Night economy thrives in cultural tourism

Sales of tickets in China’s night tour attractions and nighttime amusement parks in the first half of the year soared by 469 percent year on year, an increase of 106 percent over the same period in 2019, according to a recently released report.

Tourists visit the Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang, central China’s Henan province on June 8, 2020. (Photo/Xinhua)

The average number of night trips per visitor in the first half of 2021 reached 1.3, while the consumption per person exceeded 187 yuan ($28) in one trip, an increase of 25 percent year on year, according to the data report released by China’s travel service provider Ctrip in conjunction with Haichang Ocean Park, a China-based developer and operator of theme parks and other ancillary commercial properties.

This kind of booming growth in night trips is particularly evident during public holidays. Among them, night tour ticket orders during this year’s Labor Day holiday and Dragon Boat Festival holiday soared by 1.5 times and 3 times respectively compared with the same period in 2019, according to the data from Ctrip.

In addition to the rising number of night trips, the report also noted that local customers and those from surrounding areas emerged as the major consumer group. Data showed that in the first half of this year, 40 percent of night-trip orders came from surrounding residents, an increase of 120 percent over 2019.

Taking the consumption data of Shanghai Haichang Ocean Park in the first half of the year as an example, tourists from Shanghai and east China accounted for nearly 80 percent of the total, of which those from Shanghai made up nearly 50 percent.

Fang Zexi, an industry analyst with the Ctrip research institute, pointed out that with the gradual maturing of the “night economy”, vigorous development of night tourism has become a general trend that not only meets people’s demands for a better life, but also the inherent requirement of expanding consumption and promoting high-quality economic development.

“We believe that night excursions is also a must for a large number of tourists during the summer vacation, ” Fang disclosed.

Innovation revitalizes traditional culture

Photo taken on August 27, 2020, shows ice creams in the shape of ridge beasts of the Palace Museum in Beijing. (People’s Daily Online/Chen Xiaogen)

Nowadays, Chinese consumers can “excavate items” from archaeological blind boxes with an exquisite imitation of Luoyang shovels; traditional Chinese culture shows and videos are all over social platforms; more and more Chinese people visit museums on holidays; and major archaeological discoveries frequently become hot topics online.

Creative transformation and innovative development have made fine traditional Chinese culture increasingly integrated with the daily lives of people, and continuously brought surprises to people.

The fact is more and more people have shown an interest in the ingenious and innovative interpretation of excellent traditional Chinese culture.

Recently, a gorgeous underwater traditional Chinese dance has attracted wide attention. It reproduced a character from the famous ancient Chinese painting Ode to the Goddess in Luo, the daughter of a heavenly sovereign character Fu Xi in Chinese mythology who drowned and then became a goddess.

With stunning stage design and graceful movements, the performance, which lasted for less than two minutes, has won unanimous high praise from Internet users. The shooting of the performance wasn’t easy, though. To carry out the artful design of the choreographer, the performer spent 26 hours underwater for the shooting, and had to swim into and out of the water 200 times and carry a few kilograms of counterweight.

It is because of the combination of creativity and technologies that the ancient painting in museum has burst with vitality and new ideas and won the respect and affection of more people.

The Chinese people have gradually developed a great enthusiasm for traditional Chinese culture and continuously improved their aesthetic qualities.

From cultural relic memes and cultural relic-shaped ice creams to the heated discussions on new discoveries at the Sanxingdui Ruins and the rising sales of cultural and creative products, traditional Chinese culture has enjoyed increasing popularity in recent years, mirroring the active participation of the public in related activities.

Out of enthusiasm for museums, some people decided to become a cultural relic photographer and travel back in time with cameras; to immerse themselves in traditional architecture, some began to reproduce classical designs with tenon and mortise technique; and some have learned about intangible cultural heritage from masters to feel the charm of ancient skills. The Chinese people now have more accesses to appreciating the beauty of traditional Chinese culture.

Inheriting and innovation have vitalized traditional culture in history, while interaction and resonance have enabled it to shine brightly in the modern era.

In recent years, many innovation endeavors have won cheers and applause from young people by tapping into traditional Chinese culture.

The show China in Classics allows viewers to learn about Chinese classics in an immersive way; the TV program National Treasure tells stories behind cultural relics; and the classical dance program Palace Banquet in Tang Dynasty brought young girls in ancient painting scrolls “back to life”.

By watching these shows, giving likes, and leaving comments, viewers have become appreciators and promoters of traditional Chinese culture. While viewers wander around in a cultural treasury, ancient culture has weathered the time and shown renewed vigor.

By making classic works that embody the wisdom of sages and cultural relics popular and come alive, viewers are able to “travel back in time” to “communicate” with ancient figures, and the nation can achieve continuous cultural development.

Chinese parents favor summer study tours

Sending their children on study tours during the summer vacation as an alternative to traditional camp education has become a popular option for Chinese parents.

Children paint near a brook. (Photo/Li Mingming)

Study tours are packed with educational benefits and fun, enabling students to acquire knowledge in various ways, explained Zhang Dong, associate professor at the Business School of Zhengzhou University in Zhengzhou, capital of central China’s Henan province.

In recent years, more parents have arranged for their children to go on study tours to cultural museums, science and technology museums, natural scenic spots, or farms to broaden their horizon and experience during the summer vacation.

A man surnamed Zhao from Zhengzhou is one of them. Zhao and his children visited the Henan Natural History Museum on June 30. “I often take my children out for museum tours, as these trips help stimulate their thirst for knowledge and provide an opportunity for us to enjoy family time,” he said.

Children listen to a docent sharing stories about an ancient building. (Photo/Li Mingming)

Zhao, who always goes on trips with his children during holidays, added that interest is a child’s best teacher, and study tours can help them develop a variety of interests.

High participation and an immersive experience are essential for boosting children’s interest in gaining knowledge, Zhao noted, explaining that children can better appreciate and understand the charm of traditional culture and craftsmanship, such as the making of porcelain, picking tea leaves and making tea, by having a go themselves after watching craftsmen demonstrate it to them.

Zhao’s view is echoed by Feng Bei, an art teacher in Zhengzhou. Believing that it is far more meaningful for children to get close to nature than having art lessons indoors, Feng arranged a short-term study tour for her students for this year’s summer vacation.

The growing popularity of study tours reflects the changes in people’s ideas on education and the improvement in people’s living standards, according to Zhang Dong.

“Parents have realized the importance of having an all-round education, so they are changing their perspective. Besides, this growing popularity also comes from schools’ efforts to promote quality-oriented education,” Zhang added.

Chinese farmer helps make desert greener

Shi Guangyin, an exemplary individual who leads efforts in afforestation and combating desertification in northwest China’s Shaanxi province, checks pinus sylvestris in a shelter forest. (File photo)

Shi Guangyin, a farmer in Dingbian county, Yulin city, northwest China’s Shaanxi province, has recently received the July 1 Medal, the highest honor in the Communist Party of China (CPC), for his outstanding contributions to desertification control.

Residents in Yulin had long been plagued by heavy winds, floating sand, and barren land mainly due to the Maowusu Desert, China’s eighth largest desert, located between Yulin city and Ordos of north China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region. The desert accounts for 56.1 percent of the area of Yulin city.

In the 1950s, local people in Yulin started to tame the desert by afforestation. So far, 93.24 percent of the desertified land in the city has been put under control, all the 8.6 million mu (about 573,333 hectares) of quicksand in the city has been fixed or semi-fixed, and large areas of exposed sand can barely be spotted now, to which Shi has contributed a considerable part.

At the beginning of 1984, after China rolled out policies to encourage individuals to sign contracts with the government to combat desertification, Shi entered into a contract with the local government for desertification control of 3,000 mu of land, becoming the first person who signed such a contract in Yulin.

Over the past more than 30 years, a group of local people led by Shi have braved innumerable trials and hardships and planted and kept alive more than 53 million arbors and shrubs in 250,000 mu of barren sand and alkali beaches, finally building a “green Great Wall” that stretches more than 50 kilometers at the south of the Maowusu Desert.

The “green Great Wall” has completely changed the harsh natural conditions of the area and yielded significant social, ecological, and economic benefits.

While fighting desertification, Shi has also tried to help families in straitened circumstances and bring benefits to local residents. He came up with over 1.2 million yuan ($185,760) to build two schools and an ecological relocation village, and provide financial assistance for more than 300 households.

Because of his contributions and devotion to desertification control, Shi has been awarded honorary titles including China’s “national model worker,” “national desertification control hero” as well as “outstanding farmer” by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. He is also called “Uncle in the Desert” by local people.

For desertification control, Shi and his family moved to Sidahao village, with the largest area of barren sand in Haiziliang township of Dingbian, in 1984, and began planting trees there. Although over 85 percent of the trees he planted survived that year, 90 percent of the saplings were swallowed by wind erosion and sandstorm merely one year or two later.

Instead of being discouraged by the setbacks, Shi realized that he was being foolhardy to start off for the task with only enthusiasm but the right methods. He therefore consulted technicians at the forestry bureau of Dingbian about desertification treatment, and learned from the experience of Hengshan district of Yulin and other places in controlling sand.

After acquiring and adopting scientific methods, Shi and his team set up 800 kilometers of sand-protecting barriers on 6,000 mu of barren sand, and eventually brought the survival rate of the saplings they planted above 80 percent.

By the end of 2004, the 250,000 mu of barren sand and alkali beaches Shi had been working on had seen a grass and forest coverage of over 90 percent, reflecting effective management.

After 2000, considering that the shrubwoods he planted before have a short lifespan and low economic and ornamental value, Shi started to transform such low-yielding forests. He has so far planted over one million high-quality species, which are mainly pinus sylvestris.

To make desertification control be carried on for generations, Shi set up a company that adheres to a development strategy featuring controlling and utilizing barren sand and follows a path that links the company with rural households and various bases, aiming to increase people’s income while fighting desertification.

With such strategy and path, Shi established more than ten economic entities, including pasture, dairy farm, purified water factory, as well as tourist attraction. His company now sees an annual income of over 3.4 million yuan from ecological subsidies and economic benefits of plants grown under trees.

Xinjiang promotes use of electricity

Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has been expanding the use of electricity to replace traditional energy sources in agriculture, industry and tourism in recent years, which has not only resulted in higher production efficiency but has also improved the environment.

Two workers from the State Grid Xinjiang Electric Power Co., Ltd. check the drainage and irrigation system in a lavender field in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. (Photo/Chinanews.com)

State Grid Xinjiang Electric Power Co., Ltd. has been promoting the use of electrical equipment to upgrade the lavender industry, a pillar industry in Huocheng county, Ili Kazakh autonomous prefecture of Xinjiang.

In one of the county’s lavender plantations, lavender flowers are dried by an electrical machine in around two hours. After setting parameters including temperature, and drying, distilling and cooling time, an operator can start the process just by pressing a button.

“In the past, a production line required two or three workers to dry lavender flowers. Now, we only need to set the parameters on the drying equipment, which has greatly improved production efficiency and product quality,” said Wang Xin, an executive at the plantation, whose products are sold at home and abroad.

Wang added that the machine makes the distillation of lavender essential oil less time-consuming, more efficient, and more environmentally-friendly, compared to the conventional method using coal-fired facilities.

So far, two top-tier lavender enterprises have completed electrification, bringing down their costs by over 30 percent while significantly enhancing product quality.

Similarly, electrical machines have brought positive changes to the cotton industry in Xinjiang, home to more than 80 percent of China’s annual cotton production. Nearly 60 percent of all the 283 cotton ginning enterprises now dry the cash crop with cotton dryers.

The cotton dryer is easy to operate and is an ideal alternative, as its thermal efficiency can exceed 95 percent, much higher than that of a coal furnace, which means it saves 30 percent in processing time without generating pollution. The machine also ensures safety in the drying process.

This year, the State Grid Xinjiang Electric Power Co., Ltd. will continue its efforts to ensure that electric dryers will replace the remaining coal furnaces in the other 115 enterprises across the autonomous region.

The company has also built a 35-kV transformer substation and 32.82 km of 35-kV transmission lines around Jiangbulake scenic spot in Qitai county. Thanks to these efforts, the scenic spot now fully uses electricity to replace coal in transportation, recreation, catering and heating equipment.

“Now the entire scenic area is using clean energy, which has helped improve local air quality and improved tourists’ experience,” said Liu Dong, manager of the scenic area.

Statistics show that in the first five months of this year, State Grid Xinjiang Electric Power Co., Ltd. has replaced traditional energy with electricity in 314 agricultural projects and 435 industrial projects, generating a total of over 1.7 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity in these projects. In this way, the company helped reduce standard coal burning by 595,700 tons and carbon-dioxide emissions by about 1.5 million tons in Xinjiang.

China reaps fruits in space breeding

A group of seeds, including orchid and sealwort, a kind of traditional Chinese herb, have been taken into space for breeding tests, accompanying the three taikonauts in China’s Shenzhou-12 manned spaceship, which docked with the country’s space station core module Tianhe on June 17.

Photo taken on Feb. 26, 2021 shows sprouting rice seeds that had made a round trip to the moon aboard the Chang’e 5 probe at the central greenhouse of the National Engineering Research Center of Plant Space Breeding of the South China Agricultural University (SCAU) in Guangzhou of south China’s Guangdong Province. (Xinhua/Liu Dawei)

This is China’s latest experiment in space-induced mutation breeding, which refers to the process of exposing seeds to conditions such as cosmic radiation in spaceflight, including recoverable satellites, and then sending them back to Earth for further observation and planting.

China has been carrying out space breeding for 34 years since its first space breeding experiment in 1987 with a recoverable satellite, said Zhang Yunwei, a professor at the College of Grassland Science and Technology of China Agricultural University (CAU), noting that the technique is an effective means of creating new varieties of crops.

China is a powerhouse in breeding plants in space, Zhang added, explaining that various kinds of seeds of plants, including rice, maize, wheat, rhodiola rosea, and dendrobium officinale, have been taken into space.

“As of 2018, China had bred 42 new rice varieties through space breeding. In 2006, a satellite named Shijian-8 returned to Earth carrying 215 kg of seeds ranging from grains to vegetables and fruits, the largest payload of its kind,” Zhang said.

Space breeding has helped to produce about 200 new types of mutated plants in China that have been approved for cultivation, according to Zhang.

Since 2009, the National Engineering Research Center of Plant Space Breeding of South China Agricultural University and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) have been engaging in research and application of space breeding technology.

In 2018, 14 research institutes, including CAAS and CAU, established China’s space breeding industry innovation alliance to boost the commercialization of the technology. So far, at least 130 research institutes in the country have participated in space breeding research.

Professional organizing industry thrives

The past few years have witnessed a mushrooming development of China’s professional organizing industry, with the number of registered enterprises increasing at an average growth rate of 33 percent.

China is currently home to more than 130 registered enterprises related to professional organizing. Over 30 new enterprises were established in 2020 alone, which means an annual growth rate of 102.7 percent, indicated statistics from Tianyancha, a large data technology service company.

(Photo/China Youth Daily)

Across the country, more than 10,000 people have received training as professional organizers. From 2019 to 2020, there were more than 2,200 new professional organizers in China, exhibiting a strong growth momentum of development.

Statistics from the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security further disclosed that more than 40 percent of professional organizers earn an annual salary over 100,000 yuan ($15,450), and thanks to the rising market demand, the next two years will see a need of roughly 20,000 relevant practitioners.

“A professional organizer is very different from a housekeeper. An organizer’s job is not just to clean up the room and put things in order,” explained Zhang Yingjun a post-90s woman who graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Chongqing University.

Unwilling to settle in her white-collar job, Zhang attended training programs and became a self-taught professional organizer in 2019. In collaboration with her friends, one year later she set up her own professional organizing company, and they secured their first order worth 32,000 yuan, which was a great delight for them.

To complete a service, an organizer will go through three procedures: early-stage communication, design and door-to-door arrangement, noted Zhang.

“In the early communication process, the professional organizer should learn some basics regarding a customer’s housing space layout, living habits, family members and other specific conditions, which they will then use to create a house organizing plan suitable for the family,” Zhang said.

From Zhang’s perspective, for her customers dominated by the young and middle-aged from middle to high-income families, spending money to pay professionals is a reasonable practice. Thus, the career prospect for professional organizers like her is broad.

Digital economy booms in western China

For the first time in history, China’s western regions led the growth in the number of new entrepreneurs on the country’s e-commerce platform Taobao in 2020, according to an industrial report.

Two women sells local tea in a live-streaming session in Ning’er Hani and Yi autonomous county in Yunnan province on April 6, 2020. (Photo/Xinhua)

Nine western provincial-level regions ranking among China’s top 10 saw the greatest increase in online shop founders, including northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, followed by the two western provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou, said the report, co-released by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group and the Digital Economy Research Institute at the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law.

The report also showed that Yunnan, Sichuan, and Shaanxi provinces in western China ranked among the top 10 across the country in terms of the numbers of live-streamers promoting agricultural products.

Amid the mid-year online shopping festival this year, online shop owners in the regions have seen an influx of orders for local specialties, such as succulent plants from Yunnan, kiwi fruit from Shaanxi, and hot-pot ingredients from Chongqing municipality.

The digital economy is bridging the gap between developed regions and less developed ones, according to Zuo Chenming, a senior analyst at AliResearch, Alibaba’s research arm, adding that three factors contributed to the booming digital economy in western China.

With notable improvements in infrastructure and logistics services, the country is advancing the development of western regions, while e-commerce platforms are working to help rural areas digitize production, marketing, and logistics.

Cainiao Network, Alibaba’s logistics arm, for example, has teamed up with leading courier companies to open up more logistic channels in counties, townships and villages. So far, its services have reached 30,000 villages across the country.

Instead of working in big cities, more young people are going back to their hometowns to join the e-commerce industry, particularly since the onset of COVID-19. With new technology and concepts, fresh impetus is being injected into the development of villages.

As e-commerce boosts the sales of high-quality agricultural products in rural areas and benefits consumers, local governments in western regions have strongly supported the development of e-commerce, making it an important source of income growth benefiting rural residents.

While spurring the development of key industries, e-commerce will effectively bridge the gap of western regions with central and eastern parts of the country, said Pan Helin, executive director of the Digital Economy Research Institute at the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, adding that digital economy in China’s western regions will embrace even greater development.

Afternoon tea market promising in China

Prospects for China’s afternoon tea market look promising, with young women aged between 18 and 24 continuing to be the main consumer group, according to a recent report released by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group’s local life service company.

With demand for afternoon tea exceeding supply, the market continues to grow, the report said. Citing data from Eleme, Alibaba’s flagship takeaway-order app, the report showed that the number of afternoon tea business owners in March 2021 increased by 33 percent year on year, while the market saw the highest net profit growth of 57 percent.

Geographically, afternoon tea orders in new first-tier cities and second-tier cities accounted for 52.5 percent of the total nationwide, while the orders grew at an average rate of 35 percent in cities below due to soaring demand.

Customers are also paying more for afternoon tea. The average transaction value increased from 28.9 yuan (about $4.52) between July and September 2019 to 30.8 yuan in the same period in 2020.

The top seven choices for afternoon tea are bubble tea, juice, fried chicken, coffee, desserts, braised food, cakes and pastry, and fruits. Out of all of these options, bubble tea was the favorite of most consumers.

In terms of customers’ most popular combinations, bubble tea and juice pair well with desserts, while cakes and pastry are suited to coffee, and braised food lovers prefer to try it with fruits.

Technologies bring retail revolution

Smart retail, partly represented by new advances such as unmanned supermarkets, mini-program shopping and virtual fitting rooms, are offering consumers a variety of personalized products and services.

E-commerce is a form of smart retail that requires a keen understanding of what consumers need. Driven by big data technology, e-commerce platforms can remember consumers’ habits. Based on this information, they can offer recommendations to them when they shop online, enabling them to directly come to the goods they are about to buy without having to search for them.

A POS (point-of-sale) kiosk by Hisense is seen at the Retail’s Big Show 2020 in New York, the United States, on Jan. 12, 2020. Equipped with cutting-edge products and innovative services, a group of Chinese companies made their presence at the annual retail expo this week in New York, with ambitions to tap into the U.S. market with smart retail solutions. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)

For instance, on opening a mini-program on the instant messaging app WeChat, a consumer surnamed Zhang from Shanghai was recommended a kind of fruit tea she often bought on the app. After placing an order, the drink arrived at her doorstep half an hour later.

There are three kinds of players providing smart retail solutions – internet companies, software and service providers, and traditional retail enterprises, according to Bai Feng, Vice President and CEO for Smart Retail at BOE Technology Group Co., Ltd., an IoT company that provides intelligent interface products and professional services for information interaction and human health.

Experts believe that the retail sector can provide personalized services for consumers through behavioral analysis with the use of big data. At the same time, by using the results of the behavioral analysis to improve procurement and delivery, the retail sector can achieve flexible and efficient production and supply at much lower cost.

Smart retail could not have been realized without the help of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies such as computing vision algorithm, big data analysis, robots, and voice recognition. Many department stores and supermarkets have realized digital intelligence with the help of such technologies.

A department store in Chengdu, southwest China’s Sichuan province, has launched a smart parking app that efficiently guides vehicles to unoccupied spaces through a three-dimensional navigation system.

Technologies play a key role in realizing these scenarios, the first being the construction of internet infrastructure, including the popularization of 5G technology and the Internet of Things (IoT), said Bai. The processing ability of big data and algorithms for optimization, as well as the popularization of the hardware and software equipment are also important, he added.

Today’s smart retail is no longer just about customer flow or sales volume, but has become highly intelligent both online and offline. When it comes to physical stores, smart retail boasts precise decision-making and higher operation efficiency.

Leading Chinese retail company Suning Holdings Group has been making constant efforts to achieve digitalization of the supply chain by accelerating technology-backed transformation and increasing technological investments.

“Traditionally, it took us about three hours to distribute parcels from one warehouse, but now we spend only three to five minutes on average handling each parcel, and can handle 2,000 parcels an hour at full capacity. This optimizes inventory structure, accelerates circulation of parcels and lowers the incidence of goods being stuck,” said Jing Wei, Suning Technology Group’s vice president.

“In smart retail, the business owners do not operate based on how they feel or according to their experience,” said Lin Yuanqing, founder of Aibee, an AI company that focuses on applying digitalized and intelligent AI solutions to the physical world.

Lin further noted that intelligent technologies can help avoid inaccurate and inefficient data analysis, which means they no longer confuse salespersons with customers, but reflect the flow of customers in a more precise manner. In addition, all goods on the shelves become traceable, including their basic information and when they are sold.

An electronic price tag developed by BOE has been adopted by some supermarkets in China. By scanning the QR code on the price tag, consumers learn more about the product, and are guided to the store’s online market.

Experts pointed out that the digitalization of every link in smart retail creates great value as it helps operators understand consumers’ behavior, manage their production according to demand, and adjust the supply chain and the manufacturing process.