Singing a New Song of Happiness

2022-09-19 15:29:39 | Author:Wei Tianshu and Tan Yazhu |

As the day begins in the Va village of Simola, the tune "The Va People Sing a New Song" plays in the public square. In the small convenience store, owner Zhao Jiahai is setting out his wares for the day's business. Zhao Xinshuang, 56, is putting on her traditional Va costume, before heading to work at Simola Tourist Company. A sweet aroma wafts in the air, coming from the local Baba Rice-cake Factory, which is preparing for the arrival of the day's tourists.

Simola Va Village, located in Tengchong City, Yunnan Province, has a history of more than 500 years. In the Va language, the word "Simola" means "place of happiness."

On January 19, 2020, just before the Chinese New Year, President Xi Jinping visited Simola Va Village. During his visit, President Xi told village residents that rising out of poverty was just the first stop on the way to a better life and the starting point for a new life and a new endeavor. On the basis of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, President Xi noted, Simola should vigorously promote rural revitalization to foster even greater happiness for the villagers.

The Simola of today has taken on an entirely new look and is creating promising prospects for building a beautiful countryside.

Pairing agriculture and tourism to promote rural revitalization

Crossbows, wooden plows, textile machines, and other exhibits are on display in the Simola Ethnic Culture Exhibition Hall. Tourists linger over these artifacts which were used by the Va people in ancient times. Strolling through the village, you can see ox head totems and pillars symbolizing ethnic unity. The whole village is immersed in the Va culture. Though tourists visit this area for its stunning scenery, they often stay for its unique ethnic minority culture.

Bearing in mind President Xi's instruction to "foster even greater happiness for the villagers," Simola Va Village has focused on marrying agriculture with tourism and integrating the primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors to promote both poverty alleviation and rural revitalization.

In June 2020, the Simola Professional Tourism Cooperative was officially established. All 79 families in the village joined the cooperative based on a model that incorpo- rates the Party branch, the cooperative, enterprises, and farmers. The village opened the Happiness Restaurant, the rice-cake mill, and the snack street, all of which have distinctive Va features. Tourists soon began to flock to the village. As Simola-branded wine, red tea, and a series of other products began to appear on the shop shelves, the value of local agricultural products doubled, and traditional agriculture shifted toward a modern, tourism-based model.

Li Fashun's farmyard is usually one of the first stops for visitors to Simola. When President Xi visited Li's home, he talked with Li about poverty alleviation. The unforgetta- ble concern President Xi showed toward Li became a major motivator driving him toward a better life.

In 2020, Li invested over 200,000 yuan in refurbishing his courtyard. Tourism has now become a major support for his entire family. Li's daughter is enrolled in a graduate school, his son is a member of the armed forces, and life continues to improve for the Li family.

Drumming a beat of ethnic unity

The slogan "All ethnic groups should stay closely united" hangs in the most prominent position of the public square in Simola.

Simola was once rundown with only primitive thatched huts, and residents struggled with meeting even basic needs. Now it is a beautiful village that is moderately prosperous in all respects. The roads have been widened, people's houses have been renovated, the village has been brightened up, and people of all ethnic groups are enjoying better lives. Secretary of the Party branch, Zhao Jiaqing said, "Everyone knows that without the good policies of the Party and the government, and the help and support of all China's ethnic groups, we would not have the good lives we enjoy today."

Improvements have not been confined to Simola alone. Qingshui Township has drawn up a master plan for its entire jurisdiction. The rose-themed village Huayuanli, Yujiaying, Bangeshan, Linjiazhai, and other beautiful villages have joined forces to form one large scenic area with Simola Va Village at its core. This has helped all ethnic groups achieve progress in unity and realize common development.

Various types of volunteer service and rural recreational activities have also been launched, in an effort to see traditional virtues such as filial piety, compassion for the elderly, diligence and trustworthiness, and mutual assistance take root among people of various ethnicities and promote a stronger sense of community for the Chinese nation.

In the public square, people are singing and dancing to the beat of the traditional wooden drum. They perform the Va dance "Three Drums" and the Jingpo ethnic dance "Singing Ten Praises for the Communist Party." The joyous atmosphere draws in tourists, and soon everyone is dancing hand-in-hand in a large circle. Luo Aiyan, leader of the Simola dance troupe, explains with great pride, "The dance team has members from the Va, Han, Yi, and Jingpo groups, but all of us are members of the Chinese nation."

Holding consultations and creating synergy through the Party branch

In the Simola Ethnic Culture Exhibition Hall, a firepit meeting is being held. Party members, members of the public, and youth representatives sit around the fire and engage in a lively discussion on how to develop Simola's brand as a tea producer and enhance the added value of its tea industry.

Firepits have been used by the Va people for centuries and are at the center of Va life. The Party branch at the village has adapted to the local customs. It has used meetings around firepits and in fields, ethnic culture lecture halls, and other unique formats to inform people of new policies, changes and improvements in development, and increases in income. People of all ethnic groups recognize the importance of listening to the Party's instructions, are grateful for its policies, and are ready to follow its lead.

Paddy field artwork at Simola Va Village. Villagers used their fields as a canvas and different rice varieties as colorants to create this wonderful work greeting visitors on the way into Simola. YUNNAN DAILY / PHOTO BY GONG DETAO

It is impossible to foster unity, pursue development, or solve tough problems without strong primary-level Party organizations. When issues arise in Simola, big or small, it is Party members who are the first to step forward. When the village was building the Happiness Restaurant, Party member Meng Jialiu offered his reserved house site without a moment's hesitation. When asked why he had done so, Meng explained with a smile, "I am a Party member. I must take the lead in developing the whole village."

Zhao Xingkai, 28-year-old, was once from a registered poor household. Thanks to the generous help of local Party members, the Zhao family has risen out of poverty. "As soon as the Party branch issues a call, the whole village leaps into action," he said. The changes Zhao has seen in the village have made him determined to join the Party. "I want to turn my gratitude into actions that will help others," he explained. He is currently an active applicant for Party membership.

In Simola Va Village, people have devoted themselves to the development of their village. Through these efforts, they have managed to forge a new model for rural governance that is guided by Party development and based on the integration of self-governance, the rule of law, and the rule of virtue.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 11-12, 2022)

    Source: English Edition of Qiushi Journal, No.4,2022