The Gem Of The Rural Arts In China
Chaozhou is the home town of wire puppets play. This “subminiature Chaozhou Drama” as an old traditional art form which developed from shadow play is a singular puppet kind.
The roles of the Chaozhou Wire Puppets Play are from the Chaozhou Drama. When their faces of the puppets are drawn to various types of facial makeup and their bodies are worn different dresses, they become the vivid drama characters.
The troupe need to build a stage which is about ten feet square rises some five feet above the ground before performance. Traditional wire puppets troupe consists of nine people-three puppeteers, three singers and three musicians. Puppeteers usually sit cross their legs behind the curtain. The puppeteer who sits on the right of the stage is one who controls the play. Most of the themes of the plays are history, novels and myths. Acrobatic stunts such as juggling weapons, wielding cudgels, balancing pots on the head and spinning plates are often performed to enliven the stage atmosphere.
During Spring Festival, the puppets plays are showed in many villages of Chaozhou. The Chaozhou Wire Puppets Play is not only popular in Chaozhou but also famous in the international puppets play area. The best Chaozhou Wire Puppets troupe used to perform in some of the European countries such as Germany and received highly praises. With its rural and distinctive performance skills and exquisite music for voice, the Chaozhou Wire Puppets Play is reputed as the gem of the rural arts in China and will keep carrying forward.
The Customs of Chinese New Year in Chaozhou
Spring Festival is the most important festival to Chinese. As China is a big country, the customs of Chinese New Year are different in different areas. I’m sure the customs of Chinese New Year in Chaozhou keeps a lot from the ancient times.
The days near New Year become very busy. People go back to their home town before New Year as possible as they can. Business about people’s living is very good during this time. We buy new clothes and have hair cut to greet the New Year. The markets are full of people busy with preparing the goods of New Year. Flowers are also very welcome during this time. They are brought to decorate the house. The Christmas trees are a part of Christmas while tangerine trees are a part of New Year in Chaozhou. People believe tangerines can bring auspiciousness.
We usually choose a good day before New Year to clean the house. On New Year Eve, the spring festival scrolls are changed on the door of every house. In the afternoon of New Year Eve, we hold the sacrifice for our ancestors. After the sacrifice, it’s the time for family reunion dinner. Distributing “Money Pouch” to the children and the elders is also a traditional custom. In the past, every household set off the firecrackers in front of their house for lustrating bad apparitions.
In the morning of the first day of New Year, people wearing new dresses visit their relatives and friends to pay New Year calls. Today in some villages of Chaozhou, you can still see that people exchanges the tangerines to every household they visit. It is believed that stands for auspiciousness. When the guests visit one’s home, the host presents the candies and the Chinese olives for the guests as the candies and the Chinese olives bring best wishes.
Enjoy The Gongfu Tea, Enjoy The Life
I guess those people who never heard Gongfu Tea will think “Gongfu” is a kind of tea. Actually, Gongfu Tea is a special way of infusing the tea. Tea epically oolong infused by this way tastes better. Gongfu Tea, traced back to Song Dynasty, is most popular in Chaoshan area and Fujian province. It doesn’t originate from Chaozhou but this age-old city keeps this custom well. In Chaozhou, almost every household has a tea set of Gongfu Tea. Many local people like drinking tea very much. They usually drink tea one to three times every day. When guests visit their home, the first thing is to make Gongfu Tea to serve the guests.
Why does this way of infusing the tea have a name “Gongfu Tea”? This “Gongfu” means it requires some skills to infuse and drink tea.
There are at least 3 kinds of tools needed to make Gongfu Tea
If you want to infuse the good tea, choosing a good teapot is important. It’s better to choose sand-fired teapot. Besides, the teapot should be small and shallow.
The teacup should be small, shallow, thin and white.
3. Tea tray
There are different sizes for the tea tray. The usual one can hold three teacups and a teapot.
After introducing the tools for Gongfu Tea, now talk about the how to make Gongfu Tea.
The spring water is the best for making Gongfu Tea. Before making tea, the teapot and the teacups should be cleaned with boiled water. And then put some tealeaves into the teapot and pour the hot water into the teapot. The lid is put on the teapot. A second later, pour the tea out of the teapot. The first round of the tea which contents some impurities is not supposed to be drunk. When the second round of the tea can be poured into the cups which are arranged in a circle, pour the tea with a circular motion into each cup. In this way, the color and consistency of the tea in all the cups are the same.
It’s refreshing after drinking a cup of yellow and limpid tea which smells delicate fragrance. And the flavor will stay in the mouth for a while.
Chaozhou Big Gong and Drum
As the important part of the Chaozhou music, the Chaozhou Big Gong and Drum with boundless and majestic verve quakes people’s heart. The Chaozhou Big Gong and Drum is a kind instrumental ensemble form of orchestra, which takes the big drum as the center, acts in concert with multiple percussions and accompany the Suona as the melody lord. The big drum leads the whole play as the conductor of the symphony orchestra. Traditional plays of the Chaozhou Big Gong and Drum divide two types. One type is often seen on festivals and pageants. The other type originates from the music of drama and most of its themes are historical stories and dramas.
This old art which can be traced back to Tang Dynasty still reformed and brought forth new ideas in recent years and will keep demonstrating its infinite charm.
Chaozhou Drama-not only refined but also exoteric
Chaozhou Drama which developed from South Drama of Song and Yuan Dynasties is one of the tree local dramas in Guangdong and also one of the ten big kinds of dramas in China. It has a history of over 400 years. In the long-term developing process, Chaozhou Drama widely absorbed the folk music and folk arts of Chaozhou and gained the strength of other dramas, gradually became a kind of dramas which has the local style. Chaozhou Drama is the marrow of Chaozhou culture. This drama full of local characteristic is not only refined but also exoteric. It’s a link between the local people and the Chaozhou people living abroad.
The Sacrifices in Chaozhou
There are various sacrifices in Chaozhou from the beginning to the end in each year. In the Chaozhou custom, the ancestors and many deities are the ones who should be sacrificed. The laborious Chaozhou women play an important role in all kinds of sacrifices. They become very busy during Chinese traditional festivals. Besides those sacrifices on festivals, they still need to sacrifice the Land deity one or two times every month.
Different sacrifices are offered different sacrifices. However, incenses, candles and paper which is made to resemble money and burned as an offering are necessary in every process of sacrifices. At the beginning of the sacrifice, people should worship on bended knees and impetrate the blessing from the deities or their ancestors. And then wait for the incenses burning out. When the incenses burn out, people start to burn the “paper money”. That’s the end of the sacrifice.
Chaozhou-The Hometown of Ethnic and Folk Art
Chaozhou has a long history of handicrafts. It is famous in the world for its traditional drawnwork, Chaozhou embroidery, pottery, porcelain, and woodcut which sell well both on foreign and domestic markets. With unique styles, the Chaozhou Drama, Chaozhou Music and Chaozhou handicrafts are not only well received by local people, but also loved by overseas Chinese in South-east Asia.
The Parade of Deities
The parade of deities must be the local custom with most festal ambience during Spring Festival in Chaozhou. Today, these parades can still be seen in the villages of Chaozhou.
The day of the parade varies in different villages. But it is usually among the first month of Chinese traditional calendar. Some villages have a changeless day for the parade. Some villages choose a good day variously every year. the route of the parade is the main roads of the village.
The elders with noble character and high prestige of the village walk in front of the parade. They take a barrel of water with some branches of pomegranate in it and use the branches to asperse on both sides of the road. The next part following the elders is the procession of colorful flags. Besides the small flags, there are still some big colorful flags with Chaozhou embroidery. Behind the procession of colorful flags, here comes the leading actor of the parade- the images of the deity sitting in the litters which look magnificent. When the images of the deity are coming, villagers set off the firecrackers in front of their house to salute the deities. And it’s believed that touching the images of the deity can bring good luck. The following are all kinds of drama characters with play clothing. They are not played by the real actors but some of the villagers :) these plays bring people a lot fun. Sure the Chaozhou Gong and drum are indispensable in such activity. They are in the last of the parade and add great jollification for the parade.
The Green Cantus-Chaozhou music
Chaozhou music includes six main classes which are the music of gong and drum, the ancient music of flute, delicate music, the music of temple, the music of string and the music of Han Dynasty melody. It dates back to Sui Dynasty. This “live fossil” is not only classic but also live.
It’s thought that Chaozhou music is a kind of music with richest classes and highest level of instrumentalization in Chinese traditional music. Chaozhou music is elegant but vulgar. It’s the quintessence of Chinese folk music. Natural harmony is its realm. That’s why we think that the color of Chaozhou music is green-the color of nature and life.
A City Which Keeps Traditional Customs Well
Today, my home town-Chaozhou still keeps many Chinese traditional customs well including language. This is pretty much relative to its geography position, where there are many mountains in the north and long coast line from east to south. As a result, it forms a relatively close place which is good for protecting the traditional culture. Nowadays, many traditional customs which have already disappeared in the middle part of China still stay in Chaozhou. Maybe some customs which can’t be alive well will disappear with time going by.
If you wanna see some Chinese traditional customs, Chaozhou will be a good choice. Almost every Chinese traditional holiday will be celebrated here.
Walk Out Of The Garden
“Walk Out Of The Garden” is a kind of adult rituals in Chaozhou area. When kids reach 15 years old of nominal age, their parents hold adult rituals for them.
The local people usually choose a good day of the year when kids reach the age of holding adult rituals. On the day of “Walk Out Of The Garden”, the kid takes a bath with 12 kinds of flower. It’s believed the fragrance of the flowers can clean the childishness. And then the kid wears new clothes with a bellyband in it. There are 12 longans and two pieces of copper cash in the bellyband. The kid also needs to put on a pair of red clogs. And he/she is not allowed to go out of his house on that day as it means the kid will no longer play all the time in the garden and will to be a sensible adult. Some internal organs of pigs are cooked into soup for the kid. Its hidden meaning is that after drinking the soup, kid will change the new internal organs to be an adult. The kid should worship on bended knees towards the stove of some deity. At noon, the family of the kid invites their relatives and friends to have banquet. The kid of “Walk Out Of The Garden” should be treated as an adult and let him/her sit on the main position.
From then on, the kid has already walked out of the “Garden”. It’s a symbol of being an adult.
The Chaozhou dialect
Chaozhou dialect is the inferior dialect of the Southern Min dialect which is one of the eight language systems in Chinese dialects. It’s also the most ancient and the most special dialect in China. Its words and phrases are abundant, humorous, vivid and full of very strong expressive force and keep a lot of components of ancient Chinese.
Chaozhou dialect initiated in Qing Dynasty, formed in Tang Dynasty and came into its independent language system. Its main body is the ancient Chinese of the central plains of China. It has special grammar, abundant words and phrases, unique sound and many ancient semantemes and so on. For example, there are four tones in Chinese Mandarin but eight tones in Chaozhou dialect. As it’s simple, unsophisticated and elegant and has the characteristics mentioned above, Chaozhou dialect has been paid close attention by the Chinese and foreign linguists.
The Mid-autumn Day
Mid-autumn Day, the fifteenth day of the eighth month in Chinese traditional calendar, is a big Chinese traditional festival on which families reunite.
Sacrificing the moon in the evening of this day is a very old custom. Today, this custom already disappeared in many big cities in China. But Chaozhou still keeps this custom.
When the moon is rising up in the Mid-autumn evening, people start sacrificing the moon because it’s believed there is a deity standing for the moon. The sacrifices include moon cakes, many kinds of fruits, sweet tea, etc. After the sacrifice, we drink the sweet tea and eat the moon cakes and fruits; meanwhile we enjoy looking at the moon. Many kids like celebrating Mid-autumn Day for it means reunion, eating moon cakes and many fruits and having a lot fun^_^
The Lantern Festival
The Chinese traditional festival- Lantern Festival is on the fifteenth day of the first month in Chinese traditional calendar. According to the Chinese custom, on this night of the first moon rounding in the year, people light up the colorful lanterns to celebrate this festival. Enjoying the moon, setting off the fireworks and playing the lantern-riddles and so on are also on this night. The Lantern Festival is also the day for family reunion. In Chaozhou, we usually hold sacrifice for the ancestors in the afternoon and then the whole family have dinner together. After dinner, many adults and children go out to attend various kinds of activities. Almost every kid has a lantern on the hand. There is a smile on everyone’s face.
The Lantern Festival is also one of the Chinese Valentine’s Days. The other one is on the 7th day of the 7th month. In traditional society of Chinese feudalism, girls are not allowed to go out of their house. But amusing out of their house on festivals is allowed. The Lantern Festival creates the romantic atmosphere for the valentines.
In Chaozhou, there’s also a special custom on the Lantern Festival. You will find the business of sugarcane is very good near this festival. Hehe, people here believe when you eat sugarcanes on this day, your teeth won’t get decayed in this year :)
The Winter Solstice
The Winter Solstice is one of the very important solar terms and traditional festival in traditional Chinese calendar. In the past, the Winter Solstice was attached great importance. There was even a saying “the Winter Solstice is as important as New Year”. People think that daytime is getting longer after the Winter Solstice. It’s the beginning of a cycle of the solar term. It should be celebrated. In most part of Northern China, people eat sweet dumplings on the Lantern Festival. But in most part of southern China, people eat sweet dumplings on Winter Solstice (Dongzhi). The circular sweet dumplings stand for reunion. There is also a saying that after eating sweet dumplings on Winter Solstice, you get 1 year older. This custom is disappearing in some big cities. However, the Chaozhou people still keep this traditional custom well. when I was a kid, I helped my mom to make sweet dumplings on Winter solstice. I like making them into different shapes. Ha-ha, it was really funny:)