Idyllic villages spearhead rural transformation
The days when residents in Zhongzhou wuchang threw garbage, drove on weed-strewn roads and lacked a proper leisure venue are over.
After three years of construction, the wuchang in central China's Hunan Province has built a recycling building, a "filial piety" square, a street with roadside flowers potted in waste tyres, a library and a lecture room.
A wuchang is an area where the majority of residents belong to the same clan and have lived in the same area for a long time, with shared customs and culture, often part of a larger village. Zhongzhou wuchang belongs to Zhulian village and has 490 residents.
Known for its fireworks industry and popular folk song "The Liuyang River," Liuyang city in Hunan is piloting a "happy-wuchang" scheme to improve village governance, the environment and people's livelihoods.
Under the plan, the city will upgrade 300 wuchangs and 100 villages to create beautiful countryside over three years.
With funds from the township government, village committee and voluntary donation of villagers, Zhongzhou has significantly improved its infrastructure. Villagers have even learned to sort household garbage.
"The happy-wuchang project has greatly improved our living environment. Tourism booms here," said Zhong Boqi, deputy head of the management committee of Zhongzhou wuchang, a self-governance body required for the happy wuchangs.
China is advancing its national campaign to create beautiful countryside, part of efforts to create a moderately prosperous society.
The 37th meeting of the Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform on Wednesday called for green and sustainable development of agriculture and for departments to deal with the relationship between green development and ecological protection, grain safety, and raising farmer incomes.
Zhongzhou has set an example in green development. In 2010, the village founded a professional planting cooperative on 21 hectares of cropland to cultivate certified pollution-free vegetables such as the eggplant, capsicum and balsam pear.
The vegetable plantation helped increase the income of 200 local households.
"We make use of the vegetable plantation, tourism and wuchang culture to develop modern sight-seeing agriculture," said Li Zhaowu, president of the cooperative.
The happy-wuchang project will soon cover other dwelling areas of Zhulian, said Li, who is also director of the village committee.
As a new project, a "the sea of flowers" developed by Zhongzhou residents is under construction and will open to visitors soon.
However, at the beginning not everyone supported the happy-wuchangs scheme.
Some people had a wait-and-see attitude and did not believe that the happy wuchang could be made a success, said Dai Minghe, deputy head of Guandu township government.
Now, these doubts have been dispelled and villagers are united and expect further expansion of happy wuchangs, he said.
In Yazhouhu village in Beisheng township in Liuyang, a retired teacher wrote a special song, the "Song of Yazhouhu," about the happy life of the village residents. The song was engraved on a rock statue in the village square and has become a popular place to visit.
With its tobacco, fireworks and construction equipment leasing industries, per-capita annual income in Yazhouhu reached 26,000 yuan (3,854 U.S.dollars) last year.
"We are thinking about how to develop village tourism next," said Zhang Huan, a township official.
The happy-wuchang project has beautified the environment and boosted harmony among villagers and industries, a senior local official said.
The city aims to make its beauty comparable to Wuyuan county in neighboring Jiangxi Province and Tonglu county in eastern Zhejiang Province.
Tourism has grown rapidly in Liuyang in recent years thanks to its beautiful countryside.
In the first half of the year, Liuyang received 12.4 million tourists, reaping a revenue of nearly 13 billion yuan, up 23 percent and 24 percent year-on-year respectively, official statistics showed. Last year, the figure for tourist arrivals was 19 million.
Zhong Jinshan, who previously worked elsewhere, returned to Zhongzhou to open a restaurant last year, hiring a cook and a few villagers. He also sells dried fruit, which he grows on his land.
"The revenue is not so good for the time being. But more tourists will come as the sight-seeing industry grows," Zhong said.