A child takes photos around a sea of purple lavender in Huocheng County, Ili Kazakh Prefecture of northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on June 13, 2015, as the one-week Huocheng lavender tourism and culture festival kicks off. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/ Wang Mengzhen]
Every June, a large number of tourists from China and aboard are surrounded by purple waves as lavender comes into blossom in Huocheng County, Xinjiang, the so-called "Oriental Provence".
This is the 5th year of the Huocheng lavender festival, which features a lavender experts' forum, a "Miss. Lavender" beauty contest, and ethnic groups' traditional performances.
Yang Menghan, a tourist from Shanghai is surprised about how much lavender is planted in Xinjiang.
"For me, the sheer number of lavender fields in Ili came as a really big shock. Previously, I thought this kind of plant could only be cultivated in foreign countries, and I just realize it can grow so well in China. I would like to buy some lavender-derived essential oil for my relatives and friends."
Back in the 1960s, three species of lavender were introduced from Provence, France to Ili for the first time.
Since Huocheng is located at the same latitude as the world famous lavender base Provence, the city has ideal climate conditions to plant the crop on an industrial scale.
After half a century, Huocheng has taken up 98% of China's lavender fields.
French lavender expert Pierre Ross still remembers his first visit to Ili several years ago, when he took a sample of Xinjiang's lavender seeds back to a laboratory in France.
Mr. Ross has been working on how to improve the lavenders' quality in Xinjiang over the past few years.
"I would like to say with confidence, you know... the great difference between lavender from Ili and lavender from Provence is the price, because it is the French (brand), it is more expensive. So for example, if Americans know that, they would buy more lavender from Xinjiang. "
As Ili stands at a key position for building China's Silk Road Economic Belt, Ren Ke, CEO of the local lavender giant Jieyou Princess is expecting more opportunities for Xinjiang lavender to go global.