Rees Tyrrel, a Briton teaching English at Taiyuan University of Technology in Shanxi, likes to tour various parts of the province to see the cultural and natural wonders of the area as well as its local life.
A recent program launched by the information office of the Shanxi provincial government gave him an opportunity to have an immersive experience in the province.
The program is called Deep in Shanxi. It invites foreigners to intensively tour Shanxi, telling stories about the province from a foreigner's point of view.
Tyrrel's travels have taken him to Taiyuan, Datong, Jinzhong, Linfen, Yangquan and Shuozhou. Even in Taiyuan, the city where the 25-year-old has lived for two years, he discovered many things.
Fenhe Park in Taiyuan was the first stop in Tyrrel's journey.
The Fenhe is the second-largest river in Shanxi. Taiyuan is home to a 188-kilometer section of the river and Fenhe Park lies on a 43-km-long scenic belt of the river.
It was in the park that Tyrrel met local photographer Zhang Xiangdong, who showed him the wide variety of birds there, including some he didn't notice before.
"Fenhe Park is the habitat for about 250 varieties of birds, including rare species like the crested grebe," Zhang told Tyrrel, adding the increasing number of birds is an indicator of the river's improving environment.
Shanxi began to improve the river in the 1990s. Three decades of efforts turned the river into a picturesque belt of hundreds of miles and an ideal habitat for both humans and wildlife.
He was later informed that one place that should be remembered by all for its painstaking efforts in environmental protection is the county of Yuyou in the northwest of Shanxi.
Youyu was once a drought-plagued area where the living conditions of residents were threatened by sandstorms and desertification. In the 1950s, the vegetation coverage there was only about 0.3 percent.
After generations of effort, Youyu was turned into a huge green oasis with vegetation coverage reaching some 57 percent.
In Youyu, walking on the roads and paths shaded by lush trees, Tyrrel said: "It may be hard to believe that around 70 years ago the majority of the land here was part of the desert and covered in sand."
The improving ecological environment has made Youyu one of the renowned animal farming bases in Shanxi. In the village of Zhangqianhuling, Tyrrel experienced both the traditional and modern ways of herding sheep.
Wang Yue, a 73-year-old herder, used a whip to lead the sheep to graze on a hill. His way of herding was in sharp contrast with that of Zhang Yong, who used a drone to look after his animals.
Tyrrel tried to learn both skills but didn't seem to succeed given the short period of time he was there.
Tyrrel's journey also included a trip to the daylily farms in Datong. The flower of a daylily is a popular food ingredient nationwide and the city is one of the major production bases for the crop in China.
Rees Tyrrel feeds a lamb in Zhangqianhuling village, Shilou county. [Photo via China Daily]
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