Folk cultural festival brings ancient lifestyle back

BY :China Daily

UPDATED :March 7, 2023


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The three-day 16th Guangzhou Folk Cultural Festival, also known as the Boluodan Temple Fair, came to an end on March 4 in the city's Huangpu district, one of the birthplaces of the ancient Maritime Silk Road and a key innovative and high-tech industrial base of Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong province.
The event, with a spectacular opening ceremony and a series of ritual activities, brought bustling crowds back to the streets and made contributions to Maritime Silk Road tourism in the district, local officials said.
It attracted about 220,000 tourists from March 2 to March 4 and witnessed an inflow of more than 140,000 tourists on March 4 alone, they said.
The Boluodan Temple Fair, with a history of more than 1,400 years, is a folk event in Guangdong province to commemorate the legendary birthday of the South China Sea god and is, in fact, the largest temple fair in Guangzhou. It is listed as one of China's national intangible cultural heritages.
A total of 12 themed activities, including an intangible cultural heritage experience programs, exhibitions and a poetry fair, were integrated with Maritime Silk Road themed art performances to represent the long-standing prosperity of Guangzhou's navigation and trade during this year's event.
On the first day, a solemn procession of nearly 200 performers accompanied by drum music, carried offerings into the venue and conducted a prayer ceremony to the sea god.
This was one of the highlight moments of the Ancient Sea Worship Ceremony during the opening ceremony in which modern scripting techniques were used to recreate the grand scenes of ancient imperial officials, local people, and overseas merchants' worshipping the sea god.
The grand scene made the audience feel as if they had traveled through time, back to when people viewed the sea with awe.
According to Guan Ruihua, director of the Huangpu district culture, radio, television and tourism bureau, organizers of the temple fair emphasized the Maritime Silk Road theme and worked to deepen the cultural significance of the event. Through artistic creations, they aimed to achieve a cultural fusion between Maritime Silk Road culture and traditional folk activities, while promoting the cultural brand of Huangpu district.
During the event, the dance The Lyric Poem of Huangpu, which was set against the backdrop of the South China Sea God Temple, presented the prosperous scene of ancient Maritime Silk Road.
The dance drama Tide of Era focused on the endeavor of the new generation of entrepreneurs in Huangpu, showcasing their spirit of innovation and leadership, and displaying the vitality of high-quality development in the district.
The opening ceremony programs also incorporated Huangpu district's intangible cultural heritage items, including traditional elements such as dragon and lion dances as well as drum music, which attracted the participation of many primary and secondary school students.
"Young people's involvement will deepen their understanding and recognition of the Boluodan, which is constructive to the inheriting of the culture and history of Huangpu district," said Wang Tianyuan, a teacher from a local polytechnic school.
Zhangqiu Poetry Gathering was another highlight of this year's event. At the lakeside corridor of the South China Sea God Temple, many poetry enthusiasts gathered to write. The cultural atmosphere attracted the participation and attention of many residents.
Zhangqiu refers to a small hill southwest of the temple in Huangpu, which was made famous by the visits and popular poems of Su Dongpo, a Song Dynasty (960-1279) poet.
The poetry gathering was held for three days. To make it more fun and interactive, organizers set up activities such as on-the-spot poetry writing, poetry puzzles and other games, all of which allowed the public to experience the romanticism and beauty of poetry.
At this year's temple fair, a food award featuring good taste and fun attracted many young tourists. The event not only included on-site experiences of making traditional food such as Boluo rice dumplings, but also offered sales of traditional souvenirs and mementos from time-honored Chinese brands.
The handicraft exhibition invited national and provincial-level intangible cultural heritage inheritors to display the handicrafts of Boluo chicken, Guangdong embroidery, and Chinese pith paintings.
Colin Fuller, a United States native who resides in the district, visited the temple fair for the first time. He said he used to mistake the Boluo chicken for something edible instead of a beautifully crafted artwork with bright colors.
He said he brought his family to the temple fair so that they would understand more about the local culture.
Wang Dan, the director of the opening ceremony, said this year's cultural festival upheld and preserved the essence of traditional folk culture while integrating innovative creations that capture Huangpu's distinct characteristics.
"In the past three years, the people of Huangpu district have constantly sought to improve and refine traditional culture," Wang said. "Through the use of exceptional traditional Chinese culture, they have developed a myriad of valuable artworks with distinctive Huangpu characteristics and present-day features. Thus, during the opening ceremony, we presented the works accumulated over the past three years in hopes of helping more people understand and fall in love with Huangpu through such an event."A dance performance is organized at the Boluodan Temple Fair to commemorate the legendary birthday of the South China Sea god. (Photo by Zheng Erqi from China Daily) Visitors are attracted to the fair to experience the culture and history of Huangpu district. (Photo by Zheng Erqi from China Daily) Fuxu dragon boat cruises around the South China Sea God Temple. (Photo by Zhu Weizhao for China Daily)Dragon and lion dances at the fair (Photo by Zheng Erqi from China Daily) 

Cover image: Guangzhou Daily
Editor: Joyce