Xiapu, the Chinese county that triumphs on Instagram
Xiapu is a small Chinese region that until recently no one had heard of, but lately it has been making a big splash on social networks such as Instagram, Weibo and Wechat. Xiapu’s marshlands and all the richness of its mountainous surroundings are spectacular and truly evocative. However, some critics speak of Xiapu as a government creation or a kind of amusement park for tourists.
In Decommunity we want to reveal some of the sociological clues about this online phenomenon and its curious cultural parable. Let’s dive into all the richness of Xiapu.
The complex balance between tradition and innovation
First of all, it should be noted that Xiapu is a secondary territory in the Fujian area. A coastal area located in the south of China, a country that is practically an entire continent with almost 1.4 billion inhabitants.
On its land, Xiapu has only half a million inhabitants compared to the 6 megacities that are leading the current economic and cultural transformation of the People’s Republic of China: Shanghai with almost 25 million, Chongqing with 22 million, Beijing with 21 million, Guangzhou with 18 million, Shenzhen with 14 million and Chengdu with another 11 million. Just like Xiapu, these megacities are facing a strong process of urban, industrial and digital transformation that is changing the whole country and that has generated a peculiar balance between the traditional and a strong commitment to innovation.
China is no longer “the world’s factory” as it was a few years ago. Now it has also evolved into the “global startup” because the state itself invests 2.5% of its GDP in R&D every year. In other words, China, in addition to leading industries such as steel, automobiles, energy and mining, is currently the world leader in design and technology with super-successful marketplaces such as Alibaba-Aliexpress, TaoBao and Tmall.
But here is the relevant fact: China is also the world leader in consumption. This is because its people have gone from an average per capita income of €177 to €7,100 in just two decades and have finally been able to enjoy tourism, both global and local. And as elsewhere, many Chinese are weary of their tech mega-cities and yearn for authentic tourism experiences. Aware of this, the leaders of the Xiapu region, after suffering a series of bad harvests and knowing the great natural beauty of their area, decided to turn their economy towards tourism and offer a more traditional version of China. This is Xiapu, no more, no less.
Xiapu: Instagram post or reality?
Before the arrival of the tourist industry, Xiapu was known for agriculture, fishing and seafood. Among the star dishes still traditionally cooked in the region are: oyster omelettes, stuffed fish balls, clams cooked in chicken broth, squid pearls and the delicious fried fish stuffed with soy skin. Food is undoubtedly one of the region’s tourist attractions. Although this area has become really famous on Instagram and Asian social networks such as Douyin (now Tik Tok), Weibo and Kwai for the Xiapu marshes, which are particularly appreciated by photographers.
Depending on the time of year, photographic subjects vary in Xiapu, but the best time to visit is from April to December, avoiding the rainy season. During the summer, snapshots of crab fishermen with their pots walking on the sandy sea and spinners reworking their fishing nets are common. Autumn is the season of seaweed harvesting. But it is also the time when the red maple trees look really photogenic, especially in the Yangjiaxi area. It is also the time of year when there are many recognisable photographic captures in Instagram of shepherdesses leading the geese or traditionally dressed ox herders.
Winter is a particularly beautiful season for capturing both sunsets and sunrises. Local villages such as Beiqui, Dongbi, Xiaohao and Huazhu offer photographers great panoramic views. While spring is perfect for capturing the mountainous hills and mist-blackened skies in villages such as Shatangli, Hajiang and Yantian.
Photographers specialising in the Xiapu Marshes advise using telephoto lenses for seascapes and placing cameras in elevated positions to capture the water without overlapping houses. For sunrise and sunset photographs, they recommend using wide-angle lenses. Also use zoom lenses occasionally to create those dramatic sweeping effects we often see in shots of fishermen, spinners, etc. Local subjects such as mist, rainy days and wet beach are also classics in Xiapu’s photography.
Indeed, any time of the year is a great time to capture the Xiapu marshes and marine species such as juveniles, herons or unique species such as the tasty kelp seaweed. Undoubtedly, the Xiapu region fascinates tourists, professional photographers and social media enthusiasts alike with its “picture-perfect” concept. Just take a look at the hashtag #xiapu on Instagram, which already has more than 4,400 posts.
After looking at the photos, you’ll probably start thinking about travelling to Xiapu and enjoying these magnificent landscapes in person, camera in hand. Although if we’re talking about truly Instagrammable destinations, Xiapu has not yet made it into the top 10 destinations on Instagram according to the hashtag analysis carried out by the Big Seven Travel portal.
EThe ranking is led by:
- New York
- La Habana