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Gansu Oil Town Yumen to Woo Tourists

LANZHOU - Since 2015, Li Na, 26, has been working as a painted-pottery maker at a cultural center in the northwestern Chinese city of Yumen.

Li had no hesitation to go back to her hometown Yumen in Gansu province, after studying sculpture at a university in central China's Henan province for four years.

"Yumen is famous for its painted-pottery culture. I am happy to become a pottery maker in my hometown," Li said.

In 2006, China listed the Huoshaogou Ruins under national protection.

"Different from others in Gansu, Huoshaogou pottery was produced with various colored decorations," said Wang Pu, curator of Yumen Museum.

Li works with Yumen Art Gallery, the only place that officially produces handmade painted-pottery in the city. Li would not have been able to find such a job before 2014 when Yumen authorities sped up its transformation from an oil drilling town into a cultural and tourism city.

Yumen was the first petroleum base in China that was put into operation as early as 1939. During the 1940s, the oil output in Yumen accounted for about 90 percent of total crude oil production nationwide.

But after decades of development, many oil wells in Yumen have seen their output drop in recent years, with annual oil output reaching a record low in 1999.

The city's prosperity has decreased with the depleted oil resources.

Yumen saw a new opportunity in 2013 when China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative, which is poised to bring changes and create development opportunities for people and countries along the ancient trade routes.

Yumen is to the west of the Hexi Corridor, a major part of the Silk Road. It is also only a few hundreds kilometers away from Dunhuang, home to the world-renowned Mogao Caves, and Yumen Guan, the entrance to the old trade route.

Dating back to 2nd century BC, the city has a long history and 126 important cultural sites, among which four are under national protection and five under provincial protection.

In the past years, Yumen has allocated a total of 17 million yuan to protect and repair cultural relics, launch museum exhibitions, establish a painted pottery museum and set up cultural centers.

Yumen is also planning to build an "oil culture" theme park to make use of its resources as the first petroleum base in China.

"The Belt and Road Initiative will enhance exchanges among Yumen and countries on the trade route, which will attract more visitors to Yumen from home and abroad," said Gao Zhengsheng, director of Yumen Tourism Administration. "We hope Yumen can take the development opportunities created by the initiative and become a sustainable tourism city.