Hong Tang, Spring Festival 2008

Although I'm not a stranger of Chinese villages and have always enjoyed my time there, it was my first time in a village during the Spring Festival. There was lots of food and tea consumed (Fujian is one of the centres of tea growing in China), a Fujian opera troupe was hired to perform throughout the day and lots of incense burning, praying to gods and a huge cache of fireworks and firecrackers were set.

This is my way of thanking the many hosts in that village that invited me into their home to see and experience their centuries old traditions.

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{gallery}MaskofChina/FEB22{/gallery} The village is more lively than usual as migrant workers have returned home to celebrate with their families. This photo has a lot of meaning to me on a few levels. The red Chinese characters are part of a sentence that starts off with 'Stabilize the low birth rate' which, with many areas in China employing draconian measures such as forced sterilizations and forced abortions, is succeeding. On another level the boys in this photo also exhibit the traditional (especially rural) Chinese parental preference for boys, who are the leaders of the family and thought to be more able to take care of their elderly parents. This particular village I visited did seem to have more boys than girls which would be on par with the skewed national gender ratio of China close to 120 boys for every 100 girls. It was really nice to see that these village children were very interested in their traditional culture and opera as opposed to many of the urban Chinese children who are more interested in cartoons, pop stars and video games. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the biggest fan of country-style Chinese cooking. I find much of it very salty and fatty as they love to use fatty pork in the rural areas. However, Hong Tang had some fantastic food mixing fresh vegetables, light and subtle flavours as well as chicken and seafood such as fish, clams and shrimp caught fresh from the nearby sea. This dish is a broad noodle made from sweet potatoes and stir-fried with seafood, Chinese cabbage and leeks. It was delicious. Fujian is one of the famous tea producing provinces. Fujian Iron Buddha (tieguanyin) tea is being prepared for guests during a traditional tea pouring ceremony. Fireworks and firecrackers are the cornerstone of any traditional rural Spring Festival celebration. The cast of a Fujian opera troupe prepare to perform.