Those lucky enough to be in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region between November 15 and November 21 found themselves immersed in folk songs, dances, green grass and blossoming flowers as the Nanning International Festival of Folk Songs and Folk Arts was going on in the region's capital.
Held at the same time as the 9th Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival, the week-long festival drew tens of thousands of visitors from home and abroad with various shows by folk artists from the Chinese mainland, China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Taiwan Province, Yugoslavia, Austria and Spain.
The main activities included a Guangxi folk song singing fair; the Guangxi Regional Folk Song Invitational Competition, which was attended by about 40 singers from 21 ethnic groups in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Regions; and the Chinese Folk Song Invitational Contest 2000, which attracted about 90 folk singers from more than 10 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions.
The festival also drew more than 150 singers and dancers from 15 foreign countries.
"When people talk about Guangxi, the first thing they usually think of is the picturesque landscapes of Guilin, which is on UNESCO's World Heritage list," said Lin Guoqiang, mayor of Nanning, during the opening ceremony of the festival.
"But this is changing since we launched the folk song festival last year. By promoting the image of Nanning, people from all over the world will remember the region as a paradise of folk songs."
With nearly 3 million residents, Nanning boasts a rich variety of ethnic groups, including the Zhuang, Miao, Yao, Hui, Dong, Mulao and Maonan people.
The Zhuang people, which account for 64 per cent of the total population of Nanning, have practised their unique ethnic music and sung their traditional songs in the region for more than 1,500 years.
Weddings, birth ceremonies, funerals and harvest festivals are all opportunities for them to dress up in their bright ethnic clothes and sing to their hearts' content. This November, they sang their melodies with singers from other nationalities and countries to woo tourists and investors.
Before each of the festival's shows, the boys and girls would put on their best traditional clothes and adorn themselves with flamboyant jewelry, eliciting strong reactions from passers-by.
When the female folk singers were performing, they would throw xiangbao, or perfume bags, and xiuqiu, a ball made of stripes of silk, both auspicious symbols, to the men in the audience. This got louder cheers, and certainly more wolf-whistles, than their songs.
(People’s Daily 11/26/2000)