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In Xinjiang, village gets profitable facelift

chinadaily.com.cn| Updated: June 22, 2020


An artist paints a picture of a Uygur boy eating barbecue on a wall in Sigong village, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

At the invitation of local officials, Zhang Yi, a guesthouse designer from Hangzhou, Zhejiang province went to Sigong village in Ili Kazak autonomous prefecture in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, to turn people's homes into homestay guesthouses.

"I fell in love with the beautiful scenery in Xinjiang the first time I came here," Zhang said. "I have participated in several guesthouse designs in Zhejiang, so when the officials invited me, I came without hesitation."

Sigong village sits close to several popular tourist sites in Ili, and with its unique lavender plantations and ethnic customs, local officials believe the village will gain popularity with tourists, which will help the villagers get rid of poverty. In a big step last year, they decided to develop homestay guesthouses.

"We have invited different designers here, and many investors think highly of the future development of tourism," said Li Zengjie, the village party chief. "So the village is expected to have more than 30 homestay guesthouses by the end of 2020."


A homestay guesthouse designed by Zhang Yi in Sigong village, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

"In Nanjing, I found that many tourists preferred to stay in the distinctive guesthouses," Li said. "So I thought since we have great tourism resources in Sigong, why not introduce this to our residents and make Sigong a destination for tourists visiting Ili."

Returning to Sigong, Li began pitching his renovation project idea to residents. They weren't easy to persuade.

"At the beginning, most of them were reluctant to join the project, but I knew if one family agreed to convert their house into the homestay guesthouse and was able to make money from it, then everybody would follow," Li said.

Led by Li, the local government have improved infrastructures in 2019 and decided to invite the professional designer to Sigong in order to build a modern and characteristic homestay guesthouse.


Artists paint an image suggesting friendship between ethnic groups on the wall of a homestay guesthouse in Sigong village, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

"It was pretty hard at the beginning since I had to take care of everything, including design, selecting the material and decorating, but with the help from the investors and local government, we made a guesthouse that met our expectations," he said. "We felt a great sense of fulfillment when the guesthouse received its first guests."

As more visitors came to the guesthouse, more villagers decided to join the project. Now, there are more than 10 renovated houses in Sigong that are receiving guests.

"The income of the villagers increased, and Sigong is using more than 1,000 laborers from nearby villages to meet construction demands. We believe there will be more job opportunities after all the renovations are completed," Li said.

Meanwhile, he has invited a number of artists to create vivid outdoor art with local characteristics to cover the walls of many guesthouses.

"We respect the advice of the designer and artists. They want to make our village a better place," Li said.

"I hope with our joint efforts, the village will be a calling card for Ili and that people here can live a better life."


A painting of dairy cattle graces the wall of a homestay guesthouse in Sigong village, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]