A 50-hectare rose plantation featuring many varieties of the flower has become the latest tourist sensation on the loess plateau in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
From a bird's eye view, the plantation, where roses in different colors are in full bloom, seems radically out of place in an area characterized by endless highlands of yellow earth.
The rose garden is part of an eco-tourism park in Ningxia's Tongxin County, covering more than 650 hectares. The park's owner, Ma Xiaofeng, a local businessman, said it received over 200,000 visitors within a month of its official launch in May this year.
Tourists dressed in stylish clothes like taking selfies with the roses and windmills, and children enjoy watching exotic animals in the park such as ostriches and camels, Ma Xiaofeng said.
"The visitors are mostly residents from the county seat of Tongxin and farmers from nearby villages in Xihaigu," he added.
Xihaigu is an area in Ningxia that covers Tongxin and several other counties and districts. It used to be one of China's most impoverished places due to drought and fragile ecology. Local farmers, plagued by grinding poverty for generations, struggled to make ends meet and barely had the time and money to take trips.
Xihaigu shook off poverty last year amid the country's comprehensive poverty relief efforts, including relocating impoverished people to more habitable places and developing local industries. As the locals get wealthier, a growing number are putting travel on their bucket lists.
"This park is big and has beautiful scenery," said Ma Limei, a 25-year-old farmer from the nearby Dongtan Village who often takes her family to visit the eco-tourism park. "This is a far cry from the days when we had no money to travel and no nearby tourist spots to go to."
Pointing at a stone mill in the park, which is usually a photo prop for tourists, Ma Limei said her family had used a similar mill to grind wheat in the old days, and "it's interesting to see it serve a new purpose."
"Now machines have not only replaced the stone mill in our kitchen but also reduced manual labor in the farmland so that we can have more free time for travel and other hobbies," she said.
Ma Xiaofeng said his park is now a popular tourist destination and a cash cow for some local farmers.
The park employs more than 80 farmers from nearby villages, who cultivate roses and jujube trees, raise chickens, make rose jam, or do maintenance work to earn stable incomes. It also provides up to 500 temporary jobs every year, Ma Xiaofeng said.
Local farmers also run dozens of food stalls in the park to earn extra money.
Ma San, who owns a barbeque stall in the park, said the revenue from his stall is about 20 percent higher than that from his shop in the county seat of Tongxin.
"The park is very popular, and the farmers have more money to spend, which is a boon for me," he said. Enditem