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Taiwan helps village become popular spot for wedding photos

By Zhang Yi | China Daily | Updated: 2021-02-22

In Sanlou village in northern Fujian province, couples pose for wedding pictures under trees and tourists take in vistas of rice growing on terraces, some even working the terraces themselves.

More people have been visiting the formerly poverty-stricken village since a Taiwan design team introduced the wedding industry there.

Located on a mountain about 700 meters high in Nanping, Fujian, the village used to be about an hour's drive from town. Villagers maintained their farming lifestyle and planted rice on terraced fields for a living.

The high forest coverage rate in the mountains gives the village clean air and a good environment, and the rice terraces offer four-season views like paintings.

Lin Chun, Party chief of the village, said: "Its natural beauty attracted many hikers and photographers, but it didn't bring villagers much income without a complete industry. The agricultural products didn't sell well."

Villagers have had to leave the village to make a living. There are about 300 people living in Sanlou, mainly the elderly, about 25 percent of the village's total population, Lin said.

As part of the country's efforts to promote rural revitalization, Fujian rolled out preferential policies in 2018 to attract Taiwan designers to join village-building work in the province after a similar strategy was pursued on the island.

The incentives include giving subsidies of up to 500,000 yuan ($77,450) each to villages that hire Taiwan designers. By the end of last year, about 200 designers from Taiwan were involved in rural revitalization work in 117 villages in Fujian, according to the Fujian Provincial Housing and Urban-Rural Development Department.

In March, a Taiwan team arrived in Sanlou. After conducting investigations and holding discussions with local people, they decided to build the village into a wedding photography base because of its scenery.

Many wedding photography bases in Taiwan on remote mountains have become popular tourist attractions. One example is Pasture Yen Family in Changhua, Taiwan, which used to be an abandoned pig farm. Its large parkland area and barn-style auditorium are also used for weddings and banquets.

Design team leader Hsu Chunhsiung said: "The experience of the pig farm transformation project in Taiwan can be used in Sanlou, where there are large areas of grassland and unique terraced fields. Surveys found that outdoor weddings in forests are growing popular on the mainland.

"The village has good natural resources, and some contain symbols of romance-for example, two camphor trees in the village accompanying each other."

Two huge, ancient camphor trees-one about 1,000 years old and the other about 800 years old-grow side by side in the center of the village. Full of vitality, their branches intertwine.

The team made use of the village's distinctive scenery to develop spots where people can pose for photographs. They include the ancient camphor trees as well as a picture frame with terraced fields in the background.

The open space around the camphor trees has been transformed into an outdoor wedding venue, and the village auditorium has been upgraded to accommodate wedding banquets. The village's agricultural products are made into special dishes and gifts in distinctive packaging to increase their added value.

Lin said: "Local people go to the seaside to take wedding photos, but shooting in the rice fields and mountain valley is a new experience for them. We hope the wedding photography industry can activate other industries in the village."

Visitors posing on the terraces also buy rice in the village because they can see that its fields are irrigated by mountain water, free of pollution, with wild snails in fields serving as a natural indicator of environmental quality, he said.

People can rent a piece of land to grow rice for about 360 yuan a year, and they can experience agricultural work such as transplanting and harvesting. Nearly 300 people rented terrace fields last year, Lin said.

In October, a cross-Straits wedding photo exhibition was held in the village, exhibiting forest wedding photos taken by photographers from Taiwan and the mainland.

The wedding industry brought more than 20,000 tourists to the village last year. This year, Sanlou plans to provide outdoor wedding services and improve its homestay accommodations, Lin said.

"Developments in the village have changed the villagers' minds, with many returning last year to repair their old houses," he said.

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