Saturday February 9, 2013
A fair not to be missed
MADE IN CHINA By CHOW HOW BAN
The biggest temple fair in southern China, called Jinxiu Zhonghua in Mandarin, offers visitors some of the most traditional and cultural experiences of the Chinese festivity.
IF you are travelling around China during Chinese New Year, you may check out the biggest temple fair in southern China.
The fair, held at the Splendid China Folk Culture Village (known as Jinxiu Zhonghua in Mandarin) in Shenzhen until Feb 24, offers visitors some of the most traditional and cultural experiences of the Chinese festivity.
Traditionally, temple fairs used to be held in palaces and places of worship some 2,300 years ago to coincide with major religious festivals. But since the Ming dynasty, the fairs have been transformed into marketplaces with a myriad of commercial and cultural activities during Chinese New Year.
The fair in Shenzhen has also evolved into something more complete and fun-packed over the past decade.
What sets it apart from other famous temple fairs in Beijing and Shandong and the Shanxi provinces is that the folk culture village has been a permanent venue featuring almost all the 55 minority ethnic groups in China.
On normal days, artisans and performers showcase the different customs, food and cultures of the ethnic groups.
But during the temple fair, they will perform their traditional Chinese New Year dances and songs.
Li Xiangwen, 34, of the Va ethnic minority from Yunnan province’s Cangyuan county, said that like the Han Chinese (the majority race in China), his ethnic people also celebrated the festival in a big way.
“Everyone will be in a festive mood in our hometown. Every household will slaughter chicken and cows as offerings for the festival and place them at the centre of our village where we will dance and sing for three days and three nights,” said the leading performer at the folk culture village.
He said he and his fellow performers would not be able to showcase every detail of the festival back home to visitors but they would give them as much an experience as possible.
“After our routine performances, we will invite the visitors to dance and sing with us. We might bring our special delicacies such as shredded chicken porridge and rice wine to share with the visitors,” he said.
Yang Ping, 20, of the Yi ethnic minority from Yunnan province’s Yuxi city, was preparing decorations for the Yi ethnic village.
She was cutting the shapes of a torch from red cloth that she would use to decorate the area.
“For the Yi people, the Torch Festival is the biggest festival of all. The torch-inspired decorations would bring luck and joy,” she said.
“During the temple fair, we will also perform a unique dance where the men will hoist trays containing special dishes of the Yi ethnic group and clip the trays using their mouth. We will then share the food with visitors.”
She revealed that the visitors would be in for a spectacle at night when the Yi performers would throw steel flowers into the air to resemble a fireworks display.
Visitors can also write their wishes on lanterns that will be released into a river.
Wang Di, 20, and his fellow performers who are of the Miao ethnic minority from Sichuan province said they were ready to entertain.
“On the third day of the Chinese lunar year, the Miao people in our hometown will gather to watch and compete in cow fighting.
The young people will take part in an event where the men will play a special Miao flute and if the women love the tunes played by the men, they would garland them with flower necklaces,” she said.
Shadow art master Liu Qipei, who has been a part of the fair for a decade, said he would be extremely busy selling and promoting the art.
Liu’s stall, showcasing the shadow cutting art, has been one of the main highlights of the folk culture village since its inception in 1989.
“Besides locals, we also entertain visitors from South Korea, Japan, Europe and Malaysia. I have learned how to smile and serve every visitor to my best ability,” he said.
One will be amazed at how fast – within one or two minutes – Liu can cut a person’s shadow out of paper, not to mention its likeness. There will be other Chinese folk art at the fair.
Other highlights include a giant tree decorated with gold ingots and copper coins, a two-faced thousand-hand Goddess of Mercy and the appearance of the 12 Chinese zodiacs and the God of Prosperity.