The young woman is dressed in striking local ethnic attire, with matching embroidered pink-green sleeves and pants. She sits next to a traditional huotang open hearth, feeding it generously with firewood to keep the flames burning bright.
"This is our way of keeping warm. The huotang can be used to make larou (Chinese bacon) at the same time," she said, pointing to the mouthwatering strips of salted pork hung over the fire for smoking.
Shi Linjiao, 24, is not just introducing a local delicacy to visitors. She is part of a scene in a video being shot at Shibadong, a village of the Miao ethnic group in the Xiangxi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture, Central China's Hunan province. Shibadong is named after the village's 18 natural caves.
Shi returned to Shibadong after she graduated last year from the Zhejiang Conservatory of Music in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang province, and had a job at Liuyang, a county-level city in Hunan. She quit the job several months later to go back to her hometown.
The video is part of a series used to promote her hometown. Shi herself is tasked with appearing on camera, while other village returnees Shi Zhichun plans the programs and Shi Kang edits the clips.
Shi Zhichun, who earned a graduate degree at Jishou University in Jishou, Xiangxi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture after majoring in English as an undergraduate at the Central South University in Changsha, chose to leave the city to return to Shibadong following his studies in 2017.
Shi Kang once worked in the field of new media in Changsha, capital of Hunan, before he was inspired by Shi Zhichun's idea of starting their own business at their hometown last year.
The trio returned from cities after graduating from their respective colleges since 2017. Once back home, they decided to work together, promoting their hometown to the outside world through modern communication channels.
Like many other impoverished remote areas in the country, the village is located amid the highlands, in the Wuling Mountains endowed with breathtaking scenery and clean water, but having inadequate transportation and other infrastructure.
Villagers used to rely on the little income they could reap from crops, including corn and rice, planted on scattered farmland.
"I want to make my hometown known to the rest of the world, so that tourists can be attracted here and Miao villagers' specialties can be sold online," the 31-year-old said.
He soon figured out an effective way to promote Shibadong's attractions and specialties, by posting short videos and livestreaming on major social networking platform Douyin.
It did not take long for the increasing number of fans of the trio's videos to start buying the larou products made by households in the village.
Shi said they have been selling hundreds of kilograms of the meat, with the villagers earning about 60 yuan ($8.5) for every kilogram of larou they sell.
Other local agricultural products, including peppers, rice wine and kiwis, are also being sold through the digital platforms. Their account on Douyin has attracted more than 90,000 fans, Shi said.
The village returnees are not the only ones to embrace a bright future for Shibadong.
Sitting on a workbench, Shi Shunlian deftly threads a needle through a spread of fabric－she is stitching an elaborate scene of a high-speed train, in white and black.
Shi, 66, is a former Party chief at Shibadong. After retiring in 2014, she picked up miaoxiu (traditional ethnic embroidery) hoping the skill can help the needy villagers earn some additional income.
She recalled that President Xi Jinping, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, visited the village in 2013. At the time, 57 percent of the 939 villagers were living below the national poverty line of 2,300 yuan ($328), with their per capita disposable income at 1,668 yuan.
"I felt sorry when he asked how much our villagers could earn in a year," Shi said, adding that she had been at the post since 1997 but the village still remained poor due to the tough natural conditions.
Shi Shunlian wanted to continue helping the village to fight poverty after her retirement, by organizing housewives to make miaoxiu and selling them as arts and crafts.
Miaoxiu, which features rich and splendid colors and various figures and lines, is among the first traditions of its kind listed as a national intangible cultural heritage.
"In this way, we can preserve Miao people's cultural inheritance and use it to help improve our lives," she said, adding that the traditional activity is in danger of fading out of their community.
She remembered how Miao girls traditionally learned to embroider from their mothers and grandmothers at a very early age.
"We stitch various shapes like butterflies and flowers onto fabric and use them to make different items, including clothes, pillowcases, handbags and wall hangings," Shi Shunlian said, as she pointed to the train pattern on the Miao embroidery she was working on.
The piece of miaoxiu work she is stitching carefully at her workbench will be given as a present to the foreign customers of CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotive, a major manufacturer of rail transit equipment in Hunan.
As the biggest buyer of the ethnic craft since 2018, the company has been placing orders for Miao embroidery works worth 100,000 yuan each year from the cooperative that Shi set up in May 2014.
Under her lead, more than 190 housewives have joined the cooperative for producing handmade Miao embroidery works in the past six years. Each of them can earn about 3,000 yuan during busy months.
The cooperative's Miao embroidery products have received more orders as a result of the growing interest. But Shi still worries about their work.
"There aren't enough orders to keep us busy through the whole year and there is a dearth of talent to provide designs for the embroidery. These are the two major problems," she said.
"We will improve our products, adding items like purses, bookmarks and hats; we will go out to promote them and we are hoping to find designers," Shi said of her plans.
The villagers' efforts to tap local culture for improving lives is in line with "targeted poverty alleviation", a concept first put forward when Xi visited the then poverty-stricken village on an inspection tour in November 2013.
33-year-old Long Xianlan discovered that the village's lush greenery offered the perfect conditions for raising bees.
Starting from 2015, Long gradually grew his beekeeping enterprise. His initial four boxes of bees have grown to more than 300 crates, helping him rake in an annual income of 400,000 yuan last year from just a few thousand yuan before 2015.
With the development of suitable industries and businesses, villagers in Shibadong can get jobs and make a decent living right at their doorstep.
Long Xianlan said the opportunities he tapped from beekeeping have turned him from a despondent, aimless pauper into a responsible husband providing for a happy family that fully enjoys the warmth and comforts of home.
"My life now is sweeter than the honey I make," he said.
大国小鲜@基层之治 | 周庆智：让每个人都参与到社会治理中