Women offer paper cuttings for sale in Yan'an, Shaanxi province. ZHU XINGXIN/CHINA DAILY

One of the country's best-loved cities is flourishing thanks to fruitful policies, as Zhang Zhihao reports from Yan'an, Shaanxi.

Yan'an, Shaanxi province, is probably the most revered city in China. According to legend, the Yellow Emperor planted a cypress tree near the remote settlement 5,000 years ago to mark the formation of the Huaxia, the ethnic group from which the Han Chinese trace their origins.

Locals say the tree is still growing in Huangling county.

Yan'an was also the cradle of the Chinese revolution after the Red Army took up residence in the city at the end of the 12,500-kilometer Long March in October 1935.

For the next 13 years, the leaders of the Communist Party of China lived in cold, flea-infested caves while they laid down the blueprint for the People's Republic of China by testing new policies, holding seminal meetings and regaining military strength.

Yan'an's strategic location at the intersection of three mountains on the Loess Plateau meant it was a highly contested military outpost as early as the Warring States Period (475-221 BC). As a result, it saw countless battles, poverty, migration and environmental degradation for hundreds of years.

Things have improved in the past two decades thanks to a program called "Grain for Green", which has transformed the barren environment into a lush paradise with new industries based on agricultural and natural resources.

Meanwhile, poverty alleviation programs have allowed the locals to abandon old, ineffective agricultural methods in favor of higher paying, less labor-intensive work, and they can now live without worrying that bad weather will destroy their livelihoods.

"Yan'an is the cradle of the nation and the soul of all reforms," said Ke Changwan, director of the Yan'an Publicity Department.

"The hardworking, optimistic, innovative and courageous spirit of the people has ensured the city's success and will continue to motivate the nation in the future."


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