With the official arrival of Spring in China on February 4, the shelves of super markets and food markets have been laid out with specialties of the season, including a resurgence of old folklore celebratory items. At some places, even the bean sprouts -- the Chinese traditional food for the beginning of spring -- were quickly sold out. In addition, paper cutouts in the shape of the Chinese symbol Fu, (good fortune) and China Knots (decorative macrame) were to be seen everywhere.
The pursuit of fashion is the driving force behind the folklore comeback, according to Zhao Shiyu, vice secretary of China Folklore Association. As an indicator of current popular trends, fashion also makes cyclical returns to some things that were all the rage in another time. Take the qipao (traditional Chinese dress), for instance. It caught on big recently after the movie In the Mood for Love swept the whole country. The gradual enhancement of China’s national power with the continuing improvement of its international status also frees the exploration of traditions characteristic of China. At the APEC meeting last fall, the appearance of President Jiang Zemin and the other world leaders in traditional Chinese jackets, also known as Tangzhuang, led to a new vogue in traditional-style attire.
Celebrations of national holidays like the upcoming Spring Festival provide a perfect stage for folklore’s reemergence. Other contribution factors supporting the return of folk customs: Scholars and the media have been calling for more attention to folklore; people of foresight have seen the commercial possibilities in the promotion of folklore and traditional culture; the World Cultural Heritage has listed ancient city of Pingyao and Kun Opera.
The 2008 Beijing Olympics in which China has put forward the concept of its being a people’s Olympics also should further the exploration of cultural resources such as folklore as preparations for the games proceed, Zhao Shiyu said. Clearly, China’s folk customs will be showing up in the markets and society for years to come.
(北京青年报 [Beijing Youth Daily] February 4, 2002, translated by Feng Shu for china.org.cn)