French brothers witness increasing cultural exchanges in Chinese resort city

Updated: February 18, 2024 Source: Xinhua News Agency
fontLarger fontSmaller


Aerial photo taken on April 25, 2021 shows the scenery of Yangshuo County, Guilin City, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. (Xinhua/Cao Yiming)

NANNING, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- As one of China's world-famous tourist cities, Guilin in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, has witnessed a steady growth in tourism cooperation and cultural exchanges between China and France over the years.

Along the Lijiang River, one finds West Street in Yangshuo County, Guilin. The street has a history of more than 1,400 years. In 1991, Frenchman Christophe Vincent came to this quiet Chinese street and soon fell in love with Yangshuo's calm and casual lifestyle.

"Tourism was not quite developed at that time. There were no homestays and no guides, but the locals were very warm to me," Vincent said. "I love the Lijiang River. This clear water makes me calm, and I decided to stay here."

Vincent rented a Chinese traditional hall with a history of over 200 years on Yangshuo West Street and opened the first French restaurant in Yangshuo, retaining the architectural simplicity and traditional style of the building.

The restaurant became a key feature of the local landscape, attracting many tourists. He hired local people to cook local specialties, creating a menu with a mix of Chinese and French cuisine.

After putting an end to his restaurant career a few years ago, Vincent is now looking for some new projects in Yangshuo.

In 2013, Yangshuo County and France's Annecy-le-Vieux officially established a sister-city relationship. Since then, the two places have deepened their cooperation in tourism, culture, sports, education and other fields.

In 2015, authorities from the two locations teamed up to host the MaXi-Race Yangshuo China, a trail-running event in Yangshuo County, providing further evidence of friendly cooperation.Luc Vincent, Christophe Vincent's young brother, came to Yangshuo in 2001. In 2011, he began running a hotel next to his brother's restaurant, which now boasts more than 40 rooms. With a cheerful personality, he acted as a translator for the French racers in the MaXi-Race Yangshuo China.

"There's a school in France that teaches Chinese martial arts. Every year, I volunteer to help the school buy clothes," said Luc Vincent. "Its students want to come to China to study, and I also actively help them communicate. This cultural exchange brings people closer together."

The two brothers could not have anticipated China's rapid development ever since, or the new upgrades ushered in by Guilin's tourism industry over the decades.

In 2013, Club Med, a leisure holiday brand originating from France, officially opened a resort in Guilin Yuzi Paradise. As a high-end French holiday brand, it has brought a new tourism holiday experience to tourists since entering the Chinese tourism market.

"The landscape of Guilin is beautiful, and our resort is perfectly integrated into the landscape," said Morgane Schwarzer, general manager of Club Med Guilin Resort. "At the same time, we have also introduced many French elements, including organizing French cultural performances and introducing various French-style decorations."

Since 1997, French artists have created a total of 12 large-scale sculptures in the Yuzi Paradise. These works not only reflect the artists' thoughts on nature, mankind and the universe, but also bear witness to the communication between China and France through sculpture.

"It is a good place for cultural exchanges between the two countries, bringing people together through the appreciation of artworks," said Schwarzer.

China is implementing a unilateral visa-free policy for ordinary passport holders from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia on a trial basis. From Dec. 1, 2023, to Nov. 30, 2024, holders of ordinary passports from these six countries may enter China visa-free for business, tourism, transit, and visiting friends and relatives, for a period of no more than 15 days.

"The unilateral visa-free policy for six countries, including France, is a very friendly move," Luc Vincent said. "Many of my French friends are ready to come to China. I'm going to embrace them in China with open arms and show them the great beauty and warmth here in China."  

Editor: Yang Linlin