Zhangjiajie Tourism Authorities Rename “South Pillar of Heaven” (南天一柱) “Hallelujah Mountain” (哈利路亚山) To Attract Domestic, Foreign Tourists
One of the big stories making the rounds today is the decision by the management committee of the Yuanjiajie section of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area in Zhangjiajie, Hunan province, to officially change the name of the famous mountain peak formerly known as the “South Pillar of Heaven” (nan tian yi zhu) to “Hallelujah Mountain” (haliluya shan).
Whether a cynical attempt to cash in on the popularity of the movie Avatar– which included several scenes of floating mountains apparently inspired by the Zhangjiajie mountain range — or, as the authorities themselves claim, simply a way to “accommodate people’s wishes,” if nothing else the renaming plan has certainly gotten plenty of press.
Although some are rolling their eyes at the “Hallelujah mountain” name change, this is far from the first time a tourist site has latched on to movie success to lure more visitors. As we wrote recently, last year tourism officials in the sleepy Xixi wetlands in Zhejiang province saw an influx of tourists after the Chinese blockbuster “If You Are the One” by director Feng Xiaogang featured a 20-minute-long sequence filmed there. Tourism officials, and local businesspeople, soon sprang into action and offered “If You Are the One” themed tourism packages, which ultimately resulted in an unprecedented tourism boom in the area.
While these package deals are generally only successful in the short run, in some cases — such as in the UNESCO World Heritage site Jiuzhaigou in Sichuan province, featured in Zhang Yimou’s film “Hero,” which saw a spike in domestic tourism after the success of the 2002 film yet continues to consistently attract eco-tourists from China and abroad — they can open the door for more investment in, and visitors to, areas that tourists may have otherwise forgotten about.
As the Zhangjiajie government website (Chinese) says,this week Zhangjiajie’s tourism director Song Zhiguang told reporters that the “Avatar”-themed package deals now being offered have two main aims: to bring in “movie tourists” who want to see “Hallelujah mountain” specifically, and to attract more tourists to the area’s other sites: Yuanjia Jie, Tianzishan, Jinbian Xi, Huanglong Cave and other scenic spots. Said Song,
Pandora’s far away, but Zhangjiajie is near. It’s understood that the popularity of the film “Avatar” will lead to a new tourist boom in Zhangjiajie over the Spring Festival.
As Reuters observed, the Zhangjiajie branch of China International Travel Service Corp (CITS) is now offering a “Magical tour to Avatar-Pandora” as well as a “Miracle tour to Avatar’s floating mountain” on its website (www.citszjj.com). According to the site, these tours are four days long, and include mountain climbing and sightseeing excursions at sites with names like “the inspiration for ‘Avatar’s’ Hallelujah mountain,” “mi hun tai,” and “warrior taming horse.” Interestingly enough, descriptions of their package deals are in Chinese only at this point, which hints that Zhangjiajie’s Avatar fever is, so far at least, almost entirely targeting domestic tourists around the Spring Festival holiday. We’ll have to see whether tour operators who cater to foreign tourists also pick these tours up in coming weeks.