Some thousands of kilometers away from Russia, the Tianzhushan Mountain in east China's Anhui Province is attracting a growing number of Russian tourists. A "Russian village" has emerged as a result.
"The Chinese Kung Fu is the bond between the mountain and Russian tourists," said 73-year-old Liu Shaobin, head of the Tianzhushan martial arts institute.
Back in the 1980s, Liu was invited to visit the Soviet Union. He performed Kung Fu in Moscow and Leningrad and caused a sensation among his local audiences. He founded the institute in the Tianzhushan Mountain in 1990.
Over the years, Liu has received all kinds of guests from Russia including some politicians, businesspeople and athletes. Usually, visitors will stay on the mountain for 10 to 15 days for a customized program, including sightseeing, hiking, Kung Fu practice and health preservation instructions.
"I can't recall how many times I have been here; I am a big fan of Master Liu," said Nicola. The Russian Kung Fu lover has been learning Kung Fu from Liu for more than a decade, and he would come to Tianzhushan for a few weeks almost every year.
According to statistics from the Tianzhushan management committee, nearly 20,000 trips were made by Russian tourists in 2018, accounting for one-fifth of the total overseas visitors.
With the martial arts institute as the center, a "Russian village" is under construction.
According to the construction plan, the village will have a square and street featuring Russian style food and architecture, as well as a performance center showcasing Russian music and dances.
A souvenir shop owner surnamed Gui witnessed the growing number of Russian tourists to Tianzhushan Mountain over the past two decades. Matryoshka doll and Russian bread are placed alongside Chinese tea and herbs on her shelves.
Over the years, she has even grasped some simple Russian words and expressions by communicating with Russian customers. "It's difficult to learn Russian, but I have been trying my best," said Gui.
Liu Shaobin is preparing to welcome a new batch of guests from Russia. "They will arrive in two days," he said. "Our program has been booked up until this winter."