Located in the Ili River Valley in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Zhaosu County is known as the “land of heavenly horses”. Thanks to its long horse-raising history, the place has accumulated a strong foundation of horse breeding and formed a rich equine culture.
In recent years, Zhaosu County has been vigorously developing tourism based on the modern horse industry, broadening the income channels of local people. On July 24, the “A Date with China” 2022 international media tour group visited Zhaosu county to explore the local equine culture and tourism industry.
Photo taken on July 24, 2022 shows a performance of “Heavenly horses bathing in the river” in Zhaosu Wetland Park, Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. (Photo provided by A Date with China)
Amid the peak season, the wonderful performance of “Heavenly horses bathing the river” is held twice a day by the Tex River. During the performance, the herdsmen raise their whips and order dozens of horses to run in the river and step on the waves. The spectacular scene wins bursts of exclamation from tourists.
Silamya Amanbai, a Kazakh herdsman who performs in the show said in the peak season from April to October, the show attracts about 2,000 tourists every day. It brings him about 4,000 yuan a month, and about 50,000 to 60,000 yuan a year. In addition to his own horses, the horses in the performance also include those from other local families, and the total income is shared by all.
Photo taken on July 24, 2022 shows Silamya Amanbai in an interview in Zhaosu Wetland Park, Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. (Siyu Gu/Guangming Picture)
Amanbai has been engaged in the performance for two years. In the past, living a herding life was hard. The current job is much easier, and helpful to increase his income, he said, adding that he looks forward to a better prospect in the tourism industry.
In recent years, Zhaosu County has been constructing the Tianma (heavenly horse) Tourism Culture Park with the theme of ecology, culture and leisure centering on the horse industry, and holds Ili Tianma International Tourism Festival on an annual basis to further promote local tourism.
On July 16, the 30th Ili Tianma International Tourism Festival kicked off in the county. With more than 30 cultural and tourism activities to be staged until the end of October, tourists are attracted from all over the country to the park.
Photo taken on July 24, 2022 shows a performance of “Gu’niangzhui (means girls’ chase in Chinese)” in Tianma Tourism Culture Park, Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. (Photo provided by A Date with China)
Photo taken on July 24, 2022 shows a horse race in Tianma Tourism Culture Park, Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. (Photo provided by A Date with China)
The Tianma Tourism Culture Park in Zhaosu county also provides a platform for equestrian competitions and performances, riding experience and other activities. By attracting farmers and herdsmen to work in the park, it helps to broaden revenue streams for the locals and support local economic development. The park also plays an important role in promoting the culture of Tianma, improving the brand image as “land of heavenly horses” and enriching the connotation of equine tourism.
According to a park staff, the Culture Park receives around 20,0000 tourists per year, with an overall revenue of about 10million yuan. Looking forward, equine tourism will remain an engine for further economic development in Zhaosu and the core of developing more characteristic industries for Zhaosu.
Rafael Saavedra from Venezuela marveled at the equestrian performances. These activities are terrific experience, he said. “People here can showcase the nature and all these places to visitors. They feel proud of it. They do their jobs with joy, with enthusiasm and happiness. This is what you can feel when you talk to the local people in charge of the horse races and other parts.”
“Tourism activities here helps create jobs and improve the quality of life of many people. I think we are going to see these trends happening a lot in Xinjiang, because this is a place with so many beautiful things to explore and show to the rest of the world,” he added.