Across China: Volcanoes fire up tourism in ancient Hainan village
HAIKOU, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- In the ancient village of Sanqing, houses built with dark grey bricks stand quietly amid tall and thick tropical trees. Women holding children chat with one another, while chickens roam about looking for food.
"You want some fresh bananas and papayas? I grew them myself," said a vendor touting homegrown fruits to tourists.
Located in Haikou, capital of China's southernmost island province of Hainan, Sanqing Village boasts more than 800 years of coexistence with volcanoes. Sitting just a few kilometers away from a national geopark built on extinct volcanoes, the village counts traditional houses, fences, stone mills and alleyways among its tourist attractions -- all of them made of lava rocks.
"It's basically a volcano-themed village," said village guide Wang Jie, 51, one of the many people helping to build Sanqing into a tourist hotspot.
"I am quite busy on weekends," he said. "I take visitors from around the world to tour the village. The village also receives students who are on school trips to learn about the village's history and taste corn and vegetables that grow from the volcanic soil."
Born and raised in Sanqing, Wang has witnessed, and participated in, the village's trek out of poverty and oblivion.
Wang majored in international finance at Hainan University. After graduation, he worked for the financial branch of a company in Haikou, earning a handsome income. However, whenever he came back home and saw his parents toiling in the fields for little money, he would feel the urge to return home so he could help to steer the village's development.
"Locals in Sanqing traditionally grew sugarcane and many were impoverished because of the low purchasing price of sugarcane," he said. "I did not want to see them mired in poverty."
In 2009, Wang quit his job and returned to Sanqing, where he rented a small patch of land to grow organic vegetables. His family could not understand his decision.
"My mother said to me: If I knew you were going to come back to the countryside, I would not have wasted time and money sending you to college," he recalled.
But Wang was determined to stay and tap into the village's potentials. Expecting high demand for vegetables grown in the fertile and mineral-rich volcanic soil, he offered them to restaurants in Haikou for free trials. The tactic worked, and orders flooded in, bringing handsome profits.
Wang's success led many locals to jump on the bandwagon and expand the area of vegetable plantation in Sanqing. They also grew crops like black soybeans and corn, all marketed under the volcano village brand. Through online group buying, the farm products reached urban tables far away from the village.
In 2012, Wang was elected head of the local villagers' group, and he began leading locals in exploring village tourism. He encouraged villagers to build restaurants and homestays, while working as a tour guide to introduce the distinctive "volcano culture" to incoming visitors.
The influx of tourists also boosted sales of homegrown fruits and vegetables such as papayas, bananas and carrots, as well as dried radish.
Thanks to Wang's efforts, rural tourism has taken off in Sanqing, raising the village's annual income per capita from about 4,000 yuan (about 570 U.S. dollars) to 20,000 yuan.
The village has also benefited from enhanced government protection after being put on a national list of traditional villages in 2014.
A regulation protecting traditional villages went into effect in Haikou on Dec. 1, becoming the first of its kind in Hainan. It aims to promote development and protection of traditional villages amid the country's rural revitalization drive.
"Our plan is to incorporate cultural industries with village tours, so that visitors will get to experience the traditional lifestyles of people that existed hundreds of years ago," he said.