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Painting a new growth landscape

By ALEXIS HOOI, WANG LINYAN and MA ZHENHUAN in Quzhou and Lishui, Zhejiang | China Daily| Updated: November 30, 2021 L M S

Yudong villager Yu Yunmei's artwork helped her add more than 100,000 yuan a year to the family income.

Yu, 40, was a homemaker before she took up painting, following in the footsteps of fellow villagers.

In less than a decade, her works have gone on to adorn the buildings of neighbors and other villagers, or have been sold to private art collections or displayed proudly on the walls of her family courtyard, which has been turned into an art studio.

"I used to have to ask my husband for money for family living expenses. But now I can stay at home and paint. I can also teach others who come to me to learn," she said.

Her 69-year-old father, Yu Chunliang, is also a village painter, while her daughter, 17, studies art, Yu Yunmei said.

Yu Chunliang said: "I started painting in 2006. I used to make at most 20,000 yuan a year from planting rice on a 0.2-hectare plot. Now I get about more than 100,000 yuan from my paintings."

Yu Yunmei said that "life is getting better", adding: "We have better infrastructure, such as roads and communications, and the environment is improving, drawing many tourists. I try to incorporate all those into my paintings."

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A Yudong painter adds color to a canvas in the open air. CHINA DAILY

Riding on the attraction of Yudong's artwork, the latest village development initiatives include farming culture sites, youth hostels, art research facilities and big data information platforms that cover household healthcare and social services.

Many villagers have done brisk business running food, beverage and other outlets. During this year's May Day holiday period, Yudong businesses registered about 15,000 visitors, who contributed to nearly 1.2 million yuan in tourism revenue, including accommodations and retail operations.

Related green development projects that involve at least 112 households and supply agricultural produce to growing urban markets via supermarkets and other channels have also generated more than 1.2 million yuan in annual sales, helping to increase family incomes by more than 10,000 yuan a year.

Zheng Zhengtong, 24, who was drawn from the city by Yudong's rural vitalization opportunities, has worked with a business partner to set up a local cafe, store and online platform to help market and sell villagers' artwork.

"With a team of five to six people, we started out a year ago, with the help of local government subsidies and support, covering rental, renovation and other costs, to develop the creative cultural sector," Zheng said.

"I'm a design major, so I want to help promote this place through our retail products, channels and services."

Zheng expressed confidence that he'll soon get back his investment of about 300,000 yuan.

"I can feel this village turning into a culturally focused, multifaceted attraction," he said. "The village artists' works are very down-to-earth and direct. The improved village facilities and amenities are also very obvious, and the benefits are real."

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