Chongqing - Amid the picturesque countryside of Shilong Town, Banan District of Chongqing, a multi-colored sea of hydrangea in full bloom adorns the green hilltops crisscrossed with narrow stone paths. Here, overseas friends from ten different countries, including Russia, England, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka, instantly felt enamored with the fairytale landscape of Shilong Town Hydrangea Base and had the opportunity to immerse themselves in local intangible heritage and rural vitality.
Pakistani doctoral student Attique Danish admired the natural beauty on show at the Hydrangea Base and described how it displays the colors of life. "I think it's a great place to visit at the weekend, as people can enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and fresh air in a way you can't find in downtown areas," Danish explained.
The new event season 2023 Land-Sea Promise - Travel Banan held this latest installment of Laowai@Chongqing on May 20. In addition to admiring seas of hydrangea, the young overseas guests, many of whom study at Chongqing University of Posts and Telecommunications (CQUPT), personally experienced Mudong Folk Song, enjoyed a guided tour of a local blueberry farm, and concluded with a visit to the Guyu Wood Carving Handicrafts Innovation Base.
Mudong Folk Song is an ancient rural tradition from Banan dating as far back as the Han Dynasty when people working the land performed tasks in unison to a rhythmic chorus, enhancing their teamwork and motivation. This later evolved into a combination of rural-themed song and dance, still an intangible cultural heritage.
Gathered amidst the Hydrangea Base covering more than 60 acres worth of lush hills, the inheritor Ke Yuxian demonstrated the lyrics and moves associated with the folk song roughly translated as "What Cometh Red and Brightens the Sky?" The young disciples tried enthusiastically to imitate their lead performer and were soon able to grasp the basics and essence behind this fascinating tradition, listed as a national intangible cultural heritage in 2006.
One young Vietnamese student from the CQUPT, Vo Thi Thuy Tien, was particularly excited to try for herself and soon confidently performed a verse. "I really love Mudong Folk Songs. It's so full of rhythm." Thuy Tien hopes she can learn more about Chinese intangible culture and share it back home in her country one day.
As summer approaches in May, the Blueberry Picking Base in the countryside of Daqiao Village provides a visual feast, with row after row of lush blueberry trees with sumptuous fruit waiting to be harvested and covered with a natural luster which appears like a coating of frost. Rural tourists are fond of such getaways, where they can enjoy the delights of fruit picking to their heart's content amid peaceful surroundings.
The owner guided the overseas friends on tour around the picking base and explained how part of the blueberry harvest is mulled into a richly bodied wine, even pouring out a fresh bottle for willing guests to taste for themselves. In addition to blueberry picking, the base also makes derived products, including jams, pastes, wines, and fruit juices.
When asked to comment on my own impressions by a local news reporter, I naturally admired the quality of blueberries and the flavor of their homemade wine. The pastoral scenery unfolding in the far distance also revived childhood memories of pick-your-own strawberry and raspberry farms in England on fine summer days.
The final stop was visiting the Guyu Wood Carving Handicrafts Innovation Base, where the overseas friends toured the exhibition rooms and workshops displaying intricately crafted ornaments such as Buddhas, bracelets, and even a giant eagle. The visit gave them an immediate sense of this fine tradition inherited over generations and deepened their understanding and enthusiasm towards cultural heritage in China.
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