More than 10 ancient villages in Fujian province joined the designated ranks of China's most beautiful rural areas at a recent tourism summit.
Judges mainly took three criteria into consideration: a candidate village's popularity, its history and potential for tourism, how well the architecture is preserved and how unique it is.
One of the winners from Fujian was Liancun village in Fuan, noted for its well preserved architecture.
It has been home to more than 50 distinguished literati from the Tang (618-907) to the Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, who elbowed their way through a series of examinations to qualify as candidates for the highest imperial exam that took place before the emperor.
With its strong cultural ambiance, the village was the birthplace of many poets, who were inspired by the local folk culture and its haunting landscape.
"Look at this, this is what our ancestors left for us," said Chen Mucheng, former Party chief of the village, gazing at art carvings in a local temple.
Chen, born in the village, is now in his 60s. After he retired from the position, he served as a voluntary tourists guide.
The village demolished a bamboo forest to make way for a modernization development project several years ago. Chen said that ever since he lobbied local residents and government officials to restore it.
In answer to his ceaseless efforts, the bamboo forest has grown back.
"I never thought of leaving the village－it is where my roots are," Chen said.
Another village on the list is Jixia village in Pingnan county. The village features the traditional architectural style, unique to eastern Fujian province, and has preserved a number of traditional agricultural buildings, such as a water mill and ancient temples, bridges and shrines.
Endowed with thousands of years of history, the village is now applying the Internet Plus strategy to local tourism－to boost local villagers' income and to promote its popularity.
Lin Zhenglu, an artist from Fujian, came to Jixia two years ago. Attracted by the beautiful landscape and the folk culture, he made up his mind to stay and teach local farmers and children to draw for free.
As a result, a number of local painting studios have sprung up in the village, and locals have learned how to promote and sell their artwork online.
Nowadays, people interested in taking in the special artistic atmosphere of the village go there to learn from its pace of life, in what has become a unique attraction for local tourism.
"At the end of this year, more villagers will become painters in the folk art studios and galleries being built," Lin said.
"I also expect more than 50 artists from home and abroad will come here and set up their studios.
"It will boost the local hotels and hostels, cafes and culinary businesses," he said.
"Art is bringing about promising changes to the village."