He pioneered a change three years ago.

“Before the tourists came, per capita annual income was 300 yuan. But since 2013, the year we transformed our buildings into traditional cottages, per capita income has risen to 30,000 yuan,” Fan said.

“The difference proves the change has brought far more money than before. Most of the tourists coming here like the buildings, and these people all give us the thumbs up.”

Fan says it took a year for experts to work out the final design of the cottages. The building materials like the wood and clay are all locally-produced.

“We went out to inspect and study the style of our traditional houses. Then we upgraded the designs to make the homes more habitable. The final design was welcomed by most villagers. We all agree these buldings belong to the Sani people,” Fan said.

This family from neighboring Sichuan Province has been touring around the village for three days. They say the cultural elements of the Sani group will make them stay even longer.

“I think the color of the decorations, especially the details, reflect their local culture. I like it very much. It’s difficult find traditional houses and decorations like this in cities,” a tourist said.

The lakeside houses are now tourist attractions. Since 2013, this village has transformed two-thirds of its modern brick houses into the current, traditional-style ones. This return to ethnic culture has brought a cash injection to the village, but it has also brought challenges.

The challenge comes from the remaining one third who refused to tear down their brick houses. As the village head, it is Fan’s job to others them to join the scheme.

“Previously, I could not see any benefit in the ethnic cottages. But now, I’ve decided to tear down my building and transform it into a traditional house as an investment together with the remaining 74 households,” said Huang Guoqing, villager from Xianrendong, Yunnan's Qiubei County.

Reviving the ethnic cottages is just the first step of Fan Chengyuan’s blueprint. He is now seeking something to maintain the forward momentum in the village.

“I think, to eliminate poverty from the village for good, we need to preserve the Sani culture better. If this place exists without its own culture, then there’s no future for the village and its people,” Fan said.

Fan says he enjoys traveling a lot, and always gets inspiration from the trips to improve the services in the village. The business will enter an off-season period in less than two months. It is a time to overhaul the operations in the village, and get it ready to welcome more visitors.

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