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Nanning: On the wings of a song
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"Sing my folk songs; while I sing, my buddies follow; folk songs sound like a river running in spring"

When the familiar melody of a traditional Chinese song rings in ears, it brings to mind the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in Southwest China.

Dubbed the hometown of the goddess of folk songs - Liu Sanjie, a heroine in a musical who is known for her witty ripostes in question-and-answer songs - Guangxi is famous for its folk songs.

The region is home to a great variety of ethnic groups, who account for nearly 40 percent of the region's total population.

Many of the minority groups like Zhuang, Dong and Jing, have unique singing customs. For them, singing is not only entertainment, but a part of life as well.

Through singing, they make friends, find love, welcome guests, and tell the history of their own race. In this way, the ethnic groups' traditional culture is kept alive.

Nanning, capital of Guangxi, began hosting an annual international folk song festival in 1993. About 100 artists from around 11 countries and regions performed at the first festival.

The Nanning International Folk Song Arts Festival promotes the preservation of local traditional ethnic cultures, an evidence of the high value accorded to culture in the development plan for the city and in the lives of locals.

Meanwhile, the festival also provides a platform for cultural exchange, showcasing the host city's unique charms to the world.

With Nanning becoming the permanent venue for the China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) since 2004, the folk song festival has become an event held concurrently with it each year, and is the highlight of the opening ceremony of the expo.

With the fourth CAEXPO being held from October 28 to 31, the curtains rose Sunday evening on this year's folk song festival.

The gala performance consisted of four sections represented by four colors: red - celebrating the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China; green - picturing an environmentally friendly society; blue - showcasing the economic prosperity of the Beibu Bay, a booming development zone in the city; golden - focusing on Nanning winning the UN Habitat Scroll of Honor Award 2007.

Like in previous sessions, folk songs were still the main attraction of the gala evening, with a number of ethnic singers and bands offering the audience a series of exotic performances.

The participation of three local choirs, made up of 200 girls from two primary schools, 200 conservatory undergraduates, and 200 retired people respectively, showcased locals' artistic capacity and love of life.

Meanwhile, singers from Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Brunei and Singapore added a more varied Southeast Asian atmosphere to the evening.

In addition to the opening ceremony, 19 folk song performances were held in different parts of Nanning on October 29 and 30.

According to the Nanning city government, the festival has attracted artists from more than 20 countries and regions.

The international art event helps present a revamped image of Nanning as a dynamic modern city with a solid traditional and cultural footing.

A growing number of investors from home and abroad are being drawn to this marvelous land.

Statistics show that during the 10th Five-Year Plan period (2001-05), domestic investment reached 84.86 billion yuan, while actual foreign investment increased to $259 million in 2005 from $112.69 million four years ago.

Total foreign direct investment (FDI) stood at $443.83 million, topping Guangxi's total FDI and accounting for 22.99 percent of the region's total during the same period.

(China Daily October 31, 2007)

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