ZHENGZHOU: Surrounded by the mist of early morning, a motorised tricycle carrying fresh vegetables runs slowly through a steep and rugged man-made tunnel toward Guoliang, a small village perched atop a cliff.As the sun begins to peek over the horizon, the view becomes truly breathtaking, and so begins another day for Guoliang.
Owners of rural family inns rush to the vegetable peddler, selecting produce to prepare delicacies for upcoming tourists.
Attracted by the village’s breathtaking scenery and Guoliang Tunnel, a death-defying road dug through the side of the mountain by hand, around 1.4 million tourists from home and abroad visited the village last year.
Guoliang sits on a cliff at an elevation of 1.7km in the Taihang Mountains, Henan province.
For a long while, hardly anyone knew about this small village with its 300-plus residents because of its inaccessibility.
The only way anyone could reach it then was by climbing 720 steep, narrow stairs embedded in the mountainside named the “Sky Ladder”, which was built during the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
“It was a tough life. Commodities from the outside world could not reach the village, and our fresh farm products could not be transported to other places, ” said 72-year-old villager Song Baoqun.
If a villager fell ill, eight people needed to carry a stretcher down the mountain during a four-hour journey to the nearest hospital.
Many villagers died en route to hospital, while those with connections moved out of the mountains.
However, all this changed in 1972 when officials decided to build a tunnel through the mountains.
With little engineering knowledge, 13 of the strongest villagers volunteered to take on the mission.
Lacking large machinery, they used hand tools and suspended themselves in the air with ropes to carve the roadway inch by inch.
Walking through the village, the centuries-old stone walls stand in stark contrast to the modern buildings.
Li said every household in Guoliang has gotten involved in the tourism industry, running restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops.
“Today’s village is quite different from the village of old.
“Clever minds can put their ideas into practice now, ” said 32-year-old Shen Hongqi, who owns a rural family inn in Guoliang. — Xinhua