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Across China: Reality show brings new fortune to ethnic village

GUIYANG, April 19 (Xinhua) — A village tucked away in southwest China has seen a boom in tourism after it featured on a hit reality show.

Located in Guizhou, the remote village of Dawan is surrounded by mountains that stand like sentinels. A single winding road leads to hundreds of suspended wooden dwellings, where a meandering stream flows through. The population of the picturesque village are mostly of the Miao ethnic group.

In March, Hunan Satellite TV reality show "The Greatest Love," which features celebrities kowtowing to their parents, filmed an episode in Dawan. Household names like Huang Xiaoming and Zheng Shuang spent three days in the remote village with their parents.

The show’s ratings went through the roof, with many episodes winning the ratings war with other shows broadcast during the same period, according to media researcher CSM. Thanks to the show, Dawan was put on the map, and tourists flocked the small village in droves.

Previously, Dawan was like many of China’s rural backwaters, poverty stricken and a depleting population, as many leave to seek better lives.

These days, however, a pavilion and a square have appeared, said villager Teng Shuqiang, 80. "There are dozens of cars here at the weekend, which was rare in the past."

Xinhua reporters found an army of cars on the mountain road to the village. In Dawan, many photographers were taking pictures of the river, ducks, geese and villagers toiling in the drizzle.

A series of homestays have sprung up. In Dawan, billboards hung on the Miao dwellings touting the delicious ethnic food.

Long Jingmei, a Dawan resident, has opened a restaurant called "Dawan Natural Food Restaurant." In her newly decorated restaurant, photos of her granddaughter and celebrities from "The Greatest Love" are stuck to the wall, a tactic to attract tourists.

"We see 40 to 50 visitors on weekends as long as the weather is good, so I have to prepare four to five tables of food," Long said as she rocked her grandchild to sleep.

"My restaurant is called ‘Natural Food’ because that is exactly what I serve, made from ingredients I collect myself from the mountainside," said Long, 51. "I also buy produce grown by local senior citizens. Diners really enjoy my fresh, safe food."

"We can make 2,000 yuan a month at the moment," said Long Meijie, Long Jingmei’s business partner.

Teng Jiancai, the village head, said there are plans to offer raft trips down the river.

"Visitors come and go, so we have to work out how best to make money from tourism," Teng said.

"We will plant fruit orchards so tourists can pick their own," Teng said. "We have rich ethnic culture, such as our Miao music, embroidery and sacrificial ceremonies, which I believe visitors will find very interesting."

The tourism boom is also bringing back migrant workers.

Shen Qiulan, 42, recently left the bustling southern province of Guangdong and returned to Dawan to open a Miao restaurant.

"My hometown is developing, so it gives me the opportunity to be my own boss," she said, adding that tourists were already speaking well of the local cuisine, which is "a good start."

Looking up to the ceiling of her restaurant, Shen gestures to a bird’s nest, where a swallow is feeding her hatchlings, and says she is confident in the future of her business.

"In Chinese culture, a bird’s nest is an auspicious sign. It means a better life," Shen said. "I believe my life will be better with the development of our village."

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