Jiading's rich cultural past is an embodiment of traditional arts and crafts

Wang Jing
Zhang Xiaobo
Time-honored crafts in the Jiading are an important part of transitional culture, and also an embodiment of China's thousands of years' artistic essence.
Wang Jing
Zhang Xiaobo

Jiading has long been known as “a famous historic and cultural town in the south of the Yangtze River.” The beautiful rivers, mountains and landscapes have bred its simple and honest humanistic qualities. The many seas and rivers help cultivate Jiading’s character of driving out evil and ushering in good, and the convenience of water transportation develops the minds of inclusiveness and changes.

According to statistics, there are 26 intangible cultural heritage programs in Jiading. These time-honored crafts are an important part of China's transitional culture and an embodiment of its artistic essence. To explore the past, present and future, of those once-glorious crafts, is a root-seeking trip of traditional culture to the every meaning of this word.

Jiading bamboo carving

Jiading's bamboo carving can be traced back to over 500 years ago. It’s an art combining profound cultural connotation and high aesthetic value. The craftsmen, using knives as a tool, and bamboo as the carrier, integrate multiple artistic forms, including calligraphy, painting, poetry, prose and printing, endowing new life to bamboo. The most popular bamboo carving articles are brush holders and table plaques made of bamboo tubes and strips, as well as the figures, mountains and rivers, grass and flowers, and animals carved with bamboo roots. Jiading bamboo carving applies over ten basic techniques, including light carving, deep carving, bas-relief, high-relief, transparent relief and round engraving, which displays the distinct regionalism and originality of the art.

Xuhang straw plaiting

Xuhang straw plaiting has survived for over a thousand years. It follows traditional, regional and original customs and is known as the “town of straw plaiting.” The ancestors of Xuhang created exquisite articles for daily use with the stems of yellow grass, and decorated them with colorful patterns. Xuhang straw plaiting products became famous far and wide for its various and innovative styles, exquisite and beautiful design and practical convenience. Whether they were handbags, fruit plates, glass wrappers, basin pads or slippers, those daily articles laden with local flavors, boast natural and artistic beauty and practical value. They are also environment-friendly.

Daoist music

Daoism is an indigenous Chinese religion which has extended to every aspect of Chinese society and includes: Politics, economy, philosophy, literature, music, chemistry, medicine, pharmacy and others. Daoist music is a valuable form of Chinese folk music, featuring rich regional color, which plays an important role in understanding the local rural culture, lifestyles and social development tracks. Jiading Daoist music, as a branch of Shanghai Daoist music, is on the list of the second batch of national intangible culture heritage programs. And Shi Jitong has been approved as the representative inheritor of the national program.

Nanxiang steamed buns

The Nanxian steamed bun has a history of over a hundred years. The bun’s skin is very thin, and its inside is filled with lean pork meat, pork jelly, ground sesame, bamboo shreds and shrimps. The bun is so carefully made that its skin is said to have at least 14 layers of folded bread, and the flour used for 10 buns weighs exactly 0.1kg. Looking half-transparent, small and delicate, the bun is juicy on each bite. At present, the brand has opened chain stores in Japan, Singapore and other foreign countries, becoming popular among a large number of foodies abroad.

Jiangnan sizhu (string and wind music)

Jiangnan sizhu music has been popular in Jiading for around 270 years. Enthusiasts voluntarily formed groups to play music which is rich in local flavor and regional features. The music expresses the gentle and elegant characters of the people in the south lower reaches of the Yangtze river, and the beautiful landscapes of their hometown. The music prevails in the area of south Jiangsu and west Zhejiang, while Jiading sizhu music is an important branch with distinctive local characteristics.

Malu bamboo weaving

Malu bamboo weaving originated in the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties, boasting a history of over three hundred years. The handiwork is popular for its delicate craft, exquisite and beautiful forms and vivid images. The products include, not only daily production and life articles, but also those with great artistic values such as flower baskets, furnishings and toys. Malu bamboo weaving products have been exported to countries including: Egypt, Czech, Italy and Sweden, popular for its exquisite craftsmanship, attractive styles and patterns of national characteristics.

Dying technique of Anting yaoban cloth

It has been over 800 years since a man with the surname of Gui invented the dying technique of Anting yaoban cloth, which is also called “Gui’s yaoban cloth.” The cloth used to be the most well-known textile product of Anting. Yaohui is the most important substance in manufacturing yaoban cloth, which features strong adhesion and easy cleaning. Yaoban cloth is popular for its bright and colorful patterns, and moth-proof and mould-proof functions.

Brewing of Tulip Wine

Tulip wine is one of the most famous products of Jiading, with a history of over 300 years. Previously it was privately-brewed, but the wine features a faint scent, transparent chestnut color and a mellow sweet taste, mixed with a light scent of medicine. The wine is unique in taste and rich in nourishment. It is said the wine also has the functions of invigorating qi, whetting the appetite, nourishing kidneys, relaxing the muscles and stimulating the blood circulation, as well as improving excretion and getting rid of dampness. In 1937, the tulip wine won the gold medal in the Leipzig Trade Fair held in Germany.

Xiaoqinglong (Little Blue Dragon) Dragon Dance

The dragon is a traditional Chinese mascot. People of Jiading, to embody their best wishes for life, started to hold a dragon boat race during the Lantern Festival. The Xiaoqinglon  Dragon Dance Association is an evolution of the “East Gate Little Blue Dragon.” On the evening of the Lantern Festival, the streets are decorated with lanterns and banners. The dragon team dances to the accompaniment of gongs and drums, parading through the streets and alleys, and the whole village is immersed in the bustling and colorful festive atmosphere.

Preparation of Jiangqiao sliced mutton

The Jiangqiao region is rich in water plants and almost every local household raised sheep before the founding of the People’s Republic of China, thus Jiaoqiao is also named “town of hu sheep.” A family with the surname of Zhu initiated a special cooking method to prepare mutton, which helped spread the fame of “Jiangqiao mutton.” Its fourth-generation inheritor Zhu Dongming developed the ancestral recipe by incorporating more preparation methods of stir-frying, grilling, stewing and boiling, making their mutton famous, far and wide.

Processing of flower tea

The manufacturing craft of flower tea originated from the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), and is the only surviving tea-processing craft heritage in today’s Shanghai. The craft, combining refined flower tea processing and the modern fragrance extracting technique, comprises of several procedures, including: Blending, extracting, evaporating, wrapping, checking and packing. Based on the fragrance extraction methods, the flower tea can be further divided into osmanthus tea, rose tea, chrysanthemum tea, mint tea, jasmine tea and others. Different plants and flowers can also be mixed together. This craft can also be used to make strong-flavored tea.

Jiading Xiju Opera

Jiading Xiju Opera is a widespread traditional opera of the area. And Jiading Xiju Opera is quite unique and distinctive from other styles of opera. It features loud and clear singing, vigorous and powerful vocals and rich emotions. Besides, its postures, having incorporated those of the Peking Opera and Kuqu Opera, are especially brilliant and impressive.

Stone Lock and Load

Stone lock and load is a traditional sport in Nanxiang County. It originally came from Yao Village but now the sport covers the whole county. It is performed in county sport meetings and large scale events. The shape and look of stone lock and load is simple and rough, but it is rich in cultural meaning and displays the unique charm of rural fitness activities.

Tea Saucer Dance

Dating back to over 100 years ago, the tea saucer dance (Chadan Wu) is a folk dance created by professional tea servers according to their local social customs and traditions. The dance is a reserved program and performed in celebrations such as wedding ceremonies. Showcasing traditional virtues, like respect for the elderly, care for the young and reverence between husband and wife, it also reflects on local folk customs and way of life.

Lotus Lantern Dance

Lotus lantern dance is a religious sacrificial rite performed by Taoists in ritual ceremonies. Closely associated with religion, the dance is the creation of Taoists on the basis of local customs and conventions. It originally emerged more than 300 years ago. The dance is mainly performed in Jiading, Taicang and Qingpu, and plays a special role in the evolution of human civilization.

Huangdu Lushu

Lushu (ballad singing) is an art form created and performed in dialect familiar to local people. This art form is widely popular in the suburban area of Shanghai, particularly Huangdu, where it is favored by locals. Lushu boasts a long history in Huangdu and a large number of locals love to perform and enjoy it. Award-winning works produced by the well-known story teller Huang Zhenliang have participated in many competitions in Shanghai and enjoys wide influence among audiences.

Dragon Boat Race

The traditional Jiading dragon boat race dates back to the Ming Dynasty. Due to factors like local geographical conditions, its dragon boat race are distinctive in boat shape, craftsmanship and competition methods. In addition, its dragon boat performances are varied and impressively powerful with prominent regional features.

Conventional Games

The conventional games in Jiading dates back to a long time ago. There used to be nearly 100 kinds of games participated extensively by locals. Fun and regional, the games were also a way for people to practice one’s mind and hand, to make friends and to benefit one’s bodily coordination and verbal skills.

Bonsai Art

The 400-year-old Jiading bonsai focuses on growing bonsai trees modeled on paintings of renowned artists. By way of cutting and modifying the trees and supplemented by miniature rocks, picturesque scenes are condensed into a bonsai pot to display poetic beauty.

Xuhang Steamed Cake

Xuhang steamed cake is a traditional food on a new year table in suburban water towns in east China before the 1980s. Its long history dates back to the Southern Song Dynasty. To curry favor with the then emperor, the local administrative office collected all the most delicious food from local commoners and selected a kind of rice cake with an auspicious connotation, making it into a round shape and presenting it to imperial court. Such well-tasted and non-sticky food delighted the emperor. He immediately issued an imperial decree to make the cake a new year food for tribute. Therefore, the cake has gained popularity and been passed down to nowadays.

Jiading Hand-made Artwork

Artwork pinched by hand dates back to the start of human civilization and has gained popularity since the Ming and Qing Dynasty. The art works incorporate skills of sculpting, painting and clay craft, and are made with materials including lime, tiles and straws. In modern times, steel bars and cement are added as materials. This art form first emerged as a way to beautify architecture. Hence, roof, hip tiles, screen wall and the decorated archways of ancient buildings are generally displayed with patterns of birds, beast, flowers, worms and fish.

Guqin making

The 3000-year-old Guqin is a special Chinese musical instrument, also referred to as Qin, Yaoqin and seven-string Qin. Deeply and subtly toned, it produces a lingering sound. Zhuoqin means Qin making in Chinese. The ancient literati saw playing Guqin as a way to cultivate their moral character and had high demand for its tone, shape, quality and lacquer art. A good-quality Guqin needs to have excellent sound, good shape and lacquer, which makes it hard to come by.

Cooking of Buddha’s Delight

Buddha’s Delight (Luohan Cai) is a marinated dish rich in protein, polyphenol, amino acid and flavonoid and boasts high medicinal value. The Classic of Herbal Medicine (Shennong Bencaojin), Famine Relief Herbal (Jiuhuang Bencao), Diannan Bencao and Dictionary of Medicinal Plant all document the dish. It is mild and acrid in taste. It clears liver, improves vision, relieves internal heat and treats illnesses, such as the swelling and pain of eyes and indigestion. The dish boasts a history of over 100 years. The marination skill has been passed down for five generations. With research and analysis of experts, the dish now has become a cultural heritage of cooking in Jiading.

Pediatric treatment of Chen

Pediatric treatment of Chen originates in Huaxin hospital of Jiang’s family in Qingpu at the end of Qing Dynasty. Its founder Chen Shuda learned from Jin Wenbin, a pupil from the fourth generation of the Jiang family, Jiang Minghua. In 1942, he came back to Jiading to practice medicine and worked in clinical paediatrics with traditional Chinese medicine for over 70 years, treating over 100,000 patients. Works like Experience of Pediatrics of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Experience of Pediatrics by Chen are all written by Chen Shuda. Chen specialized in treating children’s illness with three methods of clearing, cleaning and nursing. Also medicinal pills and powders were made by him and were easy for children to take. Inheritors of Chen’s pediatrics, Qian Zhengxiu and Taohong, specialize in treating infantile asthma, anorexia, diarrhea, sexual precocity and allergic purpura.

Gynecologic Treatment of Zhen

Zhen originally hailed from Kaifeng Henan Province and was the descendant of a friend (Zhenhuan Gong) of King Xuan of Zhou’s brother. He settled down in Kunshan in 1129 and specialized in gynecology. His family have all practiced medicine for over 800 years now. His inheritor Zhen Rong lived in Loutang of Jiading in the Qianlon  Period. He treated illness through qi jing ba mai (eight extraordinary channels) with great medical effect. His 34th generation inheritor, Zhen Heshu, 35th Zhen Junbo and Zhen Yinchuan, 36th Zhen Youren and 37th Zhen Zhijie, all practiced gynecology with a high reputation around Jiading. Works like, 82 Methods for Gynecology of Zhen, and Medical Cases of Zhen Youren, are all treatment experiences complied by inheritors of Zhen.

Xuhang Kite

Rich in cultural and aesthetic meaning, Xuhang kite is a representative of artifacts native to Jiading. Generations of kite makers all come from an ordinary background. Their art works are not only pleasant to the eyes but embody great craftsmanship. The rural customs, breath of life and poetic beauty Xuhang kites display are of irreplaceable artistic value.

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