Dragon Boat: Time to take in some culture
It is Dragon-Boat Festival next Friday -- and a better time for locals and foreigners alike to learn more about Chinese culture and tradition.
Yuyuan Garden Malls launched a Dragon-Boat Festival this weekend to promote traditional art and skills as well as the city's nightlife.
Visitors from home and abroad are invited to learn to make or taste zongzi, the traditional glutinous rice dumpling, and perfume sachets to ward off evil spirits at the malls during the annual celebration to run through June 6.
Several small workshops have been set up at the central plaza and other spots across the malls where traditional handicraft masters will perform and teach palm fiber weaving, Suzhou embroidery, calligraphy and how to make sachets to celebrate the festival.
The week-long celebration at the malls also includes traditional performances. Dancers dressed in hanfu, the traditional clothing of the majority Han people, perform ancient festive celebrations and dances every night.
This year's festive celebration incorporates fashion elements with traditional cultures to promote the events among young visitors, according to Yuyuan Inc, the owner of the malls.
Rap singers, for instance, will perform along classic dancers and traditional instruments.
"We are attracted by the traditional music and costume right after we entered the malls," said Igor Tcherezov, a second-year student with ITMO University from St Petersburg in Russia.
"Those traditional events, such as touhu (arrow-throwing) game, are attractive to us tourists."
Marlene Richards and her husband Mike from Australia were also attracted to the celebration at the malls on Friday night.
"We enjoy everything here, from the architecture to the festive atmosphere and friendly locals," she said.
A number of listed heritage skills from both Shanghai and neighboring cities are being showcased within the workshops at the malls during the event.
Sun Wenting, 26, a master of the 2,000-year-old Suzhou Embroidery from neighboring Jiangsu Province, showcases delicate embroidery on moon-shaped fans at one of the workshops. A lot of visitors came to watch the heritage skills and talk with her.
"The malls around Yuyuan Garden with a large number of visitors from both home and abroad are the ideal site to promote the traditional skills," Sun said. She studied the national listed heritage skill from her mother and dedicated herself to its promotion after graduation from university.
"Most inheritors have been middle-aged, while the traditional embroidery are greatly affected by the online shopping trends, so I decided to use my skills and knowledge to help promote the traditional culture of my hometown," she said.
Ma Qun, another master of the palm fiber weaving, a listed heritage skill of Baoshan District, said his major purpose was to encourage visitors, especially children to learn the traditional skills which are easy to acquire.
"The weaving skill originated in the Warring States Period (475-221 BC), but few people are willing to learn the skills nowadays," Ma said. "The traditional celebration at the malls provides a good opportunity to promote the ancient skills."
Ma, 67, who inherited the skills from his father and grandfather, now spends most of his time teaching the weaving skills at local communities and elementary schools. Many foreign children have become his apprentices, Ma said.
The festive celebration, mainly being held at night, is part of the city's efforts to revive its nightlife and turn the city into an international shopping destination.
Previously, Huangpu District appointed the city's first "nightlife director" along with five “nightlife CEOs,” who take charge and organize such dining, entertainment and cultural events at night.
The Yuyuan Garden Malls — the dining and shopping facilities near historic Yuyuan Garden, originated from a prosperous market of the City God Temple some 140 years ago — plans to host a series of such cultural festivals by the end of the year. They will be themed on the City God culture, Chinese characters, costumes and gold to help revive traditional Chinese cultures.