Culture halls in Asian Games villages shed light on Hangzhou's glories and culture
The Hangzhou Asian Games Village features a "Cultural Hall," which was built with the goal of popularizing Hangzhou's intangible cultural legacy among visitors. Such halls have also been built in the athletic and media villages, exhibiting the city's millennia-old history and the creativity of its crafters.
Entering the hall, visitors will be drawn to lines of clay cats. They are a traditional craft from Hangzhou's Banshan area.
During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), a lady resident sacrificed herself in fighting against enemies. To commemorate the brave woman, the then royal court built a temple on a hill, which attracted streams of devout people for worship.
One day, many cats appeared in front of the woman's statue. Local villagers believed they were manifestations of the woman's magical power and therefore made clay figurines to imitate them. Since then, every worshipper would take a figurine home, because it was believed the artifact could help ward off evil.
Over time, this became a strong tradition. Even today, local residents purchase the Banshan clay cats as gifts for friends during the festivals.
Not far from the cats, there are ornate silk kites hanging on the walls. These handmade kites with refined paintings and complex structures are produced by artisans in Pingyao Town, Yuhang District.
Kite-flying in Hangzhou dates back more than 2,000 years. In the early days, they were used for measuring distance, gauging wind, communication and military operations. Today, Yuhang District still hosts competitions and activities to revive Hangzhou's kite-making glory.
The kites on display are made with traditional motifs, frequently in the shape of dragonfly and swallow. Such painted silk kites are used as a decoration rather than for flying.
The hall has also allocated special space for tea performance. Lu Huafang, the only woman who has been named as an intangible cultural heritage inheritor of making Jiuquhongmei in Xihu District, is invited to make tea on the spot.
The 51-year-old grew up in a tea family. Her grandfather and father made a living from tea and then handed down the skills to her.
Handmade Jiuquhongmei was listed as Zhejiang Province's intangible cultural heritage in 2009. Longwu Town, located in the hilly area of western Hangzhou, is its home. Different from the mild, refreshing Longjing tea that is ideal for summer, Jiuquhongmei tea is characterized by a sweet-scented aroma, suitable for autumn and winter.
High technology is a hallmark of the Cultural Hall. Generally, carving a seal requires skilled techniques. Now, visitors can use a smart machine to design and carve their own personal seals.
Hangzhou is home to China's top-notch seal carving tradition, which flourished as an art form. When painters and calligraphers finished a piece of work, they would stamp it with a red wax seal. This fashion gave birth to a variety of seal styles through many dynasties.
Ancient people were obsessed with epigraphy. A personal seal was an indispensable item for the literati and royal officials. Today, the seal is still taken as a substitute for signature in China.
Another artificial intelligence machine can tailor silk scarves for visitors. Hangzhou is the original place for silk. The natural fiber is not just a symbol of the splendor of Chinese civilization, but also of its profound contributions to the world. With the AI machine, people can have a unique silk scarf printed with their own designs.
Apart from local cultural legacy, the hall is also a window to Chinese civilization.
The 24 solar terms were created in China thousands of years ago, marking the sun's path through the year as a guide for farming and climate. The solar terms play an important role in the country's cultural identity.
Artisans used plants to dye fibers into multiple shades of green, yellow, pink and gray, representing different solar terms corresponding to the seasonal characteristics.
Centuries ago, Hangzhou people processed natural resources to manufacture fabrics and dyes, especially in the modern-day Xiaoshan District.
Although natural dyes declined as the production of chemical synthetic dyes increased, their glory days cannot be forgotten. The hall displays pieces of hand-dyed floral cloth themed on solar terms, aiming to integrate Hangzhou's cultural heritages with the national legacy.
The Cultural Hall at the Asiad villages has 22 interactive experience booths and hosts five interactive activities every day, giving visitors an unparalleled glimpse into the glories and culture of Hangzhou.