Shunde’s Cultural Life
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By IPP Review

Shunde’s Cultural Life

Jul. 17, 2019  |     |  0 comments


At a time when tradition and modernity are at the crossroads, Shunde has managed to preserve its traditional culture yet embrace new ones. On the one hand, Shunde constantly promotes local arts and customs, and on the other, it opens its doors to other cultures by facilitating exchange. During the year, a wide array of activities is available to the public, such as the ‘Dragon Boat Festival’, ‘Fifty-kilometre Walk’, ‘Water Canal Festival’, ‘Chinese Literature Week’ and ‘Sino-French Cultural Exchange’. Whether you are a first-time visitor or a stranger living in Shunde, you will be able to experience the district’s inclusive and dynamic cultural environment and fall in love with the place.


Fusing tradition and modernity


The coexistence of tradition and modernity in Shunde is a norm in contemporary Chinese society. On the traditional front, modern Shunde folks still lead a life that is profoundly based on tradition; listening and watching Cantonese opera, visiting ancestral temples and monuments, appreciating relics, enjoying local cuisine, cheering during dragon boat competitions and so on. While immersing themselves in traditional activities, Shunde locals also actively disseminate these cultural heritages to the international community. Every year Shunde hosts a huge number of domestic and international tourists who are interested to experience Shunde’s local culture and cuisine. On the modernity front, Shunde people also enjoy new lifestyle alternatives: going to the cinema, watching plays and concerts, participating in nationwide fitness programmes and youth sports activities and so on.


The ability to enjoy traditional cultural activities and embrace new western way of life is a result of the economic prosperity in Shunde. The interaction between old and new generates a beneficial circular flow between the cultural sector and economy; while people have the financial means to spend more time on leisure and engage in cultural activities, the flourishing cultural life boosts the cultural service sector of the economy.


Main cultural programmes in Shunde


Programme type
Programme name (Main theme)
Programme description
Traditional
Guanyin Budhisattva’s Vault Opening Festival
On January 26 of the lunar calendar, a festival will be held at Bailin Park, Ronggui to pray for the Guanyin Budhisattva to open the vault so that believers can pray for wealth. The folk tradition is more than a thousand years old and is popular in the Pearl River Delta.
Traditional
Ceremony of Painting the Dragon’s Eye
On May 3 of the lunar calendar, the eye-painting ceremony for the dragon boat will be held at Leliu Longyan Village. Photography and art exhibitions, as well as food festivals are also held to celebrate the annual dragon boat race.
Traditional
Longtan Water Canal Cultural Festival
On May 8 of the lunar calendar, people will congregate at the Longtan Sea Goddess Temple to pray and celebrate dragon boating through activities like dragon boat parade.
Traditional
Guandi Houwang Parade
Held on September 4 of the lunar calendar at Junan Town, the parade has a history of over 160 years. People from 13 villages will parade around the town to pray for good fortune and safety.
Traditional
Shunde Village Banquet
Different villages will hold village-wide banquets during different times of the year to celebrate festivities, for instance the Shunde Lantern And Wine Festival (lunar January 6-15), Dragon Boat Festival (May), Shunde Lettuce Festival (lunar January 25) and Elders Festival (during Chung Yeung festival).
Cultural heritage
Cantonese opera series
During different times of the year, Shunde holds numerous Cantonese opera shows and concerts at schools, parks, opera houses and other venues.
Cultural heritage
Shunde Water Canal Festival
As part of the national day celebration, the festival is a series of activities celebrating food and dragon boat, and includes painting, calligraphy and photo exhibitions.
Cultural heritage
Campus Cultural Talk and Heritage Exhibition
A collaboration between the district museum and higher education institutions to introduce Shunde’s history to schools. Includes talks and photo exhibitions regarding famous people, food and tradition.
Cultural heritage
Shunde Interactive and Education Workshop
Held during weekends and holidays at the Shunde district museum, a series of interactive and experiential workshops is conducted for the public to learn Shunde’s culture through hands-on activities, such as making Chinese lanterns and dragon boats.
Traditional and modern culture
Shunde Grassroots Cultural Festival
With the aim of serving the public at the grassroots level, the district sponsors a series of township-based cultural activities throughout the year. For instance, from April 29 to 16 December 2018, 38 dragon boat-based activities were held during the dragon boat festival.
Traditional and modern culture
‘Feng Qi Cang Lan’ Shunde Lights Exhibition
A large-scale, twenty-minute laser light display highlighting Shunde’s people, culture, history and landscape. For more information refer to ‘Feng Qi Cang Lan’ Shunde Lights Exhibition description below.
Modern culture
Chinese Literature Festival
Literature prize set up by the Southern City Daily. It is one of the most prestigious and pure literary prizes in China. For more information refer to ‘Literature in Shunde’ description below.
Modern culture
Weekend Arts And Culture Festival
A weekend filled with fun and games where different cultural activities sponsored by the local government are held. Activities include dance competitions, art performances and a children’s playground.
Modern culture
Shunde Citizen Reading Activity and Youth Summer Reading Camp
Every April, reading activities will be organized by the Shunde district library. The period coincides with World Reading Day on April 23. During the summer holiday (July to August), a youth reading camp will also be organized for migrant children and low-income family children.
Modern culture

Jewellery Tourism Cultural Festival


The festival is held annually in December at Lunjiao street. It showcases jewel design and tourism.
Modern culture
Shunde Wind City Musical Festival and Sino-European Carnival
Shunde’s Wind City Music Festival is held at Shunfengshan Park and other art venues. It includes large-scale events like the Sino-French Summer Solstice Music Festival And Guangdong Province Guitar Festival. The Sino-European Carnival is held every October to November at Lecong town. It comprises three main activities: beer and culinary festival, dragon boat competition and international Wushu competition.
Modern culture
Chencun mid-summer music festival Dream Show, Summer Solstice Music Festival
The music competition held at Beijiao Town is held every year from July to October.

Note: Each town in Shunde has its own cultural activities. The table is a partial list.


Grassroots cultural carnival


Shunde’s rich cultural heritage is not only a representation of its history and legacy, but also the spiritual backbone behind the district’s continuous progress. In September 2018 the Shunde government collaborated with the media and launched the ‘Shunde District Ancient Village Cultural Upgrade Programme’. Organised at the grassroots level, the 2018 cultural carnival hosted a series of activities that lasted for three months and showcased intangible cultural heritage. Locals and tourists had the chance to see the elegant traditional Dragon Dances, hear the unique and catchy ‘Dragon Boat Song’ which is widely sung in the Pearl River Delta, and visit the exquisite Gambiered Guangdong Gauze exhibition which details the complicated silk yarn making process.


The Wing Chun Kungfu exhibition is popular among Chinese martial arts enthusiasts. Wing Chun is an important school of traditional Southern Kungfu. It consists of 12 boxing techniques and 6 stick play techniques. Wing Chun strengthens both the body and character and remains a popular exercise.


There are many other activities the public can enjoy. They can listen to the band of gongs and drums and enjoy the Ceremony of Painting the Dragon’s Eye on the dragon boat (which is said to ‘awaken’ the dragon), go for the Flower Festival in Chencun, admire intricate and elegant embroidery, and experience the Guangyin Budhisattva’s Vault Opening Festival. Listening to the rich and melodious Cantonese opera show is also an interesting experience.


Dragon boat race


A dragon boat race


‘One, paint the dragon eye and pray for good weather and the safety of the people; two, paint the forehead and pray to the heavens and for good fortune…’ is the melody for the painting of the dragon’s eye festival. Following the traditional ceremony of painting the dragon’s eye on 16 November 2018, the 13th Asian Dragon Boat Championships commenced at Shunde’s Gui Pan Lake.


Shunde is the hometown of Chinese dragon boat. It is one of the favourite activities enjoyed by locals. Under the district’s strong dragon boat culture, the Shunde team has won many international awards.


Many of Shunde’s customs are related to dragon boat, for instance painting the dragon eye, singing the dragon boat song, celebrating the dragon mother’s birthday and so on. The annual Dragon Boat Festival is one of the most popular cultural events in the region. Combining dragon boat racing and pageant, parade, folklore performance and other activities, the festival attracts more than 1 million spectators annually.


The passion for dragon boat is deeply rooted and widely spread. The sport encourages generations of Shunde people to strive for the best in their life. To know more about Shunde’s dragon boat culture, see the article ‘Shunde’s Lingnan-Flavoured Culture’.


Culinary art in Shunde


Award-winning entries from the Shunde Home Cooking competition


Food plays an irreplaceable role in the hearts of Shunde people; ubiquitous restaurants, home-cook restaurants and snack bars lining up the streets is proof of their love of food. In 2018, the Shunde Home Cooking Competition which attracted many culinary enthusiasts has already been held 13 times.


Food brings people together. During the festive season, Shunde people like to gather over a good meal and forge deep relationships. Village banquets are held for this reason. The size of each banquet varies from a few to over a hundred tables, and most of the dishes served are simple and home-cooked. The ‘Lettuce Festival’ held at Leliu Town, Liandu Village is usually the largest banquet of the year. Its origin can be traced to the late-1500s during the Ming dynasty. On the night of every January 25 (lunar calendar), Liandu Village hosts thousands of tables for the banquet. Its record is 2,198 tables and close to 20,000 patrons from Hong Kong, Macao and other neighboring cities. In recent years, many tour groups have also joined the event. In Cantonese dialect, lettuce is pronounced similarly as the desire to have a year of blessing for wealth and health.



The Shunde Lettuce Festival


Shunde people are very creative when it comes to culinary arts. For instance, the Chencun Food and Flower Cultural Festival takes advantage of both the floral and cooking skills of the locals, and patrons visiting the festival are treated to a feast of both. Since 2013, the festival has been held annually. The sixth event in 2018 continued to focus on the village’s unique flower and food offerings, with a special focus on activities like flower banquets and culinary competitions. For more information regarding food culture and industrial development in Shunde, see the article ‘Shunde’s Food Culture and its Industrial Development’.


‘Feng Qi Cang Lan’-Shunde Lights Exhibition


On the eve of every Chinese New Year, Shunde locals can enjoy a lights exhibition boasting the city’s culture – its past, present and future – as well as its road to modernization. The lights exhibition is named ‘Feng Qi Cang Lan’ for two reasons. Firstly, Shunde is known as Phoenix City (‘Feng Cheng’); ‘Feng Qi’ indicates that the phoenix lifts off and that Shunde is revitalized. Secondly, ‘Cang Lan’ refers to Shunde’s geographical position along the South China Sea as well as Shunde’s glorious journey since the country’s reform and opening up in 1978. The lights exhibition has a prologue titled ‘My Homeland’ and four chapters: ‘Strive to be the First’, ‘The Outstanding People’, ‘The Charming Place’ and ‘Pioneering spirit’. The story highlights the essence of the city’s past since the economic reform and the daring attitude that led to Shunde’s success.



The ‘Feng Qi Cang Lan’ lights exhibition


The Shunde Dream Show


The Chencun Shunde Dream Show has been gaining popularity since its inception in 2011. The modern songfest competition provides Shunde residents with a platform to showcase their talent on stage. The winner emerges after several elimination rounds. The show is an important aspect to promote Shunde’s lovely countryside and is one of the activities in which the Shunde district government spent six years carefully crafting. In 2018, the show was nominated as a vital supporting programme which promotes Shunde grassroots culture, affirming its contribution towards rural revitalization.


Literature in Shunde


The Chinese Literature Festival, initiated by Southern City Daily in 2003, has been held in Shunde for 13 consecutive seasons. Upholding the tenet of creativity, independence and freedom of expression in literature, the show is non-government in nature. The festival is known to be one of the most influential and credible Chinese literature festivals for individual writers in the country. The list of award winners includes Nobel Laureate Mo Yan, Shi Tie-sheng, Han Shao-gong, Jia Ping-wa and many more.


On top of the usual awards presented during the festival, the Shunde district government also organises a series of events to promote the local Shunde Lingnan culture. Examples include the Shunde map-reading activity, Shunde Primary School poetry competition, literary week painting and calligraphy exhibition. The events give the public an opportunity to appreciate popular artworks; while promoting Chinese literature to the international community, special focus is also given to promote Shunde’s culture.


Charity in Shunde


Shunde locals are modest and charitable. Those who have achieved success never forgot about their roots and actively contribute back to the Shunde society. For instance, He Xiangjian, founder of Midea Group, donated 100 million shares and 2 billion yuan to a Guangdong charity foundation in order to support social causes like poverty alleviation, education, medical and elderly care in Foshan and the country. Yang Guoqiang, founder of Country Garden Holdings, built many schools to provide free education. Likewise, Shunde Huaqiao Middle School, Shunde Sports Centre and Shunde Vocation School were all funded by outstanding Shunde natives who reside in Hong Kong and Macao.


Migrants are attracted to a city which offers good career opportunity, a rich cultural life and a suitable environment for settling down. Shunde has done a good job in fostering a hospitable environment; many of its charity work are designed for the under-privileged. During the 2018 Shunde Charity Month, the first ‘Charity Organizations Management Standard’ was promulgated by the Guangdong Provincial Government and its rules set the benchmark for a more regulated and higher-quality charity sector. The new standard is expected to bring more benefits to a wider range of vulnerable groups. Additionally, the new ‘Charity+’ series created by the Shunde Charity Organization Alliance was also officially launched during the same month. It combines charity with other elements of Shunde’s unique culture and includes projects like ‘Charity + Internet’, ‘Charity + Consumption’, ‘Charity + Tourism’, ‘Charity + Culture’. The series not only promotes Shunde’s cultural industry, but also brings new possibilities and resources to the charity sector.


Experiencing international cultural fusion in Shunde


Shunde blends its diverse modern culture to its centuries-old indigenous culture. Modern science and technology are being integrated into the daily life of locals, at the same time, cultural pride emboldens them to spread, promote and interact with other cultures. During this process, the quality of cultural exchange activities has improved and taken root in Shunde. A variety of international activities highlighting Shunde’s history and culture were held in different countries.


Summer Solstice Music Festival


The Sino-French Summer Solstice Music Festival was held in Daliang in June 2018. The aim of the festival is to celebrate Chinese and French culture and the seventh instalment was jointly held by the Shunde local government office and the French Consulate General in Guangzhou. The theme for the 2018 festival was ‘Melody never ends’ and the focus was on exhibitions and interactive activities relating to Chinese and French music, arts, cuisine and life. Through band performances, creative workshops, consumer interactive experiences and other multifaceted activities, the public experienced the unique charm of Chinese and French cultures.



The Sino-French Summer Solstice Music Festival


Sino-European Cultural Carnival


In 2016, the Sino-European Cultural Carnival was successfully held as part of the second China (Guangdong) International ‘Internet+’ exhibition. Through different exhibition booths, the public was able to learn about European, Chinese Lingnan, Wushu, food and other cultures. There were a wide variety of offerings; delicacies from the gourmet section, cultural experiences from the Sino-European and games sections, and even clown shows and live bands that showcase the different cultures. There was also the Wing Chun Invitationals preliminary competition and Chinese Lingnan folk culture exhibition. Participants were truly spoilt for choice from the plethora of Chinese and Western cultural activities. The cultural carnival is an opportunity to showcase the development of culture, business and ecology sectors in Northern Shunde. It is also an important long-term strategy to promote regional culture, which is constantly being reinvented, developed and spread.


Reconnecting with Shunde’s roots


Shunde people are deeply sentimental towards their hometown. Both overseas Shunde natives and residents in other places in China and their descendants get together through annual reunion. Since the inaugural grand reunion in 1998, Shunde has successfully held 11 more reunions around the world. In May 2018, the 11th World Shunde Friendship Association reunion was held in Vancouver, Canada. More than 900 people from 50 organisations and 13 countries participated in the reunion. During the two days, overseas Shunde locals gathered together to talk about Shunde’s development, reminisce their past, enjoy Shunde cuisine and traditional cultural performances and promote communication, which alleviate their homesickness.



The 11th grand reunion held at Vancouver, Canada, held by the World Shunde Friendship Association


Conclusion


Traditional culture serves as an anchor for Shunde people; it is passed from generation to generation and is very much alive today. Unique Shunde values have been ingrained in people’s daily lives, and Shunde’s open and inclusive way of living and respect for other cultures are attractive to both locals and migrants. The vibrant cultural life has also deepened the Shunde spirit. Traditional and modern culture, food, technology and other elements are important elements which make up today’s Shunde.


Economic success has brought a sense of pride and confidence to the Shunde people and deepened their confidence over their society. The creative and indomitable entrepreneurial spirit of Shunde people also promotes innovation and development of its cultural life. Shunde people remain humble and steadfast in the face of its achievements and continuously pushing for more international culture exchange. Brave Shunde people do not simply bask in their own glory but continue to strive for the betterment of Shunde’s cultural infrastructure and inject vitality to the economy.



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