Across China: Revival of traditional virtues transforms destitute village
Stinky ditches, litter everywhere, drinking and fighting and discord between mothers-in-law and wives. Not to mention, nearly one-third of the villagers were impoverished.
That was what Wanliushu Village in central China's Henan Province was like seven years ago. Its transformation began after Song Rui, a provincial statistics bureau official, was assigned to work there to help the village shake off poverty in late 2012. She achieved this by promoting traditional virtues, such as filial piety, harmony and upwardness among farmers, to improve their morale so they could earn a better life.
She had an experience that prompted her to take the route of changing residents' virtues to tackle the root cause of poverty. She applied for a government poverty alleviation fund of 400,000 yuan (56,558 U.S. dollars), but villagers needed to submit their plantation or husbandry plans before they could receive the money.
One month passed. To her surprise, no one had asked for the fund to launch projects. Song learned that the poverty reduction fund was previously allocated directly to villagers, even if they did not bother to start special plantation projects. This made Song realize that the root of poverty lied not in lack of funds but lack of morale.
Song thought promoting filial piety would be readily accepted and improve relationships among family members and then the local folkways. She gave her first lecture on traditional virtues in the office of the village committee and prepared gifts such as towels, basins and washing powder.
"Dozens attended the lecture, which was beyond my expectations," she recalled. "I knew some came for the free items, but I was confident I could attract them to come again."
She continued to give lectures or invited models of virtues or professors to provide classes, which were attended by more and more villagers. Display boards on well-known deeds of virtue models were erected. The village broadcasted songs and stories related to filial piety and other virtues. She organized a volunteer team to clean up the village.
"Some visitors even helped us clean. How could we stand idle?" said Li Guilan, an elder in the village.
After attending several lectures, Wang Xuehua, another villager, got rid of his habit of getting drunk and making trouble. He also joined the volunteer team. Later, he was elected a village official. The elders who had been living in shabby houses were picked up by their children to live with them.
Thanks to the improvement of folkways, people have become active in increasing their income, planting organic vegetables and engaging in farm tourism. The village shook off poverty in 2016.
This year, businessman Zhao Rongda established a sauce processing company in the village, employing some 20 local residents.
"During my previous visit to the village, I noticed the residents were polite with a prevailing culture of filial piety and virtue, which assured me a lot," said Zhao.
The village also founded its own cultural company to give performances in other places to promote the virtues.
The construction of rural culture needs to follow the rural cultural system and achieve the integration of traditional and modern elements, according to experts.