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(CNN) — Like something straight out of a fairytale, the abandoned village of Houtouwan on Shengshan Island, part of the Shengsi Archipelago off the eastern coast of China, has recently become an Internet sensation and an unusual travel hotspot.
Houtouwan was once a prosperous fishing village, with a 1980s population of more than 3,000 residents. However, because of its remote and hard-to-access location, its residents started to move out in the '90s.
In 2002, the village was officially depopulated and merged into a nearby village.
After decades of abandonment, empty houses in the ocean-facing, cliffside village -- some of them still furnished -- have been taken over by a blanket of lush climbing plants.
A ghost village-turned-tourist hotspot
Houtouwan soared to fame among Chinese netizens in 2015 when a series of mesmerizing photographs of the deserted village went viral.
Instead of celebrating its new-found popularity, the officials of Shengsi Archipelago were cautious of the impact brought by the sudden surge of tourists.
"Our telephone lines are jammed and we are getting more tourists to Houtouwan," Chen Bo, an official of Shengshan Island, said in an official statement at the time.
"Houtouwan of Shengshan hasn't been equipped with the conditions to open to tourists... We urge visitors to preserve its tranquility for now."
But now, it's ready for tourists. Sort of.