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Beijing Review Exclusive
Special> NPC & CPPCC Sessions 2009> Beijing Review Exclusive
UPDATED: February 16, 2009 NO. 7 FEB. 19, , 2009
Solid Houses, Sweet Hopes
An ethnic Qiang village in Beichuan County, where most houses were destroyed by the earthquake, picks itself up again

"We got 20,000 yuan ($2,916) in subsidies from the government, 50,000 yuan ($7,290) in interest-free loans from the bank and collected another 100,000 yuan ($14,580) by ourselves," said Jiang, wearing traditional Qiang costume.

Before the earthquake, Jiang and her husband worked for a TV production company in Mianyang City, not far from the village. Now she plans to take the opportunity of tourism development to do some business on her own. She opened a small convenience store in one of the rooms on the first floor and another shop for Qiang embroidery, which she makes herself. On January 25, she made 500 yuan ($73) by selling embroidered goods. "If tourism becomes hot in the future, I will have no difficulty returning the loans I borrowed from the bank," Jiang said with a big smile.

Unforgettable festival

As the first lunar New Year after the earthquake as well as in their new homes, this year's Spring Festival was unforgettable for village families.

Liu Guifang also moved into a new house at the end of December. On the second-floor balcony hung many kinds of cured meat, including pork, beef and fish. "I spent the Spring Festival with my husband, my son, my parents and my sister's family," said Liu. "I never thought we could enjoy such a big family reunion after the earthquake totally destroyed my original house."

But the villagers' most unforgettable memory was seeing Premier Wen Jiabao in Maoershi on January 24, just one day before Chinese lunar New Year's Eve.

Wen went to the village square to attend the New Year's celebration. "We were dancing and singing with Premier Wen. It was really a special Spring Festival for us," said Liu.

Wang Chengyi, who hosted a dinner for Premier Wen, prepared some traditional Qiang dishes to welcome his special guest. "It is like a dream for me to celebrate the lunar New Year in a new house," Wang said.

"I hope that all the Qiang people will be happy and healthy, and that the Qiang culture will thrive forever," Wen told the villagers.

New plans

A stream flows through the village and is regarded as its soul. Huang Sehui lives just beside the stream. Her house also collapsed in the earthquake. Huang opened a small shop with her husband in Leigu Town, several kilometers from the village, selling bulbs. They can earn 100 yuan ($15) per day when business is good. "I hope business picks up in the new year and all family members stay healthy," Huang said as she washed clothes.

As for Song Guobin, who now works as a carpenter in the village and makes about 1,000 yuan ($150) per month, his plan for the new year is also related to tourism development.

"If tourism becomes hot here, I will open a restaurant and I am confident in my cooking skills," he said.

Zhu Bihua, who is said to have the best skill in making Qiang embroidery, hopes she can make use of this skill for a better year.

Zhu's house sits at the highest point in the village. She learned embroidery by herself at first and then took a free training class offered by the government. In her spare time she embroidered clothes for family members, never thinking she could make money from it. In the Year of the Ox, she plans to pay more attention to embroidery and if tourism develops well, it will be a main source of income.

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