YINCHUAN－Taking photos, tasting delicacies and strolling among the blossoming pear trees in Nanchangtan village, Ningxia Hui autonomous region, Yao Changde felt immersed in the scenery.
"It's wonderful for me to travel to such a beautiful village, and I really enjoy the quietness and peace here," said Yao, 80, who was visiting the village with his wife and two daughters for its pear blossom festival.
In Zhongwei's Shapotou district, Nanchangtan is a national-level historical and cultural village, with a history stretching back more than 1,200 years.
Surrounded by high mountains and the Yellow River－China's second longest river－it is said to have sheltered royals from the Western Xia Dynasty (1038-1227) during a war.
The natural terrain might have protected villagers from invaders, but it also cut them off from the outside world. They didn't have electricity until 2000 and waited another decade for access to the internet.
Village Party chief Ta Shouqing said sheepskin rafts were once the only transportation for villagers venturing further afield.
"It was such a poverty-stricken place that all young villagers wanted to escape," Ta said, adding there was a time when about two-thirds of villagers traveled to cities in search of better education and more job opportunities.
However, thanks to China's campaign against poverty, the village has seen improvements to its infrastructure, and the gradual flourishing of the tourism business has helped.
Nanchangtan has 166 centuries-old pear trees, with the oldest about 500 years old. When the blossom arrives, the village is draped in white.
Many villagers have returned to run homestays. Li Gang used to raise sheep for a living, and he later worked outside the village.
He now owns a homestay that can accommodate 30 tourists at full capacity. All his rooms were booked for this year's pear blossom festival, earning him more than 20,000 yuan ($3,050).
"In the period before October, tourists visit our village every weekend, and they love the mountains, the Yellow River and the fresh air," Li said.
Ta said 53 families in the village run homestays, and the village's income from tourism during the pear blossom festival totals about 600,000 yuan. Last year, the per capita disposable income of villagers exceeded 13,000 yuan, up from just 3,400 yuan in 2013.
Villager Meng Jiangyu is the same age as Yao. He owns four pear trees, under which he spent his childhood. During the tourism festival, Meng sets up a stall selling dried pears, dates and Chinese walnuts.
"They sell well, and it's quite convenient to do transactions by scanning QR codes," he said. "Life is getting better and better, and I feel happy."