Nanling village is at the head of a deep and mountainous valley. The village was established in 1958 as part of a drive towards industrialisation (Great Leap Forward). The village was at it’s zenith home to 30,000 people engaged in forestry, development of hydro power and steel (nee iron smelting) manufacture. The head of the valley provides the power and resources on which the village depends for employment and income. This is principally hydro power generating 300 million RMB annually.
Forestry ceased felling in the 1980’s and refocused on recreation and conservation. The Zhonghdeng Ecotourism company stared to develop the recreation industry in 2000 and have contributed to the current visitor numbers of 80,000, 10% of the turnover of the valley. The disasterous snowfall of 2007 winter caused massive damage. A huge operation to fell and removed fallen timber is currently underway – no doubt minutely contributing towards China’s huge demand for timber. There are currently 600 loggers in the village helping with the clear up and everyday scores of hugely overloaded lorries heading south.
The Zhongheng Ecotourism Development Company (the host for the arts project), a private company are promoting an iniative to develop the National Park as an eco tourist destination. This iniative is in partnership with the government agencies, in particular the Forestry department. The principle strands are the establishment of hotels and restaurants – and an infrastructure to support tourism, the development of the forest as a leisure amenity and the marketing of the area as a destination. The company support existing businesses through marketing and subsidy and promote and support many others. These include restaurants and farms. The staff of the company are often joint posts with the forestry or power company, they seem to be highly motivated and idealistic people who want to help the village develop, there is a concern to improve conditions for the rural poor and there is evident poverty in and around the village.
In 2004 the company hosted and invested in an arts project that brought 4 artists to work in the village. The projects were principally engagements with the community, but are critizsed in the company and locally for not leaving any legacy (in most instances the artists took their work home with them). The challenge to this project is very clearly to do something useful.