A small village, way off the beaten track, has been turned into a model of rural vitalization and innovation.
Two years ago, residents at Maidichong village wouldn't have dreamed their home would be known among urban travelers. The village in Yiliang county is about 90 minutes' drive from Kunming, capital of Southwest China's Yunnan province.
"Everything was a mess and chaotic," says Pan Yunchun, a local villager, adding that the sewage flowed everywhere and the manure of farm animals could be seen everywhere.
"It was all mud roads."
The village is just about 3.5 kilometers away from the Jiuxiang scenic spot, a well-known tourist attraction in Kunming. However, the undesirable conditions in the village failed to entice travelers.
Things took a turn for the better in 2019 when experts from China Agricultural University moved in and started offering guidance.
It was part of the local authority's efforts to transform Maidichong into a rural getaway and improve the lives of local villagers. It didn't take long for Maidichong to say goodbye to its chaotic and scruffy past.
Experts from the university have studied and dealt with major problems in rural areas surrounding Kunming and, every year, postgraduate and doctoral candidates have been dispatched to conduct field studies and offer intellectual support to local governments and rural businesses.
"Cities and villages should not be the opposite of each other, but should be a fusion," says Li Xiaoyun, who headed the team of experts.
Those experts have endowed the labor force at Maidichong with an injection of scientific and technological strength. They taught villagers how to cultivate colored rice seedlings, and prearranged a pictorial pattern on doing so. When the rice is mature in autumn, the crop will form a pattern, which creates a picture-perfect backdrop to social media posts.
In fact, the move helped the village to draw in more than 100,000 traveler visits in 2019.
That initial taste of success stimulated further action. Themed pastoral scenery, featuring local ethnic Yi elements and flying peacocks, was put in place and focus has been given to vigorously developing agricultural tourism that highlights blossoms and fish farming in the paddy fields.