Rural tourism sheds light on ethnic diversity

Search for scenic sensations leads to unexpected cultural curiosity

By Cui Jia in Pu'er, Yunnan | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-26 09:16
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Yu Xuan (right) of the Blang ethnic group introduces ancient tea trees to tourists in Wengji village of Jingmai Mountain, Yunnan province, in December. CUI JIA/CHINA DAILY

Editor's note: Improved infrastructure, policy support and funding in areas with large populations of varied ethnic groups have transformed people's lives. China Daily presents a series of stories about how China is determined to leave no ethnic group behind in the country's development, while inspiring them to embark on a new journey and make achievements in the new era. This article is the second installment, focusing on ethnic tourism.

Waking up early to see the sun rise above a sea of clouds that floats over a valley of centuries-old tea forests is a must-do for visitors to Jingmai Mountain in Yunnan province near the China-Myanmar border.

For local Yu Xuan from Wengji village who is of the Blang ethnic group, as well as their memories of the awe-inspiring views, tourists take away with them a better understanding of the local culture and history, and how people such as the Blang fit into China's patchwork of 56 ethnic groups.

More people have visited since the cultural landscape of Pu'er's old tea forests was made a World Heritage Site in September last year, said the 22-year-old dressed in a traditional Blang brocade dress.

One element that makes the Blang ethnic group intriguing is its reverence for a unique method of growing tea, which has been passed on from generation to generation. The local people cultivate tea trees underneath the forest canopy, which filters the sunlight and ensures moisture.

It is estimated that over a million old tea trees are grown using this method, known as the "under-story" method, over a 72-square-kilometer area of the World Heritage Site, which includes nine traditional villages with inhabitants from five ethnic groups including the Blang and Dai.

Yu said that tea culture has deeply influenced the Blang people and that their most important festival of the year is to honor the ancestors who introduced them to tea tree planting more than 1,800 years ago.

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