Making it more exotic

Trip Start Jan 30, 2007
Trip End Dec 31, 2011

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Flag of China  , Guizhou,
Friday, April 17, 2009

Am I the only one to feel a little uncomfortable about this exoticizing of a person by Chinese . . .

Tourism official becomes an attraction herself

As the deputy director of a county tourism bureau in Guizhou province, A Xiang-yi's job is to attract as many people as possible to her home region.

The underdeveloped Leishan county is home to people of various ethnic groups, of which Miao people account for 83.5 percent of the residents.

But in the past week, the 26-year-old ethnic Miao has found herself at the center of national attention as a poster girl on the Internet.

She has attracted more than 146,000 hits in less than a week after her photos were posted on the Internet by a photographer and blogger who goes by the name "Yuan Xing Bi Lou".

The blogger was reportedly so enamored of her beauty when he visited the region that he posted five pictures of A Xiang-yi in traditional Miao costumes.

Netizens have left hundreds of messages for China's "most beautiful tourism director", marveling at her beauty and dubbing her "a lotus surfacing above crystal-clear water".

"You can't find such natural glamor in an office employee," a netizen wrote.

A Xiang-yi works at her birthplace, a 1,000-household Miao village in Xijiang town famous for its ancient ethnic architecture.

She told China Daily on Thursday that she had "mixed feelings" over the sudden rise to fame.

"I'm very happy that people like me, but I'm also worried that some people might think it was a marketing gimmick," she said.

She added that she felt a little uneasy with the sudden change of role from a government official to a national celebrity.

Tourism official becomes an attraction herself

"What I really wish is for more people to come and know my village and its people."

Professor Mao Shoulong at Renmin University of China said A Xiang-yi's sudden rise to stardom can be seen as an "unexpected opportunity".

"Even deliberately crafting a celebrity requires much manipulation and a positive outcome is not guaranteed".

"It would do no harm to the image of the local government," he said, comparing her with former US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who he described as "beauty meeting politics".

Professor Xia Xueluan, from the department of sociology and anthropology at Peking University, disagreed.

He said that pictures of a civil servant circulated online in the name of beauty is "inappropriate".

Xia suggested that tourists focus on the scenic and cultural attractions of Xijiang, instead of just a beautiful face.

A Xiang-yi sees it differently.

"Every villager is an ambassador of Xijiang," she said. "Besides, you can find girls much more beautiful than I everywhere in the village."

A Xiang-yi said she has more important tasks to concentrate on for now - with the May Day holiday approaching, she has to get ready and train dozens of staff members for a tea-tasting fair.

"It will be three hectic days," she said.
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