Guangdong Special: Festival showcases southern province's ethnic cultures
The Guangdong International Tourism and Culture Festival offers tourists a magnificent view of the Beijiang River and the unique ethnic culture of Yao.
The three-day carnival, which celebrates its ninth anniversary this year, will kick off on Nov 8 in Qingyuan, a riverside city in central Guangdong province.
The eight main events designed to showcase the city's rich tourism resources include a gala of folk art performances of Lingnan culture, a grand festival for Yao people, a trade fair of Yingde stone, a feast of the famous Qingyuan chicken for foodies and an international cycling competition in Fogang county.
Cui Jianjun, head of Qingyuan's publicity department, said the festival will focus on engaging the public in the celebration and provide them with a diversity of local tourism resources.
"We will present seven shows along the river on the opening night for the public for free.
"Only 300 of the 1,536 performers are professional artists, with most being art lovers across the province," Cui said. "These events display both the old and new charms of the city."
Young skater boys and street singers will bring a cool and hip breeze.
Other shows include Cantonese operas and traditional lanterns, paper-cuts, puppet and shadow plays.
Cui said the festival is a "rare opportunity" for Qingyuan to attract the world's attention and speed up the development of its tourism resources.
One highlight of the festival is the Beijiang River that runs across the vast land of Qingyuan, which accounts for one-tenth of the land in Guangdong province.
The Nanling Mountains flank the river, unfolding beautiful scenery with hills and waters and breeding minority groups of Yao and Zhuang who have lived in the mountains for thousands of years.
To welcome tourists during the festival, the tourist area of Feixia Mountain has gone through renovations and unveiled its new look today.
A famous place to pray for blessings, it's the one and only in the country where gods of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism - are worshiped in the same hall.
The hospitable Yao people living in Nangang village in Liannan Yao autonomous county are inviting tourists to join their Shua Ge Tang Festival on Nov 9.
The traditional festival was placed on the national list of intangible cultural heritage in 2011.
One example is the long drum dance performed to celebrate harvest.
Young men attract young women by singing folk songs accompanied with snaps of fingers.
Another is the rite of driving demons away by chasing after three "demons" with their faces painted in black, yellow and white. It has now become a joyous game.
Known as "a city of hot springs", Qingyuan is also a popular destination for leisure.
Many hot spring hotels and resorts are offering tourists discounts of 20 percent to 50 percent off until Nov 8 to celebrate the festival.
Those who seek for thrilling adventures can go rafting or sail into the dark limestone karst caves in Lianzhou to appreciate the stalactites alongside the underground river, which are molded by time into lifelike shapes of flowers, animals, and mythical figures.
"The intensity of the development of our tourism resources is less than half of the average in the province. We need to promote the scattered scenic spots as a whole to build Qingyuan's branding as a tourist city," Cui said.
Qingyuan received 28 million tourists last year, generating revenue of 17.87 billion yuan ($2.93 billion), which accounted for 7.5 percent of the city's GDP.
He Zhifang, deputy director of the city's tourism bureau, said tourism is one of Qingyuan's basic industries. "But we still need to draw more investment to develop it."
To attract big enterprises, the government of Qingyuan has put forward preferential policies, including tax returns and land at basic prices.
Guangdong Chimelong Group, the country's leading tourism enterprise, is planning to invest 30 billion yuan on a project in Qingyuan, he said.
"As the prefecture-level city nearest to Guangzhou, we will make good use of the 72-hour visa-free transit policy of Guangzhou to open the city to international tourists," He said, adding that his bureau is now planning to hand out booklets about Qingyuan's tourism at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport and on flights of China Southern Airlines.
Qingyuan is only 28 kilometers from the airport and an hour's drive to the downtown area of Guangzhou.
(China Daily USA 11/05/2013 page14)