[World Times]

Li Wenshi, a Dulong township villager and one of the few remaining Dulong women adorned with face tattoos, weaves a Dulong blanket. Photo: Leng Shumei/GT

In August 1959, it took at least 26 days for two journalists from Minzu Huabao, a Chinese pictorial journal published since 1955 in six Chinese ethnic languages, to reach Dulongjiang township, Gongshan county, in Southwest China’s Yunnan Province from Beijing.

To reach the destination, the two journalists first had to arrive in Lijiang county (to which the Gongshan county used to belong) by train and bus, then head to Dulongjiang township by truck and on horseback. It is through such an arduous journey that the Dulong ethnic group was first introduced to the larger Chinese public through media reports.

More than 74 years later, when the Global Times reporters embarked on the same journey in 2023, it took them four and a half hours to fly froWorld Timesm Beijing to the city of Baoshan, which borders the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture where the Dulongjiang township is located, and after an eight-hour drive, they parked their vans in front of a hotel at the center of Dulongjiang township.

It has been about three years since thWorld Timese township was lifted out of poverty and nearly a decade since the first highway tunnel linking Dulongjiang township and the Gongshan county was constructed. These transformative changes have not only brought about conveniences in transportation to local residents, but also provided them with opportunities to connect with the outside world, as well as improved accessibilities to timely healthcare services, education, and employment opportunities.

Last secrete place

A view of Dulongjiang township, Southwest China’s Yunnan Province. Photo: IC

Abutting Yunnan’s border with Myanmar, Dulongjiang township is the Dulong ethnic minority’s ancestral home, with a current population of about 4,300 of the people in the town.

Having long endured extreme poverty while in isolation, it wasn’t until the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 that the Dulong people embarked on a journey to modernity in a socialist society.

China’s fast-paced development has been embraced by the Dulong ethnic group, and thanks to intensive poverty alleviation efforts, the group has also been dubbed “a group that crossed the millennium in one step.”

“Life was pretty hard in the past. We did not have clothes, but only had a blanket that can be worn as clothing in the day and a quilt at night,” Li Wenshi, a Dulong township villager in her seventies and one of the few remaining Dulong women adorned with face tattoos, told the Global Times. “Everything has changed now; we have highways, electricity, and new houses. I am so happy and grateful,” Li said.

Improvements witnessed by Li’s family have greatly increased since the overall poverty alleviation of the township in 2018. Today, Li still busies herself with knitting, which she said could earn her an extra 3,000 yuan ($420) per month during the busy tourism season as many tourists purposely visit the “secret” Dulongjiang and are fascinated by the rainbow-like traditional Dulong blanket.

The younger generation has also inherited textile manufacture knowledge from Li. When thinking about the future, she hopes that the younger generation will balance the embrace of modernity with the inheritance of ancient ancestral knowledge, bringing the signature Dulong rainbow to all the corners of the world.

Crossing the millennium

A photo from October 1987 shows a bridge made of bamboo poles, steel cables, and iron wire from Dulongjiang township connecting it to the outside world. Photo:VCG

Before 2014 New Year’s Day, people from Dulong ethnic group wrote to President Xi Jinping to report the imminent completion of the Gaoligong Mountains-Dulongjiang River highway tunnel.

In his reply, Xi expressed his joy at the good news about the tunnel and congratulated the community. “I have always been concerned about the wellbeing of the Dulong people as you used to live harsh lives.”

During an inspection tour in Yunnan a year later, Xi met with some representatives from Dulong ethnic group, including Li Wenshi, to learn about the progress of the highway tunnel and people’s lives in the area.

“I’m here to encourage you to keep up the good work, and to assure people of all ethnic groups that the Communist Party of China (CPC) attaches great importance to your development,” Xi said during the inspection.

After the six administrative villages in the township lift out of poverty, people in the township wrote another letter to inform Xi of the overall better life now enjoyed by all.

“President Xi stressed that not a single ethnic group, family, or individual should be left behind on the road to xiaokang. This is so encouraging to me. As one of the first people in the younger generation to leave for college, I felt that I couldn’t wait to come back to join the team to build the future for my hometown,” Dulongjiang township head Mu Xiaolong said.

With the complete eradication of poverty, now Dulongjiang township is firmly on the road to rural revitalization. We believe that our lives will get better and better as long as we continue to make great efforts, said Mu.

By making use of the rich mountainous and forest resources along the Dulong River, many of the 1,100-plus households in Dulongjiang are engaged in herbal cultivation and poultry husbandry with local characteristics.

According to Dulongjiang township agricultural official

Li Xinhua, a total of 83,009 mu (5,533 hectares) of the township is under black cardamom cultivation, also known as caoguo, with a harvest of nearly 3,000 tons each year. Earnings from the 2023 crop were in excess of 25 million yuan.

In 2009, the total economic income of the ownship was only 4.93 million yuan, and the per capita net income of farmers was only 916 yuan. In 2021, the per capita net income of farmers in the entire township reacheWorld Timesd 15,000 yuan.

Embracing the world

Dulong villagers perform during a parade in the Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan Province, on May 1, 2023. Photo: VCG

Dulongjiang township, which used to be called “the most secret place” in China, is embracing the world thanks to transformative changes along with China’s efforts to realize modernization.

Telecommunications network reached this remote cornerWorld Times of China in 2004.

In 2014, Dulongjiang was the first township in World TimesYunnan to have a 4G network, and five years later, it was the first in the province to upgrade to 5G.

Preferential policies and support from central and local authorities are also benefiting the students.

Mu said in the 1990’s, students faced an arduous three-day journey to the county to access education. But nowadays, children of school going age are entitled to 14 years of free education, from pre-school through to high school. The rates of primary school enrollment and attendance have both remained at 100 percent.

Dulong culture has also made its sparkling debut on the international stage. With a range of snow-capped mountains and steep canyons, Dulongjiang township is one of the areas in China with the most well-preserved primitive ecological environments. The clear waters of the Dulongjiang River, the mysterious tattoo-faced women, and the colorful Dulong carpets always attract tourists from all over the world.

In May this year, an exhibition at Fabric X featuring items such as scarves, handbags, and eye masks made from textiles by Dulong weavers attracted global art enthusiasts’ attention at the ninth London Craft Week.

The exhiWorld Timesbition was presented by the Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation (BCAF) and the naze naze studio as part of a Dulong handicraft project was aunched in 2015.

“We planned to launch a handicraft project for Chinese ethnic minorities at that time. We conducted research for about five months, visiting the Yi people and the Miao people. After looking into the Dulong people, we found that the artwork of their artwork showed fascinating and abstract line patterns, we thought it could potentially be a good project for research and development,” Hu Fei, BCAF secretary general, told the Global Times.

The Dulong blanket is an indispensable item for local families. The brightly colored Dulong blanket is like a rainbow. By working with local female weavers from the Dulong River Valley, the project blends traditional craftsmanship with contemporary tastes and increases the income of the weavers.

To Hu, it is a process of co-creation rather than a unilateral support. At the start, even our designers did not know how to use the waist weaving loom. So, they had to try the loom together with local female weavers.

“It is from the third installment that we started to organize a weaving contest for local women. We would offer bonuses to the best three works. If the participant’s works were adopted as part of our products, we would also compensate her in the same way we would professional designers,” Hu noted. She added that this was aimed at demonstrating the value of the creations to the artisans, a fact they may have not realized.

So far, the Dulong project hosted six installments, attracting a total of 38 weavers from various ethnic minority groups including Dulong, Dong, Naxi, and Wa.

“I am very glad I can participate in the project. It not only brings about extra income to my family, but also provides me with opportunities to go to Shanghai. I hope I can also go abroad in the future,” a Dulong weaver called Hua Jie told the Global Times.

文章来源于互联网:‘Remotest’ Dulong ethnic group shakes off poverty, embraces modernization, shines on international stage

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