Preserving a slice of heaven

Updated: 2016-11-09 07:49

By Wang Kaihao(China Daily)

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Preserving a slice of heaven

A Tibetan-style house in Xiagei village. Some local families offer homestays for tourists to experience traditional rural life. CHEN CHUANGYE/CHINA DAILY

The village has about 500 residents living in houses with well-preserved traditional Tibetan architecture, but few people seemed to be at home on a recent afternoon.

"The national park creates so many job opportunities for us, ranging from tour guides to drivers and security guards," says Norbu, one of the villagers employed there.

Workers are picked up by car at 7 am and returned to the village at 4 pm. Norbu says not many tourists come to the village even though it is a part of the national park.

"In rural tourism, we need to promote communities, not just scenic spots," professor Liu says.

"While everyone is talking about building a 'beautiful countryside', techniques should be found to rejuvenate those villages, or they will gradually become empty. The original human landscape cannot be changed too much by development if they want to attract more tourists."

Some villages in Shangri-La have already had breakthroughs with new models of rural tourism.

In Kena village, next to Ganden Sumtseling Monastery, the most important Tibetan Buddhism monastery in Yunnan province, there are two luxury Songtsam hotels with traditional Tibetan architecture. Founded by a local villager, the hotels have a total of 100 guestrooms, and most of employees are local villagers.

Visitors can stay one day with local families to experience traditional rural life, but they are also ushered to fashionable events like meditation courses. Summer is the peak season-it's also harvest time for matsutake, a precious mushroom variety.

The hotels once introduced management by international hotel franchises, but that was abandoned in favor of preserving the local flavor, says Drolma Lhatso, a villager-turned-manager of one hotel.

"Construction and maintenance of such hotels can also be a way to save traditional craftsmanship that is fading away," she adds.