Reindeer bring fun, fortune to Inner Mongolia herders
Ethnic Aoluguya Ewenki herder Gu Musen has used a modern way to promote the traditional culture of raising reindeer, and has attracted tourists from near and far.
Since 2018, 33-year-old Gu has started posting videos of raising reindeer on the video-sharing app Douyin, garnering around 212,000 followers and 4.15 million likes.
"Thousands of tourists visit my farm every year. I can earn more than 70,000 yuan (about $10,700) annually," said Gu.
The first thing Gu does every morning is feeding his 30 reindeer on the farm in Jinhe township, Genhe city in North China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region.
"I live in a well-equipped cabin on the farm. The reindeer-keeping conditions are much better than in the past," said Gu.
The Aoluguya Ewenki people, known as "the last hunting tribe in China," are the only ethnic minority group in China that raises reindeer.
For them, reindeer were the primary means of transportation in the past, while in modern society, many Aoluguya Ewenki herders still maintain the tradition of raising reindeer.
In Genhe, there are 14 reindeer breeding areas, and the reindeer population has grown to more than 1,200.
To increase the herders' income, the regional government has taken measures to promote tourism here in recent years.
Every summer, Inner Mongolia holds an annual reindeer festival to attract both domestic and foreign tourists. The event includes art exhibitions and showcases local handicrafts and the dwellings of reindeer herders.
In addition to receiving tourists on their farms, the herders also take the animals to a scenic spot in Aoluguya Township, where visitors can feed and take photos with them. Craftspeople here sell handicrafts and health products.
"Now, more and more people are making handicrafts with ethnic features," said Dekeli, an inheritor of the intangible cultural heritage of the Ewenki ethnic costume in Inner Mongolia. "We can earn over 50,000 yuan a year."
In Aoluguya township, nearly 30 households have benefited from the reindeer-raising industry, with the annual per capita income rising to around 20,000 yuan at present from 1,200 yuan in 2005.
Like Gu, the young generation of the ethnic group is using the Internet to promote their unique culture.
The township government has also stepped up efforts to support these Internet celebrity herders, providing them with loans to improve the reception capacity of their reindeer farms.
"I'll never think of leaving the farm. I emotionally bonded with my reindeer," said Gu.