Forging Prosperity from Stone in Shicha Village
In early spring on Hainan, the breeze is gentle and the sun shines brightly. From early morning, tapping sounds can be heard coming from the garden of dendrobium, a herbal plant in the orchid family, at Shicha Village, Haikou, capital city of the island province. This is the sound of hammers that locals use to anchor dendrobium sprouts in volcanic rocks. As the first rays of sun pierce the forest canopy, these medicinal herbs anchored in the crevices stand erect, as if to cloak themselves in the golden light.
During his visit to Shicha Village on April 13, 2018, President Xi Jinping pointed out, "Rural revitalization is dependent on industry, and industrial development should be distinctive. It should follow a unique and well-conceived path that is suited to local conditions." Over the past four years, the residents of Shicha have kept President Xi's sincere advice in mind and made every effort to develop dendrobium cultivation. The area of land planted with this herb flower has expanded from 13.33 hectares in 2018 to 37.33 hectares in 2021. The per capita annual income of villagers has risen from 18,830 yuan in 2018 to 32,000 yuan in 2021. The village has thus embarked on a unique path of rural revitalization.
Seeding hope in the rock crevices
Shicha Village is located at the foot of Hainan's highest volcano crater. Over 90% of the village is covered in volcanic rock. For thousands of years, villagers survived by cultivating the land between the rocks. "There was volcanic rock everywhere. Residents used to pile up the rocks in order to squeeze out small patches of land for planting cassava and sweet potato. The entire village struggled desperately to eke out a living." Speaking about the past still evokes strong emotions for elderly resident Hong Shangke.
To turn things around, the village Party committee and village committee led residents in exploring a new development path. In 2015, the village attracted enterprise investment and established a cooperative. Villagers were encouraged to become shareholders by contributing their rocky and uncultivatable land. These lands were then planted with dendrobiums. To resolve the technical issues they've encountered in cultivation in recent years, villagers have brought in experts to develop solutions, thereby further boosting seed breeding capacity and enhancing yields. In 2020, the tissue culture laboratory in the village cultivated dendrobium seedlings that could be planted directly in the volcanic rock—an innovation that was granted a national patent. Today, the strengths of the herb plant industry chain at the village are becoming much more evident, and the reputation of volcanic dendrobium is gaining new luster.
Recalling the scene of President Xi's warm exchanges with villagers in the herbal plant gardens four years ago, Hong Shangke takes on an animated expression. "The president's handshake was so genuine, and I was full of excitement and emotion. There were many things I wanted to say but I didn't get the chance. Ever since, I have always wanted to tell the president that now every household in our village has built a small villa, and most fellow villagers have bought cars. We are living very happy lives."
A staff member observes the growth of dendrobium seedlings at the Shengrong Dendrobium Tissue Culture R&D Center in Shicha Village, March 9, 2022. PHOTO BY WANG CHENGLONG
Attracting tourists to a village of stone
Shicha Village is decorated in a striking mix of colors, thanks to its jet-black volcanic rocks, fresh green dendrobiums, and vivid bougainvillea and volcanic roses.
Taking advantage of Shicha's proximity to Hainan's volcano crater park and the reputation of volcanic dendrobium, tourism in the village has flourished. To promote agri-leisure activities and rural tourism, Shicha has developed a 20-kilometer volcanic tourist trail, which incorporates the five volcanic craters, nine lava caves, and eight ecological conservation villages in the jurisdiction. This step has energized local agriculture and tourism.
Applying an integrated innovation model for agriculture, culture, and tourism, Shicha Village has propelled the development of distinctive sectors based on dendrobium cultivation, homestay businesses, family tradition exhibitions, revolutionary history, and local village culture. It has actively promoted integrated tourism and encouraged villagers to start businesses and seek employment in the local area, while continually expanding the income channels of residents. In 2021, the volcanic dendrobium garden at the village received 35,000 tourist visits, and the catering and homestay sectors generated 20 million yuan in revenue, signaling the emergence of a new pattern of integrated tourism.
"On weekends and holidays, the village is full of tourists. People come to hike, stay in a homestay, and taste the local farmhouse cuisine. When they depart, they also take specialty products with them. The response from tourists has been very positive." Lu Qingsong, a college graduate, is glad that he decided to return to the village to start a business. Today, his business, the Original Taste Garden, is thriving. He also has plans to join forces with a tour company to open a homestay.
Serving as the principal force for uniting residents
Shicha's Party committee secretary and village committee head, Hong Yiqian accompanied President Xi Jinping during his visit to the village. Hong has not forgotten the president's exhortation that "Rural primary-level Party organizations should serve as the backbone and principal force in leading rural people toward common prosperity."
Shicha Village has been able to advance toward prosperity, because its people have full confidence in the primary-level Party organization. Strolling through the village, you cannot help noticing the small plaques hanging outside almost every household. These plaques are inscribed with messages like "I am a Party member; I will take the lead," titles like "Outstanding Family," and stars that are awarded to upstanding households. "These plaques are honors, but they also serve as motivation. In particular, by hanging the message 'I am a Party member; I will take the lead' outside their door, all Party members are making their identity known, so that people are able to turn to them when they encounter difficulties," explained a local resident.
In recent years, the village's Party organization has continued to strengthen itself as a principal community-level force by absorbing well-educated, young, and promising people, by admitting into the Party people with a strong ability to lead the prosperity drive, and by encouraging all Party members to make contributions based on their own posts. These efforts have made the organization more influential, appealing, and cohesive. In 2020, Haikou's very first village-level Party committee was established in Shicha Village. In 2021, as part of the celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CPC, the CPC Central Committee awarded the Party Committee of Shicha Village the title of "Exemplary Primary-Level Party Organization."
"We will maintain a spirit of forging ahead, hold ourselves to higher standards, and lead local residents toward a better life," said Hong Yiqian. He declared that Shicha Village will promote further development of the Party organization, the collective economy, and eco-tourism, and keep working toward the rural revitalization goals of thriving industry, a pleasant living environment, social etiquette and civility, effective governance, and prosperity.
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 7, 2022)