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Painted by Nature - Village in Burqin County

Mountains are brushed with autumn hues while white birches glisten in the setting sun. Herds of cattle and sheep graze leisurely amongst the deep green blades of the lush pasture. Log cabins dot the banks of the shimmering blue lake, and smoke from their kitchens curls gently into the sky. The tranquil village could have been ripped straight out of a fairy tale or renaissance painting, but rather, this is reality for residents of a small village known as Horm in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region which one destiantion of Silk Road tours in northwestern China.

Located in northern Burqin County, the village hugs both the Mongolian and Russian borders. With landscapes characterized by birches, snow-capped mountains and crystal clear rivers, the small village is home to only about 100 families. The majority of residents are formerly nomadic Tuvas, who were historically herdsmen constantly on the move in search of pastures, but it’s easy to see why they chose to settle there permanently. The scenery in Horm Village, with its contrasting patches of romantic hues, is often compared to a landscape oil painting.

In autumn, the colors are especially striking when the mountains become covered in blazing red, yellow, and purple, accented by glittering gold patches. Viewed from anywhere in the village, the surrounding world appears like a colorful dreamland.

Now and then, sunrays penetrate the cloud cover and illuminate the white birch forest, causing the colorful woods to glow. The small brook trickling through the forest carries away the few fallen leaves piling along its banks.

In early mornings before the sun rises, the gurgle of Horm River is considered the perfect audio accompaniment to the stunning visuals of the tranquil world. The river is flanked on both sides by yellowish birches, and covered by quaint wooden bridges. If one crosses a bridge and climbs the hillside, he is presented with a view of the whole village tucked quietly against the snow-capped mountains and forest patiently waiting for the arrival of a new day.

When the first ray of the morning sun hits the tops of the white birches, the dark blue mist begins to rise and the village begins to wake. The scent of cooking begins emanating from log cabins and villagers appear, herding cattle and sheep out of the pen towards pastures on the hillsides.

Visitors who may join AFFORDABLE China travel packages or not also start the day early. They ride around the village on the horseback, enjoying the clear and fresh air along with the morning scenery. To record the moment the morning breaks and the village wakes, photographers rise even earlier to claim an “advantageous position” on the hillside across the river.

The sun spotlights the log cabins, outlining their fascinating figures. The shadow of wooden rails is projected across the frost-covered green grassland, and the birches turn golden yellow in the sun.

As the sun creeps across the big blue sky, the scenery changes depending on the time of day. In front of the village, the white birch forest basking in the afterglow of dusk becomes even more appealing. Villagers, cattle, and sheep make the trek home as the sun inches down towards the horizon. Before darkness sets in, animals are herded into tree-trunk pens outside the cabins. Cooking smoke curls out of the cabins once again. A few villagers can be seen fetching water from a zigzagging brook.

Residential homes were constructed with logs, each about 30 centimeters in diameter, and roofs are formed like a canopy, looking traditional. Many locals raise red deer as well as the cows and sheep.

A portrait of Genghis Khan can be found hanging on the wall in many homes. Also decorating interiors are stuffed birds, animal hides, musical instruments, and hunting tools. The rooms are all tidy and clean.

Tuvas are very hospitable. If visitors happen to drop in on a family in the village to add more color for their China tours, the hosts will serve them yogurt, milk wine, milk tea, cakes and home-made dairy products. Guests can choose certain foods to eat, but all must drink two bowls of milk tea. When the host pours the tea, it is customary to add butter and milk skin according to the guest’s taste. As soon as one finishes the first bowl, the host will fill the second. Local guides might reveal that villagers believe the second bowl brings good fortune.

During holidays and other celebratory gatherings, villagers will cook a lamb, buy a couple of boxes of wine, and invite a handful of friends over. The host will fill his own cup and finish it first, then fill the cups of each of his friends and toast them one by one. As the first round ends, the host will again drink a cup himself to start the second round of toasts. It’s easy to see how novices would be drunk by round two, but for most villagers, it’s still just a warm-up.

The story of the villagers living and working in a beautiful oil painting can sound like a fairytale, but with more and more visitors coming, a question arises: Will this utopia keep its purity or become contaminated by the busy and sophisticated outside world? But the tranquility is broken by tourists who join China vacation packages to enjoy the beauty of it.

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