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Insights & Inspirations | A Case Study of Aihe Town by Lu Yi


Lu Yi
Member of the Party Leadership Group Level II Division Rank Official, Fellow of International Tourism Studies Association (ITSA)

Distinguished leaders, experts, dear guests,

Good afternoon.

This presentation was supposed to be given by Mr. Guo Aihe, the founder of Aihe Town, but unfortunately he could not make it here due to some scheduling conflict. So please allow me to brief you on the Aihe Town project, one aimed to reduce poverty and promote rural revitalization through art.

Also known as Luoyang Sancai (International) Ceramic Art Village, Aihe Town is is located in Luoning, a mountainous county of Luoyang city in western Henan province. Luoning was once a state-level impoverished county, but it is also very famous for its long history and profound cultural heritage. In April 2015, Mr. Guo Aihe, a national master of arts and crafts, an outstanding expert recognized by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and a national master of ceramic art, designed the namesake town. Spanning a lot of more than 3,000 mu, the town, positioned to be “A Pottery Heaven, and a Four-Season Painting Valley,” vigorously advocates poverty alleviation through art, aesthetic education and tourism. It gives full play to the influence of Luoyang’s traditional tri-colored glaze art, and integrates local advantages to create a Chinese rural art park. The town stands out with three highlights: art plus poverty alleviation; aesthetic education plus poverty alleviation; and tourism plus poverty alleviation.

First, art plus poverty alleviation is to light up the countryside with art. Aihe Town has hosted seven consecutive editions of the “One Day” Art Exhibition, where artists were invited to create artworks in the village and stage exhibitions and auctions, with all the proceeds donated to charities. So far, it has made 550 invitations to artists who donated 613 artworks, attracted 523 donors and raised RMB 1.448 million for local poverty alleviation. The “One Day” Art Exhibition, known as the first art-themed flash mob event in China, was rated as the art exhibition with the most attention in the country.

Second, aesthetic education plus poverty alleviation is to light up the future with aesthetic education. Aihe Town has been providing aesthetic education for rural children of the appropriate age, and funded 86 schools in setting up classrooms for aesthetic education and beautifying campus. It has organized study tours for rural children, and sponsored rural art students preparing for the university entrance exam, and trained rural art and music teachers, benefiting more than 70,000 primary and middle school students across the county. The project team has put forward the “Aesthetic Education in China” initiative, and held the National Children’s Tri-Colored Glaze Painting Competition and Award Ceremony in Luoning for seven consecutive years, significantly improving aesthetic education for children in mountainous areas.

Third, tourism plus poverty alleviation is to raise the visibility and reputation of Aihe Town, and light up the path to rural revitalization through tourism. The project team helped with local tourism planning and design, organized rural tour operations, and continuously worked to improve the quality of rural tours. Meanwhile they adopted multiple measures to increase farmers’ income. First, they promoted the transfer of land use rights and created local jobs for the villagers. Second, they leveraged local advantageous resources and actively guided the development of homestay business. Third, they opened cultural and creative stores online to boost the sales of agricultural and sideline products and traditional handicrafts. The project team also planned tourism events to attract crowds of visitors and wealth. They have organized the rape flower festival, the sunflower festival, the Sancai-themed Lunar New Year, the pear picking festival, among other celebrations, for consecutive years. These events have greatly promoted Aihe Town as “China’s rural art park,” and moreover created a favorable environment for the integrated development of local agriculture, culture and tourism industries spearheaded by Aihe Town.

From the Aihe Town project we have drawn some inspirations:

First, it’s important for the government, enterprises and villagers to work with each other and jointly advance project development. The most important thing in poverty alleviation is to ensure that the impoverished have access to education and training needed to lift themselves out of poverty. To empower rural revitalization with art, the most important thing is to let the local government and people understand what an art village is and how it can benefit them.

Second, it’s important to make rational use of local resources, adapt to local conditions and pursue sustainable development. Since day one, instead of demolition and construction of buildings on a large scale, the project team has adapted to local conditions, and been environment conscious. They protect local ecological resources, and add the beauty of art to the beautiful rural landscape of the village.

Third, by hosting and undertaking international art exhibitions, study tours and other events, Aihe Town is building itself into a new highland for promoting local culture and  cultural-ethical advancement. The project has attracted a lot of Chinese and foreign artists to the village to draw inspiration, create artworks and conduct exchange with other artists, and thus promoted the dissemination of excellent culture and traditional culture.

Fourth, it’s important to strengthen cooperation with colleges and universities in building tourist service platforms, cultivating creative talent, and promoting innovation and entrepreneurship. Aihe Town has partnered up with several universities in the country and become their designated base for innovation and entrepreneurship, for the development of tourism-related disciplines, for the teaching and research of arts and crafts, and for internship and field practice.

Aihe Town has been honored as a key project of “Innovation and Practice Base for New Social Stratum” by the United Front Work Department of the CPC Central Committee and the United Front Work Department of the CPC Henan Provincial Committee, a provincial exemplary project of the integrated development of culture and tourism in Henan, and a national AAA tourist attraction. Well-fed and -clothed, local villagers now have more cultural needs and start to make their homes more beautiful and more “artistic.” All this shows that blending cultural and artistic brands into rural tourism and promoting the integrated development of culture and tourism will greatly drive not only material progress, but also cultural-ethical advancement in rural areas, and eventually contribute to the building of beautiful countryside and the realization of rural revitalization.

Last but not least, I sincerely invite all of you present to visit Luoyang, an ancient capital city with a history of more than one thousand years, and the City of Peony, at your earliest convenience. Your opinions and comments will be much appreciated. Thank you.