Tourism gives new hope to Korean ethnic village in NE China
The once-poverty stricken village of Hongqi in northeast China is being held up as a model for ethnic tourism development in China.
When you first stop in the small village of Hongqi, located at the foot of the Changbai Mountains, you will probably be greeted with folk songs and dances performed by villagers dressed in traditional ethnic Korean costumes.
And look around, some austere bungalows with grey overhanging eaves are neatly laid out.
This photo taken on April 18, 2019 shows the houses in Hongqi Village, Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, northeast China’s Jilin Province. [Photo: China Plus]
Loudspeakers keep broadcasting in both Mandarin and Korean.
Hongqi is home to around 100 people from the Korean ethnic minority.
Hongqi is billed as China's Number-1 Korean ethnic village.
This photo taken on April 10, 2019 shows a memorial gate reading “China’s No.1 Korean ethnic village” in Hongqi Village, Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, northeast China’s Jilin Province. [Photo: China Plus]
59-year-old Zhao Zhefan, Head of the Hongqi Village committee, says villagers now can share the benefits of the booming tourism industry.
"Regarding tourism, over the past three years, it reached the peak in 2018. We received around 450,000 visitors last year. In our village, there are now 36 families that have turned their home into guest houses. So our village can accommodate 200 tourists every night. The average income of each villager was around 8,000 yuan last year."
However, Hongqi village was not always this way.
It used to be the most impoverished village within the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin due to the simplex industrial structure.
Villagers used to earn their livings only by farming, but frequent seasonal flooding dramatically affected harvests.
In the late 1980s, Jin Zhenguo, former official of the local rural construction committee, decided to take advantage of the village's Korean ethnic customs to develop tourism.
He spent four years moving the whole village from a riverside to a roadside where tourists must pass by when they travel to the Changbai Mountains.
The village also put a priority on designing the facades of the village homes.
Jin Zhenguo also put forward a number of thoughts into the interior designs of the homes.
"What I feel the proudest is that when we started to rebuild the village, I insisted that each family must have the indoor toilet. At that time, we didn't have enough money to realized that. So I required them to make room for the indoor toilets. And we laid sewer lines. When time was ripe for installing the sanitary wares, we would be able to use the indoor bathrooms."
This photo taken on April 16, 2019 shows the interior design of a villager’s home in Hongqi Village, Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, northeast China’s Jilin Province. [Photo: China Plus]
Meng Fanbin, former party secretary of Hongqi, says in order to introduce the village to tourists, he went to several cities to give out pamphlets.
"In 2004, three people in our village (including me) went to several cities, such as Yanji, Mudanjiang, Harbin, Jilin, Changchun, etc. to introduce our village. We went the travel agencies in these cities and we stayed at each travel agency for around 1.5 hour to negotiate with them and introduce the ethnic characteristics of our village. We wanted to attract more tourists in this way."
These endeavors have paid off.
Working in cooperation with a tourism company, Hongqi has become one of the must-visit spots when people travel to the Changbai Mountains.
Chen Shaoke, Manager of the tourism company, says they have more plans for the village in the future.
"Our company has cooperated with Hongqi Village for eight years. In the future, we will enrich the tourism programs and improve infrastructure. For example, we have prepared an ethnic musical drama which will be staged in the village. And during summertime, there are lots of tourists. Therefore, in addition to the guest houses, we will also build a hotel here which can accommodate 200 to 300 people."