Uyanga records and broadcasts her everyday life scenes online, including playing with lambs, at the Xi Ujimchin Banner of Inner Mongolia autonomous region. [PHOTO BY LIU LEI/XINHUA]
What is so special about Mongolian-style mutton? Uyanga, a 24-year-old at the Xi Ujimchin Banner of Inner Mongolia autonomous region, explains in great detail-in a short video she uploaded online-that the local mutton is the most tender and fresh anywhere, even without any condiments.
The video has been viewed 4 million times and won her 9,600 new fans. After graduating from the Inner Mongolia University of Finance and Economics, Uyanga became an entrepreneur, creating videos to spread knowledge of the local culture of the Mongolian ethnic group. She also co-founded an online store, together with a couple of friends, selling local food and souvenirs.
In the beginning, she found it difficult to speak with confidence and flow in front of the camera.
With a smartphone fixed on a tripod, she started her journey into video-blogging on a cold winter's day in January 2018.
While filming the first take, she recalls, she was so nervous that she talked on and on for a long time before realizing that she was not even in the frame.
"It was an introduction of myself and some local scenic spots. It was-30 C and the phone kept powering down every several minutes and my feet were buried in deep snow," Uyanga recalls.
It took her three days to complete her short debut video.
However, Uyanga gradually grew in confidence, smiling more, speaking fluent Mandarin, and getting more skillful in shooting the videos. Meanwhile, she was also gathering knowledge about local history and customs to satisfy curious viewers.
One of her videos illustrates how the ethnic group honor the god of fire on the 23rd day of the last lunar month before Lunar New Year.
Uyanga says fire is a symbol of life, power and prosperity in the eyes of the Mongolian ethnic group, and their "god of fire" protects and blesses the Mongolian people with wealth, children and prosperity. On that day, families will worship and offer sacrifices, such as mutton, nuts and sweets.
Besides her, the main characters in the videos are her parents.
"At first, they seemed so nervous that they stayed almost silent. Many viewers commented, asking why my father has such a serious face," she says, adding that her parents are more natural and at ease in front of the lens now. "They got eventually used to the camera."
After posting more than 400 videos in a year, she became a local online celebrity, with over 500,000 fans on Chinese micro-blogging platform Sina Weibo and Xigua, a mobile video app.
What motivated Uyanga to begin recording her people's lives and culture was a desire to overturn people's misunderstanding of Inner Mongolia as a backward and primitive place.
"One time, when I took train home, a passenger asked: 'Do you have to eat meat all day because there are no vegetables?' and 'Do you often move your home to follow the herding flocks?'
"In fact, our lives have changed significantly. We have settled down and are no longer nomads. We buy vegetables at a market in the town, which is 40 minutes drive from home. Power and water are also available."
In the videos about how people in Inner Mongolia collect grass to feed their livestock in winter, she had to walk 30 minutes to video other families and follow the whole process-the mowing, tying up and transporting them home.
"Villagers are willing to participate," she says. "They think it's kind of cool and are happy that people show such a great interest in their daily life."
Lured by the videos, some of her viewers have made the long journey to visit her home.
"A family of seven from Guangdong province asked to see the dairy cows and baby horses that often appear in my videos," she says, adding she showed them around and treated them to steamed stuffed buns.
Visitors, however, might find their inner-city homes tiny after visiting the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, where each family in Uyanga's village has 266 to 333 hectares of land, with herds of grazing cows, sheep, goats and horses. In her family's homestead, for example, there are about 80 cows and 300 sheep.
Her videos are also proving to be profitable. After just the fourth month of producing them, Uyanga's monthly income surpassed 10,000 yuan ($1,477). And sales of dried beef and mutton from her online store reached 200,000 yuan last year. Now, she and her team members are thinking of opening a bed-and-breakfast business.
What has impressed her the most is that both her family and neighbors support her work.
"They know me as a girl with a camera zooming in on almost every activity in the village.
"Sometimes they make suggestions about the best angles to shoot from, and they often tell me to show authentic Mongolian life to people from the outside world."
Uyanga is ambitious, and is keen to fulfill the hopes of her people. She has made her own five-year plan to cover the lives of people across the whole autonomous region.
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