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Audible | New Inheritance of Pomelo Turtle in Youyang

By YAN DENG|Mar 26,2024

Editor's Note: This article is produced in collaboration with the Chongqing Institute of Foreign Studies as part of a series of ongoing reports exploring the city's abundant resources in intangible cultural heritages.

The pomelo turtle. (Photo provided to iChongqing)

That was in the winter, with frost covering the windows outside. When speaking, you could see the breath mist. In the classroom, a kind and amiable middle-aged person vividly told the story of the pomelo turtle at the lectern. A new story about the pomelo turtle's inheritance also began here.

The "pomelo turtle," aptly named for its shape, is crafted from the Shatian pomelo unique to the Youshui River, notable for its short neck, which forms the turtle's head, while the fruit's body shapes its torso. Historically, in times devoid of lighters or matches, the pomelo turtle served a vital function as a firekeeper, known then by another practical name – the kindling bag.

The process of making it is quite simple, but it requires patience. First, you scoop out the pulp. When scooping, you only make a hole the size of a soup spoon and extract the pulp from that hole. Then comes the drying process. During the ripe season of pomelos, there is usually more rainfall so that this step can be challenging. Poor drying can result in the pomelo turning any color and affecting its appearance. During the drying process, the head of the turtle needs to be molded because the pomelo is soft and easier to shape at this stage. Shape the approximate form of the turtle, and when it's almost dry, you begin carving the lines, adding details, and applying oil. In the past, items like tinder, flint, and fire sickles were placed inside. Nowadays, spices and herbs are used instead.

Traditionally, inheriting a craft meant apprenticing and earning a livelihood from the acquired skills. However, the pomelo turtle's modern legacy in Youyang begins with educating the young and integrating this intangible cultural heritage into the classroom, thus marrying tradition with the new era. Youyang's No. 4 Central School has embedded the pomelo turtle craft into its teachings, fostering its cultural transmission among students and allowing them to inherit and appreciate the unique allure of the pomelo turtle. The saying goes: "The local environment shapes its people, who in turn craft their tools." Thus, the pomelo turtle, a relic of its era, embodies the labor and wisdom of their ancestors, offering children a tangible connection to their heritage.

In the past, the pomelo turtle was an indispensable tool in daily life, bringing fun and warmth to the people of Youyang. With the arrival of the new era, the pomelo turtle, with a new mission, has become a pendant for appreciation and sold abroad. Many foreign friends have praised it after receiving such a gift. Putting Artemisia annua, mint, mountain chrysanthemum, and other Chinese herbal medicines in the belly of the pomelo turtle can also drive away pestilence and avoid pestilence. Its pronunciation is homophonic to "the return of a wanderer," which is a good gift for people.

Today, children who have learned the pomelo turtle skills in the intangible heritage class of Youyang No.4 Central School have already grown up. Some of them have become the new inheritors of the pomelo turtle, enabling it to see the world and ensuring the transmission of their ancestors' labor and wisdom.


Chinese script: Bai Xiudan

Tutored by: Liang Meijia

Translation: Zhu Xianfang

Tutored by: Cheng Guo  Wei Jingjun

Voice-over: Wang Hao

Tutored by: Lei Yu


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