ZHUHAI Cantonese Opera lauded as the “Red Bean of South China,” Hengshan Preserved Duck Bundle, and the Tangjia Kam Fa (Lady Golden Flower) Festival were designated new city-level intangible cultural heritages on June 9 -- the 7th National Cultural Heritage Day.
The city Publicity Department and Culture, Sports & Tourism Bureau marked the occasion at Jiuzhou Town of Jida a week ago Saturday. Themed Cultural Heritage & Cultural Prosperity, there were Zhuhai intangible cultural heritage performances, award and certificate presentations, spectator interactions and a photographic exhibition.
Plaques and certificates were issued for the state-level intangible cultural heritages Catching Mudfish and Sanzao Crane Dance, provincial-level intangible cultural heritage bases for Doumen On-Water Wedding and Sanzao Crane Dance, and the city-level intangible cultural heritages Medicated Thread Moxibustion inherited by Liu Yibiao and Tangjiawan Tea Snack inherited by Liang Xirong.
The 500-year-old local Cantonese Opera has the biggest influence and widest coverage in South China. Former Premier Zhou Enlai once called Kunqu Opera the orchid of Jiangnan and Cantonese Opera the red bean of South China.
Cantonese opera dates back to about the 1470s in Guangzhou and Foshan. The art was created by combining the operas of Shannxi of the northwestern provinces, Anhui, Jiangsu Kun and Jiangxi in East China with local folk music in the Qing dynasty. Spare-time Cantonese troupes were founded during the reign of Emperor Kuang hsu (Guangxu) in Tangjia, Lishan, Qianwu, Mashan and other towns and villages to stage performances at festivals.
Famous Cantonese Opera actress Tang Xueqing and composer Tang Disheng were highly acknowledged masters of the art in the first half of the 20th century. Since the professional Cantonese opera troupe was founded in 1962, there have been 34 dramas performed and four dramas composed. Actor Yao Zhiqiang and actress Lai Qiongxia won the Plum Blossom Prize, the highest theatrical award in China.
The city has worked out a plan to survey and record the folk art. Promotion will also be conducted through the annual Cantonese Opera Week and inheritors will be certified for better preservation of the art.
The Hengshan Preserved Duck Bundle, including the feet, mouth, wings, liver and so on, is over a century old. He Jinhong is the fourth-generation inheritor of the art.
He’s father-in-law, Ye Runchao, moved from Pizi village in Xinhui City to today’s Lianzhou town of Doumen District as a silversmith who sold piece goods. He also found out a way to make the Preserved Duck Bundle tying up preserved or roasted duck feet, mouth, wings, entrails and fat pork into a package that would be steamed. It became popular among his workmates. Nevertheless, the art is on the verge of extinction as few people know how to do it.
The local government is providing financial aid for its preservation and promoting it at a food festival so that the traditional craftsmanship can be passed down.
The Kam Fa (Lady Golden Flower) Festival, which falls on the 17th day of the fourth lunar month, is over two centuries old in Tangjiawan Town. It is where parents pray for childbirth and for children’s safety and progress in work.
The statue of Kam Fa sits in the middle of the shrine. An old-fashioned square table with roasted pigs, fruits, flowers and well-known Tangjia snacks as sacrifice will be placed in front of it.
A prestigious village elder will burn joss sticks and deliver a sacrificial oration before casting the grail and shooting off firecrackers for blessings. Villagers then will worship the statue on bended knees and pray for blessings for their offspring while burning paper shoe-shaped gold ingots.
Kam Fa Temple in the centre of centuries-old Tangjia Town was built in 1779 in the Qing dynasty and rebuilt in 1863. A two-room building with a courtyard in between and a hard roof, the temple has a central incense burner and was dedicated to Kam Fa Empress. Kam Fa Temple stands in a line with Templa Temple and Man Mo Temple at what is called Three Temples or Tangjia Three Temples. The site was designated a provincial-level cultural heritage in 2010.
The Hi-Tech Industrial Development Zone has formulated a five-year plan to allocate 50,000 yuan ($7,849) of task-oriented funds each year for preservation of the folk festival.