Nanjiecun, one of the last collective Maoist villages of China, provides a very interesting insight into the country. Located in Henan, Linying Country, Nanjiecun is completely different from the town that surrounds it. Where Linying has the abundance of shops and chaotic neon signs advertising the private enterprise so characteristic of modern China, Nanjiecun still shows a tidy, centrally-planned town where the only advertisements are revolutionary slogans, quotes from Mao and portraits of communist leaders. Now reachable by high-speed train, Nanjiecun is definitely worth a visit! You can learn more about Nanjiecun in general in our other article. But if you were looking for a practical guide to the town, here it is!
To get to Nanjie Village, you can either take the high-speed train to Luohe West Station (connected to many high-speed train stations around the country) or take the less frequent slow train to Linying Station. While Linying is closer to Nanjie Village, Luohe is more frequently connected.
Once you arrive in Luohe, you will need to grab a taxi and drive 40 minutes or so into the countryside to reach Linying.
Where to stay
As a collective Maoist village, Nanjie Village does not leave room for competition so if you want to stay in the village, you will need to stay at Nanjiecun Hotel. Nanjiecun Hotel is well-located; right to the East is Red Square with its Mao statue, dead in the centre of town. It is slightly pricy by local standards but the rooms are extremely clean and comfortable. At the entrance, you will be greeted by a Maoist slogan.
You could also technically stay for cheaper just outside of the village in neighbouring Linying county, but rooms there are of varying quality and lots of hotels do not have the appropriate licenses to take foreigners in.
The layout of the place
Nanjie Village is divided into districts, each dedicated to a specific purpose. There is an education district, where the kindergarten, elementary, middle and high schools can all be found. At the entrances of the schools there are statues of Chinese communist martyrs Lei Feng and Liu Hulan. Liu Hulan was beheaded by the Kuomintang when she was 15; she refused to renounce the Communist Party when confronted by the Kuomintang, and paid for it with her life.
There is also a residential district where the local people live, free of rent and utility bills, in communally-owned apartments. These apartments comes in two different sizes and layouts and are identically furnished.
Finally there is the industrial district, where all the industries of Nanjie village can be found. In the 80s, when Nanjie recollectivised and went against the swelling tide of private enterprise, it turned itself into a collectivist enterprise where all inhabitants of the village own shares. Wages are low, but since most things such as healthcare for children and the elderly, rent, weddings and utilities are covered, local people are quite happy. Nanjie has multiple plants which make local products to be exported around China. Nanjiecun produces food seasoning, beers, instant noodles and printing materials.
Things to do
When visiting Nanjiecun, one will certainly first see the ‘East is Red’ square. That square is one of the few places where the veneration of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin still goes on in China, where the focus has shifted to the Chinese leaders rather than communist theoreticians.
The best way to visit Nanjiecun to the fullest is to pay a visit to the tourism company of Nanjiecun. This company, also publicly owned, offer daily tours of the village on golf carts. Each golf cart has its own revolutionary name. The tour takes people to the Cultural Garden, Nanjiecun Museum – where the history of the collective village is displayed –drives around the square and through all districts, a visit of the Instant Noodle factory, a visit of the elder’s hospital as well as a visit of the impressive botanical garden of Nanjie. The botanical garden is impressive as it does not only show plants from all kinds of ecosystems, but also contains reproductions of places where Mao has lived such as his birthplace of Shaoshan, Yan’an and Xibaipo. The tours are only offered in Chinese, so knowing Mandarin or having an interpreter is extremely important to learn from them.
Then, one can easily walk through Nanjiecun and peek through its shops, offices and apartments and see more portraits and quotes of Mao than ever.
Where to eat
Nanjiecun has a few options when it comes to eating and most of them are of good quality and reasonably priced.
For a very wide and varied menu, try the Nanjiecun hotel restaurant. Alternatively, try a Muslim restaurant like the one near the square to try some different dishes.
For great value, visit the Korean barbeque buffet at the entrance of town. In this restaurant, all-you-can-eat barbeque and hotpot is sold for 45 RMB during lunch and 55 RMB during dinner. This includes all kinds of seafood, meat, vegetable and also drinks such as beer, wine, juice and Chinese liquor.
But if you want the quintessential Nanjiecun gastronomic experience, try the workers’ canteen by the tourism company. In there, you will need to get a card to purchase your food, served to you high-school-cafeteria style. Food there is tasty and extremely cheap.
If you get tired of Nanjiecun’s options, head back to normal Chinese society either by crossing the main gate or Chaoyang gate. Multiple options can be found just outside of the village, within Linying community. Crossing Chaoyang gate is certainly recommended, as it gives an uncanny experience: one minute you’re in a quiet village and the next you’re in a tacky and busy fake Tang-Dynasty-style town/shopping centre.