Walking in the old town, relaxing by the lake… Everywhere you go in Water Mill Village, there is something to see. The village in Wenchuan Count, Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Region of Sichuan Province, used to be an industrial zone with high energy use and heavy pollution. After the 2008 earthquake, it was rebuilt as a national 5A-level scenic area, and became a renowned tourist destination.
In post-earthquake recovery, with help from Foshan City of Guangdong Province, Water Mill Village did not just undertake rehabilitation, instead, it was redesigned with a comprehensive outlook and long-term goals.
The strategy was to “move industries outside, and rebuild as tourist zone.” Housing, facilities, production, and ecology are now the town’s priorities. The town has been remade into a cultural, educational, and tourist center in Aba Prefecture.
Spring Wind Pavilion, West Qiang Center, Shouxi Lake… New buildings in town are shaping a town with deep cultural roots. Many scenic spots with Qiang minority cultural elements were cultivated in the eight years since the earthquake. The residents have also used the opportunity for rebuilding to generate tourism income.
Next to Spring Wind Pavilion, an eponymous inn has been in operation for more than five years. Zhang Zhonghui, the inn owner, also runs a convenience store. After the earthquake destroyed Zhang’s house, as soon as rebuilding was complete, he opened the Spring Wind Pavilion Inn. Business was slow at first, the 20-plus rooms were occupied only around the holidays.
As Water Mill Village became more and more popular, however, tourists swarmed in. The inn’s 45 beds are now so in demand that tourists need to book a month in advance for weekend or holiday vacations.
“Business is great, and we’re so happy. We hope more tourists come to visit and our life will be even better.” Said Zhang.
After rebuilding, new homes went up and the environment was cleaned up. Residents began to pay more attention to how they treated the town. “There was dirty water everywhere, and the streets were really messy. Now, people are more aware and don’t litter anymore.” Zhang was touched.
On the other side of the street is a restaurant called “Senior Village.” Owner Ying Tanghui left the village in 1979 and worked in the restaurant industry for more than three decades. In 2010, the village asked him to help redevelop tourism back home, which was how Ying came back and opened the restaurant. With his support, the villagers are all launching tourism-related businesses.
“People used to have to work out of town to make a living. Now, they’re opening inns, running convenience stores, and working in tourism… Everyone can build a great life at home.” Said Ying.
In the last few years, Water Mill Village has become a global tourist destination with an annual tourism volume of around two million people. It was nominated as the “Premier Cultural Tourism Destination of China” by the Third Annual Forum of the World Cultural Tourism Committee.
Water Mill Village is reborn by developing tourism. It survived a disaster and is writing its own success story.