Aerial photo taken on Sept. 9, 2019 shows general view of the Selong Village in Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of southwest China's Sichuan Province. An 875-meter-long tunnel changed the lives of 147 villagers once and for all in 2014, which was built as part of a relocation program for a hydropower station. (Xinhua/Sun Ruibo)
CHENGDU, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- Chen Jiuping ran into three bears on his way to visit a relative in the neighboring village.
"I was scared to death. Fortunately, the bears didn't notice me," said Chen, 28, who still looks terrified recalling his 7-year-old memory.
Chen lives in a village surrounded by mountains in Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan Province. For generations, the local people had to cross a mountain to reach the outside world, spending hours on the road.
Apart from Chen's chilling encounter with bears, the scars on the villagers' legs tell many bitter stories of the mountain road at the edge of a cliff, which is pieced together with slippery rocks and used to be the only way for them to go to school and trade spices for rice and salt.
Xie Yubing, 46, broke his leg at the age of seven on his way to school. "My elder brother carried me on his back to bring me home and I stayed in bed for a month," he said.
After recovering, he had to take the mountain road again for school.
"Due to poor access, it was even difficult to invite a relative or a friend from other villages to a banquet here," said Luo Yongqin, 25.
However, an 875-meter-long tunnel changed the lives of 147 villagers once and for all in 2014, which was built as part of a relocation program for a hydropower station.
It now takes only 10 minutes for the villagers to walk through the tunnel. No one needs to risk walking along the cliff edge anymore.
After the tunnel was built, the village started to develop tourism, advertising itself as "a retreat from the world." At the same time, the tunnel also brought the villagers closer to the world.
Tourists from cities are often seen in the village today. Since the village's tourism program started its trial operation in May this year, it has received over 5,000 visitors, earning a revenue of over 300,000 yuan (about 42,000 U.S. dollars).
In addition, the transport of farm products is much easier. Almost all the families in the village now have bought motorbikes and about 20 families now own cars.
"My little sister can take our dad's car to school now," Luo said. "In comparison with my childhood, life is much more comfortable now."
Five years on, the rough road in the mountain is now overgrown with wildflowers and branches. "It is finally abandoned," villager Liu Guangbing said when introducing the road that he had walked countless times.
Liu's cellphone kept ringing while revisiting the mountain road. "It's a wedding invitation from the neighboring village," he said.
For these mountain villagers, an invite to a wedding in the neighboring village has gone from a grueling proposition to a joyous occasion.