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Village prospers from flowers, tourism
Date:2017-04-12    Source:China Daily

During the annual gathering of national legislators and policy advisers at this year's two sessions, Zhu Hong prepared a cup of tea for each participant in her panel discussion using dried chrysanthemums she had brought from home.


The flowers unfurled in the hot water as the tips of their petals stretched out to reach the sides of the cups. Chrysanthemums have become part of the lifeblood of Shanlian village in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, where Zhu is the head.


The village, with a population of more than 7,000, used to be listed among the province's poorest. A decade ago its per capita income was less than 10,000 yuan ($1,450), but that has since almost tripled.


It is now known variously as "Jiangsu's happiest village" and a "national-level ecologically friendly village".


Village prospers from flowers, tourism


Zhu, 31, returned home after graduating from college and working in a car dealership in Wuxi for a year.


The first thing she did upon assuming office was to give the village a face-lift. Plants were put in to beautify the town's industrial park, a dilapidated temple was restored and ormosia hosiei trees, a symbol of love that are only found in eastern and central China, were planted.


"Tour buses to our village from Wuxi Railway Station are available and the ride only takes an hour and a half. It has made it much easier for tourists to visit," Zhu said. "Many young people want a share of the benefits in developed cities, but I feel there is more potential on the rural stage."


All the changes Zhu made to Shanlian soon began to attract the attention of city leaders and the media. Tourists followed not long after, asking about dining options and lodgings, so some villagers built farm stays, while others opened restaurants - using the fresh vegetables they grew in front of their houses.


After the first trailblazers proved profitable, others followed suit. Over time, sightseeing tours, tandem bicycles and canoes were all introduced to the village. "Last year we received more than 400,000 tourists, who generated 22 million yuan in revenue," Zhu said.


Meanwhile, Shanlian's chrysanthemum plantation has grown from less than 0.01 square kilometer a decade ago to roughly 2 sq km today.


"Apart from the flowers grown for tea, we also have different species for use in food, medication and as bonsai plants," she said, adding that a packaged tea product made of chrysanthemums they developed jointly with Jiangnan University last year had sold much better than expected.


After becoming a deputy to the National People's Congress in 2013, Zhu worked hard to collect people's opinions and listen to their voices on social media platforms. She has made suggestions to the legislature on topics related to residents' interests, such as the lack of caregivers for the elderly and the need for more preschools in rural areas.


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