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Ouhai Zeya adapts and thrives
Date:2022-08-29 16:40:33 Source:Wenzhou·China Fonts:[ Large Medium Small ]

Bird’s-eye view of the Junlan Xiaoyin B&B in Kumen’ao

Zeya Town, Ouhai District, Wenzhou is an ancient town famous for its paper-making. It has green mountains, rocky gorges and pebbly beaches, as well as cultural traces left behind by a thousand years of history.

Zeya is a typical suburban mountainous town. Constrained by the red lines of “permanent basic farmland”, “water source protection” and “urban development margins”, the town is difficult to attract major industrial projects and has been obscure for a long time. In order to crack this problem, following the concept of “micro transformation and fine upgrading”, Ouhai District has created a B&B belt to  activate rural idle resources, invigorate villages and enrich the tourism industry, bringing great changes to Zeya and promoting common prosperity of the mountainous regions.

Now, Zeya, which had been kept in the dark, is a net-famous tourist destination that frequently appears in short videos and appeals to visitors with its tranquil mountains and forests, boutique B&Bs of diverse styles, unique mountain dishes, deep-rooted cultural heritage of paper-making, private schools for study tour, cafes and art galleries.

Old houses ‘micro’ transformed into eye-catching B&Bs

The Zeya paper-making technique, which originated in the Tang Dynasty (A.D.618-907), is reputed to be a “living fossil” of ancient Chinese paper-making and is now listed as a national intangible cultural heritage. In its heyday, the town of Zeya was scattered with golden paper, deriving its name “Millennial Paper Mountain”.

Relying on the Paper Mountain culture, Zeya Town is committed to exploring a new path of rural development, mobilizing the idle rural resources through “micro transformation and fine upgrading”. An official from Ouhai Culture, Radio, Tourism and Sports Bureau told reporters that in order to transform the local collapsed or dilapidated spare space into quality and popular boutique B&Bs, they invited Professor Wang Yong from University of Shanghai for Science and Technology to design B&Bs, introduced through open bidding quality third-party institutions for decoration upgrading, furniture fixture, equipment configuration and operation.

In recent years, Zhiyuan Village in Zeya Town saw its popularity growing, as its long-forgotten traditional paper-making workshops are welcoming more and more visitors. “The original Hengyang Primary School was changed into Tingxi B&B, which can bring 100,000 yuan of income to the village collective every year. And the original Xi’an Secondary School will be turned into an artistic B&B by Junlan Co.,” siad Chen Xiaolin, Secretary of CPC Zhiyuan Village committee. Speaking of the changes in Zhiyuan Village, Chen beamed with joy, “B&Bs attract tourists and drive the development of this place.”

Since the start of the “micro transformation and fine upgrading” initiative, Zeya Town has spent 15 million yuan of fiscal revenues to remould 17 B&Bs which receive a cumulative investment of over 30 million yuan. The deserted primary schools, uninhabited farmhouses and idle village office buildings all have been transformed into B&Bs with unique styles. Those lodgings that bolster the development of villages have been put into operation, achieving a tourism output of nearly 10 million yuan last year. It is expected that they will increase the village’s collective income by 1.5 million yuan per year in the future.

“Fine” lay out B&Bs in line with local conditions for development

When people are pursuing unique cultural tourism experiences in recent days, B&Bs in the same key definitely cannot meet the needs of tourists. In the planning of invigorating villages through B&Bs, local communities insist on differentiated development according to local conditions.

Each B&B exhibits its distinct features. Located at an altitude of more than 800 meters above sea level in the natural village of Aodi, Senyagu B&B sits on large terraced fields and alpine lakes. In Jinyuan Village, B&Bs with rustic charm show both elegance and rural wilderness against the backdrop of the original village and natural mountains. The Zeya B&Bs, which have been meticulously carved out, are designed to meet the various aspirations and pursuits of people for a poetic life.

While mapping out the characteristics of each area, the locality also fully takes into account the balance of tourism development, giving priority to economically weak villages and villages with backward tourism. 12 of the 17 B&B projects landed in villages whose cultural tourism industry was lagging behind. Wufengyang area of Zeya Town, where the cultural tourism industry used to be in a vacuum, is not only becoming a popular tourist destination by dint of 5 B&Bs, but also bringing in the Gusong Yincong B&B with an investment of 50 million yuan.

All industries may prosper when one industry thrives

During the summer holidays, “study tour of Paper Mountain”, “future countryside” and “live streaming of goods” have become topics of interest among students and parents. Walking into the “Study Tour Street” featuring all-for-one tourism in Zeya Town, you will find that the once lost iron shop, brewery, rice cake shop and bean curd shop have reopened on the old street, and these shops, which are made from old houses, have been “micro transformed and fine upgraded”, with intangible cultural heritage and cultural and creative elements implanted. They have been shaped into popular tourist destinations and present a remarkable snapshot of Zeya today.

Drawing on the essence of the Paper Mountain culture, the Longxi Art Museum has been renovated with the national treasure of “Four Consecutive Water-powered Trip-hammers” as its model. This iconic landmark of Paper Mountain impresses tourists with its grandeur and ingenuity. To revitalize traditional villages, the entire village of Shuiduikeng has been micro-renovated, incorporating cafes, study tour bases, bars, handicraft workshops, high-end western restaurants and other businesses to enhance industrial diversity and extend the cultural tourism industry chain. Besides, to send culture “door-to-door”, brand culture is implanted in Paper Mountain Cooks, a newly built women’s entrepreneurship platform that has formed strategic cooperation with B&Bs. Farmhouse dishes typical of Paper Mountain will let tourists taste the special flavor, and specialties like bean curd with dried fish and experience like kumquat paste production will enrich the journey of tourists.

When industries are flourishing, villagers are getting rich in sync. It is learned that more than 100 local craftspeople have signed employment contracts with the 5 study tour bases and become instructors for the study tours. The “Paper Mountain Cooks - Taste of Mama” project has helped more than 50 local rural women to start their own businesses and employment through skills training and tapping into local food culture resources. Meanwhile, Zhiyuan Village has also launched its own “Paper Mountain Spring Water”, which is expected to bring in more than 1 million yuan (annually) for the village collective.

When one industry thrives, all industries may prosper. The effective linkage between Zeya’s unique B&Bs and the surrounding industries has led to the “micro transformation and fine upgrading” of all industries, which in turn has raised the overall quality of the B&Bs, forming a virtuous cycle and invigorating villages.

As the old town is awakening to life and its villagers are well-off, promising prospects await the “thousand-year Paper Mountain”.