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Folk Customs and Arts in Hengyang
From:衡阳党政门户网 | Date Add in:2023-08-24 17:19:49 [A  A]



1. Nanyue-the Praying City

Nanyue is a renowned place of interest and a well known religious site. Each year, hundreds of visitors fromHunan,Jiangxi,Guangdongand Guangxi provinces come here to pray for good luck. The peak time is the eighth lunar month, with tens of thousands of visitors arriving daily. The visitors are clothed in black, bound with black scarves around their heads and with a red or a yellow pocket patch that reads “Praying in Nanyue” on their chest. Some of them hold giant candles in their hands, while others wave red flags or carry tablets to pray for their prayers to be answered.


2. Dishes are Tasteless without Spicy Food

This saying describesHengyangresidents’ appetite for hot peppers. People inHengyangare fond of salty and spicy food, especially hot peppers, which are an indispensable ingredient of every household’s dishes. Nearly all the people in the countryside plant numerous varieties of peppers. Among them are the lantern-shaped pepper in Qidong and the yellow sunburn pepper in Hengshan. The former one is spicy, sweet, big and suitable for eating as a vegetable. However, the latter one is small but spicy enough to be used as condiment only. Every autumn, people dry the ripe peppers in the sunshine and smash them into pieces for food.

There is a wide variety of food in theHengyangregion. Food in Hengdong tends to be salty. The food habits of people in Hengnan or other rural areas are quite different from those in urban areas. Breakfast and lunch are large meals with wine and dishes, while supper is very simple. It’s common for people to have just some noodles and porridges. People in Changning are interested in rice cakes made of polished glutinous rice dipped with sugar, sesame or soybean powder. People in Hengdong like to eat fish gel, which is made by adding oil, salt, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and flavoring to fish.


3. Customs of the Tianzhu Festival

The Tianzhu Festival is celebrated on the 6th day of the 6th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. There is an old saying, “On the double-six festival, it’s time to hang clothes to dry.” Therefore, the Tianzhu Festival is also called “clothes drying festival”. People inHengyangusually bring their clothes, books and paintings outside, exposing them to the sunlight in order to keep them away from being damaged by bacteria and mold.


4. Waterless Dragon Boat Race

During the Dragon Boat Festival, Sanxiang holds dragon boat races in memory of Qu Yuan, a famous historic government official. Since Nanyue is a mountainous area without rivers, people make dragon boats on land that can be “sailed” without water. These dragon boats are made with ordinary bamboo and richly colored with a hole in the middle for people to fit in, enabling people to walk with it. The key to winning this kind of “dragon boat race” does not lie in speed but performance.  Competitors wear heavy make-up while dancing and singing.


5. Nanyue Day Trip

Generations of Nanyue natives show their devotion to Zhu Rong (the god of fire) by presenting the very first incense stick to him every year. As soon as the clock strikes twelve, showing the arrival of a new year, people from all sides swarm into theNanyueTemple. This is called the "Day Trip". After the people leave their homes, even friends do not greet each other until dawn in order not to lose their good luck. After the sun rises, people welcome the New Year with hands folded, a traditional gesture to show respect to others. When leaving the temple for home, they break part of a branch from a tree around the temple and pick up several leaves. This is called "catching the firewood" (which sounds the same as "make fortune" in Chinese). The housewives busy themselves preparing an elaborate meal so that the whole family can join together for a New Year’s meal before dawn. There is a folk saying "Before the cocks start crowing and the dogs biting, the people who are having dinner are local Hengshan people".


Folk Arts

1. Dragon Dance and Lion Dance

The dragon is an auspicious symbol for the Chinese. It is said that dragons have been protecting the security and prosperity ofNanyueMountainfor thousands of years. Since the Qing dynasty, the Dragon Dance or so called “rolling-dragon lights” has been popular inHengyangCounty.

The straw dragon of Jiushi village is an exquisite piece of artwork. The entire body is made of straw. These dragons perform just like traditional rolling ones, which should give way to the straw ones.

During the War of Resistance againstJapan, the lion light is coming for celebration of spring festival. The performance team is composed of four people with two lions made of brightly colored cloth and wood. Each lion is controlled by two performers. One controls the head and the other the tail. Accompanied by the music of instruments such as a drum and Chinese gong, the two people cooperate with each other to make the lion dance lively, as it walks, rolls, jumps and so on. Each Spring Festival, the lion dance show will be held for people to enjoy and celebrate. Lion Dancing could be classified into different styles according the type of lion, such as Hand-controlled Lion Dancing and a combined Martial Art Chinese Kung fu Lion Dance.


2. Puppet Show

Puppets are used as a performing style of drama and are controlled by a performer behind the stage. The actors, who have painted faces and delicate costumes, sing Chinese operas. There are various kinds of puppet shows inChina; in theHengyangarea Zhangtou puppet shows are popular.


3. Shadowgraph

Shadowgraph is also called “shadow play”. First, the transparent shapes of various characters are made from donkey or cow skin, then shadow of those shapes is be displayed on the screen by the light coming from behind. While controlling the shadows during a performance, the controller also sings along with the music of yugu, a Chinese instrument made of bamboo. There are as many as 2,000 historical stories and scripts.

The shadowgraph is very popular among the folk inHengyangregion, especilaly inHengyangcity, Hengshan county and Changning county. With 300 years history of shadowgraph,HengshanCountywas approved as a “Village for Shadowgraph Art" by theHunanprovince in 1995.

Sponsored by Hengyang Municipal People's Government, Undertaken by Hengyang Normal University
Co-sponsored by Information Office of Hengyang Municipal People's Government Technical Support & Design:Hengyang Normal University
ICP NO:05002289