LANZHOU, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- Owning a pair of iron gates used to be the stuff of Hui Yuzhu's dreams, but today they are lying in a store room gathering dust.
"In the past, I was too poor to install the gates," said Hui, 65, a farmer in Zhongdagou village, Tianzhu Tibetan autonomous county in northwest China's Gansu Province. "Now my house is too good for them."
In China's rural areas such as Hui's hometown, iron gates were once a symbol of status.
Hui got married in 1982, and spent all his savings to build a clay house with three rooms on a hillside. He then borrowed 300 yuan (about 43.6 U.S. dollars) to buy a pair of iron gates.
Installing the gates was not simply a matter of labor. Hui planned to hold a ceremony where he would wear red silk on his shoulders and entertain local guests. But his plans were delayed.
"I didn't have enough money for the ceremony so I decided to wait, and put the gates in a store room," Hui said.
In the following years, he toiled in the field on the hill, barely making ends meet, harvesting wheat, corn and pea from his tiny piece of land. Due to lack of rain, yield was not high, and his annual income was about 2,000 yuan.
Hui was not alone. Tucked away in the depth of the mountains, Tianzhu is an impoverished county.
To fight such poverty, China started relocation programs in 2001, moving viallgers to better places to live. The program started in Tianzhu in 2011.
"I thought to myself that the government would help us build better houses, where I could finally install my iron gates," said Hui, who became the first villager to move down the hill.
With more than 100,000 yuan from local government, and by saving and borrowing another 100,000 yuan, Hui finally built a two-story building in 2014.
"The building is fashionable. Compared with it the iron gates seem out of date," he said. So Hui, once again, put his gates back in the store room.
Hui's new home is closer to the road, hospital and school, making his life easier.
"In the past my daughter used to walk two kilometers on a mountainous road before arriving at school," he said. Now the school is next door.
According to Liu Ziyun, director of the office for relocation in Tianzhu county, a total of 40,258 people from 9,583 households have been relocated. China invested 36.3 billion yuan in relocations projects nationwide by the end of 2015, moving as many as 6.8 million people.
In 2013, Tianzhu was home to 56,300 people living in poverty, but the number dropped to 13,700 by the end of 2016.
Hui now has an even bigger ambition. The local government have given him 10,000 yuan to raise livestock.
His son and daughter-in-law are working in Xinjiang, but plan to return to help him with the business.
"This year we will begin feeding livestock. Then they will no longer need to leave," he said.
He estimates that the new job could bring him more than 10,000 yuan a year, more than five times his income when he was farming on the hill.
The family has had a discussion with what to do with the gates.
"I spent a fortune on them and will not throw them away," Hui insists. "When it gets warmer we will build a bigger store room, and install the iron gates there."