Knowing All about Hunan

Int'l students captivated by China's eco-culture via study tour

Updated:2022-07-27 14:34:11

As one of the prototypes for the scene in the movie Avatar, the scenery of the central Chinese city Zhangjiajie has attracted a group of overseas students.

"In the past, I had only seen Zhangjiajie in movies and read about it in the news, but this time, when I am there, I have truly felt its allure," said Boukete Grace, a student from the Republic of the Congo, who studies at Hunan Normal University in Changsha.

This July, 30 international students from 15 countries, who all attend the same university, traveled to Zhangjiajie, a renowned tourist city, for a five-day excursion to the surrounding countryside.

The international students' first stop on their study tour was a once impoverished mountainous village located in Zhangjiajie's Cili County. In recent years, the local government has made efforts to improve the living conditions of the villagers.

By building orchards and developing agritainment, the local government has helped the locals by creating more jobs.

The village's fruit growers took the students on a tour of the picturesque countryside and taught them how to identify a peach, a kiwifruit, a peanut, and other popular fruits and vegetables in the village.

"It took a long time for the villagers to find their way, but luckily their hard work and sheer determination paid off. A great number of once-impoverished villagers embarking on the path to success touched me deeply," said Cameroonian student Arthur Vithran.

The villagers also invited the overseas students into their homes. One of the hosts told them how he quit his job in the city and started a new life as an entrepreneur in his hometown. An elderly villager told the students about the dramatic changes they had witnessed, such as modernization, including an improvement in rural sanitation that had occurred in the village over the years.

The villagers put on a variety of performances for the international students before they left the hamlet. Wearing traditional dress, and some with a traditional musical instrument in hand, they sang, played music, and danced for their guests.

"In addition to focusing on improving the economy, there is an emphasis on conserving the culture. Villagers from an ethnic minority group have retained their cultural traditions which attract many tourists," said Malek Alshabi from Yemen.

To learn more about China's experience in conserving its natural resources, the international students also visited Zhangjiajie's breathtaking scenic views in Wulingyuan, which has been included on the World Natural Heritage List of UNESCO.

Students went on an underground karst cave tour in the Huanglong Cave. They were told that one of the tallest stalagmites in the area was insured for up to 100 million yuan (about 14.8 million U.S. dollars) by the local management.

"I think this reflects China's long-standing adherence to the ecological strategy of fostering a community of life for both man and nature," said Nguyen Thi Da Thao from Vietnam.

A number of free-roaming wild macaques in the picturesque surroundings also caught the students' attention. In China, the wild macaque is under national second-class protection. The scenic area management department has been stepping up animal protection by setting up a wildlife protection agency.

"A society's level of civility can be gauged by how much emphasis it puts on preserving its natural environment," Nguyen added.

"It was an exciting trip for sure. The scenery, folklore, history, and culture all made me see things differently," although Malian student Sagara Seydou has lived in China for a number of years, he has primarily resided in the urban area. "This study tour has provided me with a fresh understanding of rural China," he added.