Artistically restoring hometown charm

A stilt-mounted wooden structure perches on a slope at Guyue village, Qingxiu district of southern Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

It sits against a wall that has stood for more than a century and has a Chinese couplet on it. These days it is Liang Hanchang’s art studio.

“It used to just be an old, abandoned house,” Liang says.

He built up the architecture, solidified the foundation and added ethnic Zhuang elements to it in 2014.

Liang-a former reporter-is born and bred in Guangxi.

“During interviews in rural places, I saw a lot of architecture with ethnic traits, as well as costume, culture and traditional techniques on the verge of extinction as a result of modernization,” Liang says.

In 2005, he quit his reporting job and took advantage of a rural revitalization plan by the local government. Since then, Liang has focused on cultural heritage protection work in the Guyue village.

He has taken photos of intangible culture heritage featuring ethnic Zhuang and Yao elements and studied ways to protect them.

To date, photography, oil painting and music workshops have sprung up in the hillside neighborhood as a result of Liang’s endeavor.

The neighborhood is just a part of the change that has been going on in Guyue.

The village is now filled with traditional buildings of the Zhuang people, and the moss-covered walls, the mountain and lake vistas all add to the pastoral atmosphere.

The local authority has integrated rural tourism with ecological agriculture in a bid to boost development of the village.

A total of 70 million yuan ($10 million) has been invested by the Qingxiu district government to turn the village into a culture and art destination.

Aboriginal houses have been restored to protect and retain the village’s original charm.

A folk customs exhibition hall and a public service center have been established to draw in visitors from all across the country. Distinctive folk-themed homestays have also been developed to ensure a better travel experience for visitors.

Local villagers have taken the initiative to plant trees and flowers in the open spaces surrounding their houses, as well as maintaining them by keeping them clear of weeds and trash, beautifying the village considerably.

So far this year, Guyue has received more than 400,000 visitors, and income from tourism and farm produce sales has exceeded 3 million yuan.

A significant number of villagers have established tourism businesses, offering services from catering to accommodation, which has increased the annual income of the villagers by 1 million yuan a year, according to the village authority.

Liang hopes his artwork can remind people of the diverse history, culture and customs of ethnic groups in China.

“So people can have opportunities to understand their own ethnicity and regional culture, which will increase their love of their hometown,” Liang says.

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