Persimmon festival brings glorious color
Autumn around Hangzhou is known for its kaleidoscope of colors. Gingko, maple, sunflowers, persimmon fruit and phoenix trees paint the hills a mix of yellow, orange, red and gold. The sight of the colorful leaves against a clear blue sky is one of autumn’s great charms in the city.
Such a beautiful combination of colors only lasts a couple of weeks or so. One of Hangzhou’s autumn highlights is the Xixi Wetland Fiery Persimmon Festival, which has been hosted for 16 years. The festival will last through October 25 this year.
Hangzhou’s most succulent persimmons are at Xixi Wetland Park.
Around 7,000 persimmon trees spread across the park, with an annual production of 75,000 kilograms.
Persimmon trees began to be planted centuries ago. The sweet-tasting fruit helped replenish energy when food was scarce and livened up bland diets.
People dried the fruit as food in the chilly winter. Today, preserved persimmon is still popular with gastronomes for its aromatic, al dente feel.
The plucking of Xixi persimmons has become a new calling card for the city. As the fruit ripens, families descend on the area to pick persimmons and take part in fun parent-child activities during the festival.
This year, festival organizers have invited local craftspeople to display their cultural heritage in an effort to build a platform for local artisans and promote traditional crafts such as bamboo weaving, woodblock printing and indigo dyeing.
Bamboo strip-woven baskets are originated from the Xixi area. Local women made a living with this craft centuries ago. Today, they take advantage of the trash sorting trend by creating a series of small bamboo baskets with labels for kitchen garbage, recyclable rubbish and hazardous materials and teach their skills at local schools.
Festival visitors can see artisans produce traditional items. Under their skilled hands, raw materials are turned into vivid and sophisticated creations. Visitors can experience crafts making under their instruction.
Xixi Wetland is more than a natural landscape. For years, it has gathered a batch of cultural and creative brands. Designers have created a series of products themed on persimmons. Most are available to purchase at outlets along Hezhu Street.
The persimmon festival also attracts opera aficionados. Over the years, the event has developed into a platform for folk performances, including Yueju Opera, Kunqu Opera and stringed-and-woodwind music. There is no exception this year.
Yueju Opera has close ties to the wetland. It is said that the old stage under a huge camphor tree in Xixi is where the first performance of Yueju Opera was performed.
Organizers have set up a stage at the Hong Pavilion, a part of Xixi Wetland. During the festival, scenes from noted Yueju Opera plays will be performed there.
The pavilion is known for its many colors. Rapeseed flowers, maple, cornflowers and persimmon fruit turn the park a vibrant yellow, orange, red and gold throughout the seasons.
The family of Hong lived here in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and flourished in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Many court officials came from this prestigious family. Today the pavilion remains the family’s ancestral halls.
After watching performances, visitors can visit the ancient buildings and neighboring Wuchang Village which features temples, a traditional Chinese opera theater and celebrities’ memorial halls.
Xixi is crisscrossed by watercourses with beautiful sights at every turn: flying, paddling and diving birds, persimmon trees, aquatic plants and reed marshes.
Except for fiery persimmons, it is also noted for picturesque reed beds. Throughout history, literati were enchanted by the reed scenery and created poems eulogizing the undulating reed waves.
From early November to late December, Xixi will host the annual reed festival. Taking a traditional-style boat through the wetland’s rivers and streams is a great way to see the silvery reeds.