In China’s Xiapu region, actors present tourists with a sugarcoated image of idyllic rural life. Apparently, visitors don’t really care, because many are only interested in the perfect holiday photo. In any case, tourism in Xiapu has increased tenfold since 2009.
If you travel to the Xiapu region in the Chinese province of Fujian, you can count on one thing: Spectacular photos of idyllic life in the country. In fact, Xiapu has become so famous for it in recent years that tourism here increased tenfold from 2009 to 2019. The catch: the place and its supposedly exemplary romance are nothing more than a big fake.
As the “ New York Times ” reports, countless paid actors work in Xiapu to fool tourists into the perfect harmony of country life. To do this, they dress in the traditional way, drive water buffalo across fields on request, or haul in fishing nets. All of this is being staged at the behest of the Chinese government, which wants to give stressed city dwellers a sense of a vanishing traditional way of life.
False “morning fog” and bought fishermen
This sometimes means that “morning fog” is generated by burning straw or that fishermen receive instructions by radio as to when exactly they should get their catch out of the water. The whole big staging has only one goal: to look good on the social media channels of the countless visitors who come to Xiapu every year. The animals are even trained for this so that they show the most photogenic poses possible in the pictures.
For example, tourists can choose the scenes they want to photograph for a fee. For an additional fee, they can even give the actors instructions on what to do for the picture. Any desired prop can also appear in the pictures for money. But that’s not all: In Xiapu, tourists also have the opportunity to rent their own costumes in order to immerse themselves even more deeply in the staged country idyll.
The locals benefit from the business
The staging pays off immensely for the locals, who used to be (and in some cases still are) farmers and fishermen. One of them reports to the New York Times that around 500 tourists come to his location every day. Each of these visitors pay three dollars to take pictures. A daily fee of 1500 dollars. Pictures on the Internet also show how masses of holiday photographers are lurking at the fake photo hotspots for the perfect snapshot.
The countless, perfectly staged pictures from Xiapu can be admired especially on Instagram. But they seem all the more bizarre when it becomes clear that some tourists apparently know that Xiapu is nothing more than a staged fake. On the Chinese short message service Weibo , however, opinions about Xiapu are very divided. A user says: “In this world it doesn’t seem to matter whether something is real or not – as long as good photos come out of it in the end.”
According to the New York Times, however, many visitors are not immediately aware that Xiapu is a “deception”. If they found out, some would be downright disappointed. There is also speculation online as to why the fake idyll has only just become known. As one Weibo user put it: “What’s worse, when people find out they’re fake pawns just posing, they often don’t do it publicly anyway. Instead, they prefer to post pretty pictures.” And admittedly, Xiapu is really good at that.