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Echoes of Tradition: Chongqing's Village Gala Captivates the Nation

By YAN DENG|Jan 31,2024

Chongqing - As the Chinese New Year draws near, the vibrant village gala in Zhonghua Village, Jingguan Town, Beibei District, has unfurled its magic, captivating hearts with a tapestry of local performances. On January 26, the curtains rose on this cherished tradition, featuring an array of self-crafted programs that resonated deeply with the audience, earning thunderous applause.

On the evening of January 26th, in Yang Village, Taiyuan Town, Pengshui County, villagers gathered around a bonfire, dancing with joy, immersed in the ocean of happiness. That night marked the opening of the first village gala in 2024 for the village. (Photo/Zhao Yong)

Recent years have borne witness to the remarkable surge of the village gala across China, solidifying its status as a cherished New Year's tradition.

But what sets the village gala apart? Let the numbers speak: From December 2022 to December 2023, a staggering 5,000 Douyin live streams dedicated to the village gala illuminated screens. The cumulative viewership surpassed an astounding 22.97 million, averaging an impressive 13 village gala live streams daily, each captivating an audience of over 4,500 enthusiasts.

Unlike grand-scale New Year's Eve extravaganzas, the village gala boasts a unique charm as a grassroots celebration, unfolding right at the doorstep of villagers' homes.

Local Essence

At the heart of the village gala, the true essence of the local community takes center stage. Villagers, transforming into the main attraction, bring their everyday lives and cultural practices into the spotlight. It's their genuine passion for tradition and cultural pride that serves as the secret ingredient, ensuring a stream of captivating performances at every village gala.

In Beiquan Village, Chengjiang Town, the vibrancy is palpable. Villagers, attuned to the rhythm of gongs and drums, engage in the ancient art of "bench dragon", a revered local tradition. Colorful balls in hand, they maneuver the dragon apparel with finesse, breathing life into this cherished intangible cultural heritage.

Wang Wenxiang, a distinguished fifth-generation custodian of the 'bench dragon' craft, shared insights into the village's deep-rooted tradition: "Here in Beiquan, it's often said, 'Every household has a bench, every family knows the dragon dance.' Our galas, be it during festivals, village fairs, or shop openings, are incomplete without the 'bench dragon.' It's not just a performance; it's our community coming together, transforming the village gala into a grand family gathering."

The allure of the village gala has transcended physical boundaries, capturing the imagination of the digital world. It has gracefully adapted from a once-a-year spectacle to a seasonally recurring celebration, becoming a digital window through which the world gets to savor the rich tapestry of local rustic culture.

Cultural celebration and economic revival

In Baoping Village, Xianfeng Town, Jiangjin District, the village gala is more than a stage for performances; it's a heartening testament to community transformation led by Shi Chaoxiu, head of the village's Literary and Art Team. For the past five years, this vibrant gathering has not just showcased artistic talent but also nurtured a sense of unity and cultural vibrancy among the villagers.

Initially met with trepidation, the village gala soon became a beacon of enthusiasm, turning hesitant villagers into eager participants. "Initially, villagers were reserved about performing. Yet, as the gala progressed, it ignited a communal spirit, making the rehearsal hall a bustling hub of creative energy," shared Shi Chaoxiu.

This transformation didn't just rejuvenate the village's cultural life. It also reshaped its social dynamics, with cultural activities supplanting the solitude of the Mahjong hall. The gala became a cherished annual event, eagerly anticipated by every villager and their families, as revealed by Shi Chaoxiu. The live streaming of the gala spurred a sense of pride and participation, drawing families together in celebration of their shared heritage.

Economically, the village gala has proven to be a boon. On January 19, the Chongqing Village Gala Finals breathed new life into the local economy. The event wasn't just a display of talent; it was a marketplace of local delicacies and products, drawing crowds and boosting local sales. The village gala not only entertained but also invigorated the host location, transforming it into a bustling hub of activity and commerce.

The economic impact was particularly notable in Bailing Village, Quma Town, Yunyang County. In the span of four days, the gala catalyzed the sale of over a million yuan in local products such as late peaches, salt vegetables, and black peanuts. This surge in sales brought tangible financial benefits to the farmers, injecting "real money" into the community.

Heartbeat of Chongqing's countryside

The village gala has evolved from a local village affair into a widespread celebration, resonating through the rural heartlands of Chongqing. This cultural phenomenon has transcended individual villages, becoming a unified expression of rural festivity and community spirit throughout the city.

The Chongqing Municipal Commission of Culture and Tourism Development has played a pivotal role in this transformation. Their initiative, Singing Across the Land, Celebrating the Four Seasons, has brought the village gala to every corner of Chongqing, creating a tapestry of rural culture that's both rich and diverse. These meticulously coordinated events at city, district, county, town, and village levels have not only provided villagers with a broader platform to showcase their talents but have also drawn an astonishing viewership of over 24 million in 2023 alone.

The ethos of these galas, according to a spokesperson from the Municipal People's Art Museum, is rooted in authenticity and community. "Our commitment is to preserve the village gala as a celebration by the villagers, for the villagers. It's about maintaining the genuine essence of rural culture while fostering its vitality," they shared. Looking ahead, the vision is to cultivate the village gala into a celebrated cultural emblem that not only showcases unique local traditions but also propels new trends in rural cultural tourism and beyond.

The journey of the village gala from a humble village stage to a cultural phenomenon is a testament to the rich tapestry of life in Chongqing's countryside. As it continues to evolve and resonate, it stands as a beacon of cultural pride and community unity in the heart of rural Chongqing.

(Han Bing, as an intern, also contributed to the report)


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