How a scary clifftop commute has breathed new life into a Chinese village mired in poverty

Mandy Zuo
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How a scary clifftop commute has breathed new life into a Chinese village mired in poverty

A Chinese clifftop village that gained fame for the harrowing commute its children made to school will receive 630 million yuan (US$98.1 million) in tourism-related investment, state media reported.

“There are tourists almost every day,” said a villager quoted by China News Service. “They come to climb the steel ladders, and tour around the village. In the peak time there are more than 100 people.”

Atulieer village sits high among the mountains in Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture’s Zhaojue county.

The village attracted international attention in 2016 after photos showed children as young as six years old negotiating the cliff faces and rickety rattan ladders on their way to and from school.

The youngsters had to make the 800-metre (0.5-mile) trip via 17 vine ladders without any safety rails or support.

After the images made the village and the schoolchildren international celebrities, the local government raised 1 million yuan (US$156,000) to build steel ladders, providing a safer climb of 2,500 steps.

When tourists then began putting the village on their must-see lists, hope grew locally that the village’s improved accessibility would ignite a tourism boom.

Village on cliff in China builds steel ladder to connect with valley 1km below

Now a tourism company jointly formed by state-owned Sichuan Provincial Investment Group and private firm Chengdu Tianyou Travel Group intends to invest the 630 million yuan in three phases to showcase the area’s dramatic scenery and traditional culture, according to China News Service.

When completed in 2022, the project would allow tourists to take canyon tours, trips to hot springs and experience village culture, the state-owned news agency said.

Top sights would be the summit of Longtou Mountain opposite the village, and the Guli Grand Canyon beneath it. Area forests, hot springs and karst caves would also be among the must-see attractions, according to the report.

Plans were also afoot to build two hotels, the report said.

As the village’s renown as a tourist destination opens a business opportunity, some villagers have opened home inns; others have become tour guides.

Chinese village perched on a cliff to open up to brave new world as public turns on the heat

A young villager named Yang Yang even became an internet star by live-streaming on the popular video sharing app Kuaishou what it was like to climb the steel ladders.

Fame is changing the village in other ways.

Under a recent upgrade project, Atulieer has gained the ability to access 4G signals and Wi-fi and its electricity supply has become stable.

It also now had a cash-dispenser, a medical clinic and a kindergarten, residents said.

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