Visits to the Village: Stepping Through Time

By / HIMC / Updated: 20:03,04-July-2022

Editor's note:

"Visits to the Village: Ten Years On" is finally here. This documentary series takes a look at China's newly revitalized beautiful countryside with its verdant vistas and reinvigorated villages nestled in among lucid waters and the lush mountains, as one charming village after another develops their own flavor of rural revitalization through integrating culture and tourism. How do these once impoverished but now pretty villages end up making a pretty penny? What's it like to experience the charms of a Li village given a new lease of life through tourism? What stories have come out of the 'new urbanization+beautiful countryside' innovative integration project?

With the 20th National Congress of the CPC due to commence later this year, “Visits to the Village” highlights the extraordinary achievements made in Hainan's rural areas in the past ten years since the 18th National Congress. Follow Lara as she witnesses the surprising and monumental changes that have taken place in the Chinese countryside and experiences a day in the life of rural residents following the implementation of the rural revitalization strategy within the Hainan Free Trade Port.

Each episode sees Lara travel to a village and experience different roles. In Haikou's Bumao Village, she volunteers as a science teacher and takes students for an educational stroll through the Tanfengyang Provincial Wetland Park. She takes over from a guesthouse owner and experiences the charms of a Li village making new inroads with tourism in Zhongliao Village, Sanya, before surfing on down to Hainan's 'Santorini' in Tianya town, where she learns and then teaches others to paddle-board. In Haikou's Qilou historic quarter, Lara and her friend don traditional Chinese Qipao dresses and experience the quaint delights of times gone by. At the Soong Family Cultural Park, she gets an insight into 'Red' culture in her role as a tour guide.


Time travel is a common trope in fantasy and science fiction. Actually moving any direction but forward at any speed other than 1 second per second is a dream beyond reality but, that doesn't mean you can't experience history. For this episode, my friend Inira and I had a splendid journey back in time.

It all started with a dash of rouge on our cheeks, winged lines on our eyelids and a bit of scarlet lipstick. Costumed in the classic yet timeless look of an early 20th century cheongsam, two ravishing beauties graced the streets of Haikou's historic downtown. Called shophouses in Malaysia and Singapore, the mixed occidental and oriental architectural style here is referred to in China as "qilou". The vintage aesthetic of the shops and cafés on the pedestrianized street at the center of district is something that I fell in love with from the first time I saw it.


Living in Haikou, I actually come here quite often. And by "quite often", I really mean "all the time". Daytime, nighttime, anytime at all, the streets are lively and cheerful. I particularly like staking out a sidewalk table for a cold coconut and an hour of people watching. There's always something (or should I say someone?) to see. From little kids being cute to teenagers taking selfies to photographers doing a professional photo shoot, it’s as if everyone agrees with me about the lovely aesthetic.

Inira accompanied me to a century old shop called “Quanfengtai”. Originally a dried seafood wholesaler, it's recently taken on a new appearance as a classy restaurant. As a cultural venue, Quanfengtai is perfect for a fancy business dinner, date night or really any celebration that calls for good food, a stunning atmosphere and exquisite entertainment.


After we were done exploring Qilou, we hopped in a car and headed to the Soong Family Home in rural Wenchang. As an avowed feminist, I was very impressed by the information on the three Soong sisters: Rosamond Soong Ch'ing-ling, Nancy Soong Ai-ling, and Soong May-ling. 

The second daughter of Charlie Soong Yao-ju, Rosamond would marry the prominent Chinese statesman and early revolutionary Dr. Sun Yat-sen, before playing a pivotal role in her actions seeking aid outside of China.


In addition to exhibits with info about these seriously awesome ladies, visitors to the Home can also see the birthplace of their father Charlie Soong Yao-ju. As an important businessman of his era as well as a supporter of the revolution, the original structure has been maintained in excellent condition. A native of Wenchang who found his fortune in Shanghai, he was an early supporter of Dr. Sun Yat-sen and he made significant contributions to the Xinhai Revolution.

At the end of a full day of history, Inira and I both felt that we had not only traveled from place to place but also from the modern era back into history.

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