Stars see how villagers defeat poverty
A journey to far-flung areas, to new horizons, will ensure long-lasting and precious memories and expand your own personal horizon. For veteran host Hu Qiaohua－better known as Huashao, who is the producer and host of Precious Countryside－a recent trek to Delingha in Northwest China's Qinghai province has refreshed his knowledge about poverty alleviation.
Hu shot to fame on The Voice of China, Zhejiang Satellite TV's hit talent show. Precious Countryside, which he produces and hosts, is a variety show that leads a team of celebrities to rural or landlocked areas to see for themselves the country's achievements in ending poverty.
With an innovative blend of picturesque scenery and local lifestyles, the show has so far obtained a rating of 8.9 points out of 10 on the popular TV and film review site Douban, propelling it toward an anticipated second season, which is already in preparation.
"The show is built on an interesting theme with skillfully designed content," says one Douban user. "It helps audience to see China's achievements in poverty alleviation and the diversity of its cultures in a funny and entertaining way."
Hu and his "teammates"－singer Kong Xue'er, actor Xiong Ziqi and Chinese Malaysian singer Azora Chin－developed a deeper understanding of poverty alleviation from a visit to the Senior High School of Haixi in Delingha city, western Qinghai, in the latest episode, which was broadcast on Jan 24.
The result of a huge investment of around 167 million yuan ($25.8 million), the high school is the largest single project that the more prosperous Zhejiang province has carried out in Qinghai in the battle against poverty. Over the past four years, a total of 39 experienced teachers have been dispatched from Zhejiang to coach their local counterparts and also teach students at the Delingha school, the only high school in the city.
Some of the teachers from Zhejiang reveal on the show that their main challenge is dealing with the actual location of the city. Situated at an altitude of nearly 3,000 meters, most of the teachers from Zhejiang need to replenish their oxygen levels for at least 30 minutes before going to bed every night.
Through talks with teachers from Zhejiang province, Hu says he realized that pulling locals from poverty's grip not only improves their living conditions, but also gives them a new mental perspective.
"The teachers from Zhejiang province not only coach the students, but also help local teachers to improve their methods," says Hu, adding that the local students are becoming "more open and confident" after spending 18 months with the teachers.
At the invitation of a class of teenagers, Hu and the guest celebrities help the students to hold a special party to bid farewell to the six educators, whose tenure in Delingha is set to finish, seeing them return to their respective cities in Zhejiang.
"I was touched when seeing the students shovel snow to make four Chinese characters houhui youqi (we will meet again) on the school's playground," recalls Hu, adding that he believes the students will be encouraged to study harder and strive to achieve their goals.
Aside from the landlocked province of Qinghai, the show's production team has traveled to the mountainous Leishan county in Guizhou province, home to the world's largest ethnic Miao population. The crew was treated to a traditional ceremony－more than 30 Miao villagers clad in their best outfits and donning jewelry to "persuade" celebrities drink up to 12 bowls of homemade rice wine.
In addition to experiencing traditional culture and customs, the celebrities have also seen how rapidly expanding internet access has influenced and changed local life in rural villages.
For instance, during a trip to Enshi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture in Central China's Hubei province, the celebrities were surprised to see villagers use a car-hailing app to reserve taxis－a convenient way for them to travel from one village to another.
"When I was little, in most people's minds, rural areas were mostly dirty places, consisting of muddy lanes and shabby cottages," says Hu, a native from Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. "But China's rural areas have undergone a huge transformation. We were amazed by the modernization in the countryside during the filming."
With internet access, most villagers accept new things willingly, with some young villagers even turning into internet celebrities by promoting local products on livestreaming platforms.
As the initiator of the show, Hu came up with the idea to produce Precious Countryside in 2017, when he was participating in Beijing Satellite TV's reality show Creative China, which showcased an array of creative cultural products.
Impressed with some of the cultural projects being developed in villages at the time, Hu says he was inspired to explore more of the charm and beauty of the country's far-flung areas, where hospitable locals and picturesque landscapes are an inspiration for big-city artists. This led to scenes of homestay hotels－designed by architects from big cities－in the rural areas of Zhejiang and mountainous regions in Guizhou.
Recalling stumbling upon a villager in her 80s at a local food market in Leishan, Guizhou, Hu says he was surprised that the woman insisted on inviting all of the crew members to her home for dinner."We numbered more than 100, but she didn't hesitate at all. In some sense, people living there are living more simply, happily and warmheartedly," says Hu.
A veteran television industry insider who has won wide acclaim from hosting the 2007 variety show Do You Remember, Hu has traveled to many cities and locales as part of his job. Nevertheless, the Precious Countryside show has given Hu new knowledge of the countryside.
"We once believed that locals in less-developed or impoverished areas need help, but sometimes they are helping us to rethink about what has been lost in urban life," he says.