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The Transformation of Sanhe Village

By Hou Yajing, Wang Yun, and He Qinhua Source: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2022-05-12

We depart Xichang, the seat of Liangshan Prefecture in Sichuan, on a warm March day, heading east on National Highway 245 for Sanhe Village in Zhaojue County. The road undulates along the rolling terrain and stretches deep into the mountains, linking the villages of Liangshan, which once existed in almost complete isolation, with the outside world. Each place we pass brims with vitality. 

Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture is home to the largest population of ethnic Yi people in China. It was also once one of the poorest areas. On February 11, 2018, the eve of Chinese New Year, President Xi Jinping visited Sanhe Village to convey his best wishes to the local people there. President Xi noted that "China is practicing socialism to ensure all of its ethnic groups live happy lives." "We must not leave any ethnic group or any family behind on the road to moderate prosperity," he said. Keeping the President's earnest wishes in mind, the officials and residents of Sanhe seized the hour and overcame their harsh environment by moving out of impoverishment, developing local industries, and fostering new cultural practices. By tackling the toughest challenges of deep-rooted poverty, the villagers strode together toward a new life. 

Moving into new homes 

At the Sanhe Village resettlement site, new houses with distinctive Yi ethnic minority characteristics sit in neat rows. Slogans on the walls in front and behind the buildings read: "The Yi people have moved into new homes"; "Poverty alleviation is 'Wajiwa'" ("excellent" in the Yi language); and "'Kashasha,' President Xi" ("thank you" in Yi). 

As local resident Jihao Yeqiu gives us a tour of his new home, he recalls President Xi's visit to his old house: "When the President arrived, he entered our yard and enquired if we had running water and electricity. When he went inside, he asked if we had quilts, enough food, and warm clothing." The living room, bedrooms, and kitchen of the new residence are bright and spacious, and equipped with a television, fridge, washing machine, and all other essential appliances. "Moving from a rundown house to our new home has made a huge difference to our lives. I want to thank President Xi. I am looking forward to his next visit to our village." 

With an average elevation of 2,500 meters above sea level, the village was once a typical example of an impoverished place with a large Yi population. It was, for a time, afflicted by heart-wrenching poverty. Villagers recall that their home village used to be full of squat, dilapidated mudbrick houses, with a narrow dirt track as the main road in the village. On fine days, villagers were coated in a film of dust, and their feet were caked in mud when it rained. Today, however, thanks to the policy of relocating people from inhospitable conditions, Sanhe Village has been transformed. Where the mudbrick houses stood are now small villas with paved roads outside; residents have peace of mind about their drinking water; and communication networks cover the entire village. The poverty caused by inhospitable conditions has been eliminated at the root. By 2020, all 152 registered impoverished households in Sanhe, 816 people in total, had been lifted out of poverty, thus leaving no corner of the village untouched by the light of poverty eradication.


A resettlement area in Sanhe Village, Zhaojue County, Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province. PHOTO BY TIAN BIN 

Identifying the best path forward 

On February 25, 2021, Sanhe Village was awarded the honorary title of "National Model of Poverty Eradication" at the National Conference to Review the Fight against Poverty and Commend Individuals and Groups Involved. 

"Both of my dreams have now come true: the first was to go to university and change my fate; the second was to get out of poverty and grow prosperous." Deputy secretary of the village Party branch, Luogu Youge quit his corporate job in Chongqing in 2013 and returned to Sanhe to set up a breeding cooperative and lead his fellow villagers out of poverty. "We have raised more than 200 Simmental cattle, and we are now building a standardized farm with government support. The next step is to expand the scale of breeding to benefit more people in the village." 

Thanks to its unique natural conditions, Sanhe has been able to introduce Simmental cattle, Chinese honeybees, and other high-quality varieties. It has planted a large amount of high-value crops such as Dolomiaea costus, Sichuan pepper, and winter peaches. Along with the provision of organized labor services to other areas, these steps have substantially boosted the incomes of villagers. In 2021, the average per capita disposable income of previously poor households in the village reached 13,678 yuan. This has laid a solid foundation for rural revitalization. 

"We have put industry vitalization at the heart of our efforts to consolidate the achievements of poverty elimination. Based on local conditions, we identified five major sectors suited to the village: breeding, planting, processing, tourism, and export of labor services." Li Kai, first secretary in the village, explained, "To pass the next big test, we will ground our efforts in the resource endowment of the village, and develop tourist trails featuring revolutionary heritage, linking old historical sites, new houses, and village history museums together, so as to boost rural tourism, coordinate its development with the rural revitalization strategy, and help previously poor people earn steady incomes and create wealth over the long term." 

Fostering new local customs 

In the past, when Yi people became ill, they believed they had been possessed by a ghost. During his visit to Sanhe, President Xi remarked that there had indeed been "ghosts": those of ignorance, backwardness, and poverty. But now that these problems had been resolved and people were better educated, conscious of the importance of hygiene, and living more comfortable lives, these "ghosts" had naturally been driven away. 

"I have not spent one day of my life in the classroom; I cannot even write my name properly. And I've suffered due to my lack of education," said Jihao Yeqiu. "When President Xi came, he urged me to make sure my children attend school. Now that they are going to school, I hope they will all go to university one day and acquire skills that will allow them to serve fellow villagers and our country." Similar to Jihao Yeqiu, an increasing number of the local ethnic Yi population are stressing education and embracing cultural-ethical advancement. 

Local customs and social civility represent the soul of rural revitalization. In Li Kai's opinion, Sanhe Village has witnessed changes not only in a material sense, but also in the mindset and outlook of residents. In recent years, people in Sanhe have fostered new cultural practices, carried out programs in cultural education and healthcare, while also carrying forward farming culture and fine traditions. The village is promoting the learning of standard spoken and written Chinese in kindergarten, while harmful phenomena, such as an obsession with social competition and exorbitant bride prices, have been checked. Good hygiene habits have been adopted, and antiquated practices have died out as people have embraced positive habits and customs. 

In the warm spring breeze, a sense of renewal pervades the air. The villagers of Sanhe are grateful to the CPC and are ready to follow the Party's lead. With new expectations for life, they have rolled up their sleeves and are busy building the bright future of all-around rural revitalization. 

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 6, 2022)