You might not have heard of Anhui province but there are some serious plans afoot to make sure that you do sooner or later. On the 5th of March this year, the local provincial government realized that Anhui’s not at the top of tourist itineraries to China, so they decided to do a little building over the next 5 years. That’s a “little” by Chinese standards not ours – that’s right this is a serious plan. They want to build 50 “characteristic” towns, 100 “excellent” villages and 1000 four-star “agritainment” (whatever the heck that means – at a guess it’s about entertaining farmers – dancing cows anyone?) shops, in 5 years.
It’s quite a big place too – slightly larger than Greece to be precise. Pretty much everybody who lives in Anhui is either Han Chinese (the dominant ethnic group of China) and there are a few Hui People too (who aren’t quite Han Chinese and tend to be Muslim but otherwise have an almost identical culture). One thing that is certain about these people is that a lot of the boys are lonely – there are nearly 140 chaps for every 100 ladies in Anhui.
It’s a developing region of a developing nation and to stray onto the economy for just a second or two the GDP here is slightly over $3,000 a head, and that’s quite a bit lower than the national average of $5,000.
It’s Hu Jintao’s home though so you expect he might be able to spend a little time promoting regional interests when he steps down as President later on this year. Other than that despite the assistance of wikipedia there isn’t a single famous person who is supposedly from Anhui, that I’ve ever heard of.
The capital city is a place called Hefei, and by Chinese standards it’s not all that big – as it only houses 5 million people. I particularly like the fact that the local government say it’s well known abroad for being “a historic site famous from the Three Kingdoms Period and the hometown of Lord Bao.” I’d love to know who it’s famous with, because I’ve lived here for 3 years and never met anyone who’s even mentioned it in passing.
I suspect that’s because Hefei seems to be a little like Shenzhen, another new town without much in the way of surviving history or culture. Most of the bragging that occurs about the town on the official site and others is around it’s “science park” which seems to be suspiciously close to “a load of manky factories” when you examine the photographic evidence…
However Hefei aside there appears to be quite a lot of interesting places in Anhui that might well be worth a visit, and tomorrow(ish – I know I’ve said this before and not been there), we’ll have a look at some of them.