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Enshi: A colorful fairyland with inspiring people

By Zhao Tong, Liu Ning (People's Daily Online)    15:38, September 29, 2020

A wonderland beyond imagination, the Enshi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture in Central China's Hubei Province perfectly displays how lucid waters and lush mountains enhance the beauty of marvelous peaks and rocks.

Famous poet Cui Hao in the Tang Dynasty described Enshi in his fluid verse as 'Endless green mountains to walk on, endless clear water going away.’ Enshi's geological location has also earned it the nickname “strategic throat of Sichuan and a natural barrier for Hubei.”

(Photo courtesy of Enshi Grand Canyon Scenic Area)

Incomparable beauty

Rolling mountains create colorful landscapes. The cliffs of Enshi Grand Canyon stretch for hundreds of miles. Here, one also can’t help but stop to appreciate a 3,600-meter-long geo-fracture, which drops 75 meters in depth on average, with breathtaking views of waterfalls pouring down the cliffs. The beauty and steepness of the canyon has earned it the nickname of the “Oriental Colorado Canyon.”

The world's first Ordovician Stone Forest, called Subuya Stone Forest, also lies in this unimaginable land. Its stratum was formed around 460 million years ago and has a poetic and dreamlike atmosphere, which is typical of Enshi. The scenic area’s shape, if seen at a bird’s view, is like a huge gourd, surrounded by green screens and peaks. Suobuya Stone Forest is vastly dotted with vegetation as if it wore a cap, hence the name “the capped stone forest.”

A place where people value honesty and loyalty

On lofty hills and above clear waters, sails a tiny boat, with an extraordinary story behind it.

Nearly 150 years ago, the ancestors of the Wan family built a boat and began ferrying people across the river voluntarily. Wan Qizhen, 79, is the family's third-generation ferryman and has been doing it for nearly 30 years.

Wan Qizhen, the family's third-generation ferryman, has been ferrying villagers voluntarily for nearly 30 years. (Media Convergence Center of Jianshi County/Su Xi)

“Our ancestral home was in Jingzhou City, by the Yangtze River. When the flood struck, my ancestors had to flee from famine and eventually came here,” Wan told People’s Daily Online.

The locals helped Wan’s ancestors by giving them five mu (nearly 3,300 square meters) of farmland so that they could make ends meet. To show their gratitude, they made a promise to do something for them in return, something free of charge forever.

“Now we are here, trying to do good deeds for the locals by ferrying people across the river for free,” Wan said.

However, time takes its toll, and Wan’s body sometimes can’t take the physical strain of the work, which used to require him to cross the river at least 40 times a day. Bruises could be seen on both of his hands, caused by constant friction with the oars when Wan rows the boat.

Wan Qizhen’s son inherited the job from his father 10 years ago. “We all need to repay other people’s kindness. We will never forget the promise our ancestors made,” he said, firmly believing that it will be kept and passed on from generation to generation.

“I will keep ferrying till the day I am no longer capable. I will always be a ferryman here when people need my services,” Wan Qizhen said, rowing the boat slowly and tirelessly along the river.

“Sky road” leads locals out of poverty

Enshi used to be unknown to most of the outside world due to lack of access. In Xintang Township of Enshi City lies a “sky road,” which looks like a jade belt on a cliff. From a distance, the road looks like it’s hanging on a wall, but it’s actually built on the cliff of Chegenpo. Before the road was built, there was just a meandering footpath, which was only one foot wide at its narrowest part.

“Climbing up, you would face precipices. When going downhill, you would have to be careful not to slip and fall. You’d have to hold on to vines to be able to take a step,” said Zhang Hongjun, a retired teacher who has spent most of his life here.

Carving this road out of rocks and mountains was a huge challenge. Villagers worked arduously for 10 years building this 4.4-kilometer “sky road” right on this cliff, which has an 800-meter vertical drop. According to Zhang, nine people died in an accident during its construction.

Aerial photo taken on Sept. 1, 2020 shows a view of the breathtaking "sky road" on the cliff in Enshi, in China's mountainous Hubei Province. The road looks like a jade belt in the mountains, and is known for its harrowing twists and turns. The daunting “sky road” shows the tremendous effort it took for local villagers to complete the construction, and their desire to connect with the outside world. The road attracts large numbers of driving enthusiasts from miles around. (People's Daily Online/ Zhao Tong)

In 1997, Chegenpo was finally conquered by those who wanted to shake off poverty. The “sky road” has helped villagers deep in the mountains realize their dream of achieving prosperity in their life. Rural tourism started to boom with an increase in employment in farmstay, restaurant and agri-tainment projects.

With more highways opening and high-speed rail and air routes expanding, barriers that hindered Enshi’s economic development have gradually been overcome. Clear water and lush mountains have become Enshi’s precious assets. By May 2020, all people in Enshi had been lifted out of poverty.

Unique tea industry of Enshi Yulu

Enshi’s road out of poverty didn’t come only from traffic improvements but also relied heavily on its unique industries.

About 40% of the annual income of Enshi’s rural population comes from tea plantation. According to statistics from Enshi's agriculture authority, the total area of tea plantations in the prefecture reached 1.7882 million mu as of September this year. The comprehensive output value of tea in Enshi exceeded 15 billion yuan (over 2 billion USD), with a year-on-year growth of 10%. With a per capita tea income of 5,587 yuan, there were 800,000 tea farmers in Enshi.

At 30 degrees north latitude, with an altitude of 800 meters, the canyon is shrouded in clouds and mist. This 100 mu tea garden of Enshi Yulu, one of China’s most renowned green teas, is both a poverty alleviation industry base and a training site for tea making.

Yang Shengwei is the 10th generation inheritor of making Enshi Yulu.

Now over 80 years old,Yang continues to make this hand-crafted tea.

“The key to make Enshi Yulu involves delicate processes such as steaming, rolling, and shaping,” said Yang Shengwei.

“Enshi Yulu cannot be made without steaming,” he added.

After 60 years of experience, Yang has worked out a series of standards and criteria for making Enshi Yulu, and has trained over 1,200 students, making a great contribution to the development and expansion of the Enshi tea industry.

Traditional blind date event injects new vitality

With abundant sources of material wealth, there’s also a rich spiritual life. The Tujia Nv’Er Festival is another calling card of Enshi.

The Tujia ethnic group’s Nv’erhui Festival, known as the Tujia Valentine's Day, is traditionally a “blind date” event held on the 12th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar every year, when single Tujia men and women gather to seek their soulmates by singing songs. It is a traditional Tujia ethnic group custom that has a history of over 300 years. Thousands of single people have come here every year in the hope of finding their Mr. or Mrs. Right on this "Eastern Valentine's day.”

Photo shows a traditional Tujia ethnic group wedding ceremony at the Nv’erhui Festival in Baiyangping Town, Enshi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, central China''s Hubei Province, Aug. 29, 2020. (People’s Daily Onilne/Zeng Zhiqiang)

“We met each other during the Nv’Er Festival last year. That’s why we decided to hold our wedding here this year,” said a couple with a smile on their faces during their wedding on this year’s Tujia Nv’Er Festival. “We think it’s very meaningful to us.”

The event has become an integrated festival filled with ethnic minority customs, culture and tourism elements, injecting new vitality into Enshi’s economic development.

Statistics show that Enshi prefecture received 71.1771 million tourists in 2019, up from 6.63 million in 2009, with a combined tourism revenue of 53.045 billion yuan. Tourism has directly led to the employment of 100,000 local people and indirectly lifted 400,000 out of poverty.

What used to be a land closed to the outside world is now a place that leads to all directions. Taking in the historic atmosphere of Enshi, and appreciating its beauty and harmony between nature and mankind is an exhilarating experience. Behind the gorgeous landscape is Enshi people’s wisdom and honesty, which has enabled them to pave the way to a brighter future. 

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(Web editor: Hongyu, Liang Jun)

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