Mountain village paints a picture of creativity

Updated: Jun 9, 2023 China Daily Print
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The village of Tongtan in Tongyu township in the Shanxi county of Zuoquan has recently developed into a destination for a special group of tourists.

The visitors to this village in the heart of the Taihang Mountains are mainly painters and fine arts college students. They are there to photograph or paint from local life and nature. So the village is known to painters as a "sketching base in North China".

"A sketching base should have a unique appeal to painters, like picturesque scenery, ancient buildings and a distinctive lifestyle," said Luo Nanjie, deputy Party secretary of Tongyu township.

He said Tongtan village has boasted all of these properties.

"Tongtan is located in the most scenic part of the Taihang Mountains," Luo said. "It is usually referred to as 'the northern Guilin' thanks to the fact that it boasts crystal clear waters and lushly vegetated mountains similar to those in the famed destination of Guilin in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region."

In addition to its appealing natural resources, Tongtan is adjacent to some Red tourism sites, like the former headquarters of the 129th Division, a military force led by the Communist Party of China during the War of Resistance Against the Japanese Aggression (1931-45).

Luo is not a native of Zuoquan county. He used to be an official at the China Foreign Languages Publishing Administration in Beijing. He was assigned to Tongyu township in 2021 for a mission to assist in local rural vitalization.

Luo's vision and experience as a State institution official gave him a unique insight into the area's development. Upon his arrival, he immediately realized the township was a perfect destination for painters and photographers alike. And he said his connections with colleges and artists could help to draw visitors to the picturesque locale.

"After I proposed a plan, the county government and local businesses invested nearly 100 million yuan ($14 million) in developing facilities and operations for the sketching base," Luo said. "The lodges here can offer accommodation to nearly 400 people a day, allowing visits by students from several schools at once."

The official added that this destination for painters and photographers should have a spillover effect on other groups of tourists.

"Photographers and painters tend to post their pictures on their social media accounts," Luo said. "This should be the best kind of advertisement, attracting more people to our village."

In addition to Tongtan, the county of Zuoquan has another two sketching bases in the villages of Zecheng and Laojing.

The three bases can offer accommodation for a total of 1,500 visitors. It is estimated that their annual business revenue can reach 28 million yuan a year.

The county of Zuoquan, which is known as the "50-kilometer natural gallery of the Taihang Mountains", has emerged as one of the top rural tourism destinations in Shanxi in recent years.

Liu Ruiqiang contributed to this story

The scenic village of Tongtan holds great appeal to painters and photographers. [Photo by Yang Shuyu/For China Daily]


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