24.11.12 – 25.11.12.
HKUST organised a 2-days-1 night trip for us to the Nansha district in Guangzhou. I think there were around 20 people who were on the trip. We took a bus from HKUST to the Shenzhen border and another bus from Shenzhen to Guangzhou. It was a long bus trip, I remember that I was sitting next to Chizuru and talking about the Japanese culture. Nansha is located at the base of the Pearl River Delta so it is pretty dependent on its agricultural sector. Historically, several battles during the First Opium War were fought here (precisely near the Humen region) because of its strategic location as the naval gateway to the Guangzhou. So we could see some abandoned Chinese (from the Qing Dynasty) forts when we were there.
But why Nansha? According to the professor who went with us, the rich man, who donated a lot of money to help with the setting up of HKUST, actually built another HKUST campus in the Nansha area (few people in HKUST know about its existence). It was quite complex, something to do with the Chinese government providing some incentives to rich people as well, because the government wants to develop that area. But anyhow, the rich guy died recently so, just like in the Hongkong dramas, his children have been fighting over the inheritance so this HKUST @ Nansha project has been kind of shelved aside for a while.
This trip to Guangzhou is very special to me because all these while when I visited Chinese cities, I was mostly at the sites of tourism and the Chinese were very eager to sell me things. In a sense, I really enjoyed my time there because of its culture, history and beauty but it was never comfortable to take in the sights while someone tried to sell me something aggressively. The Nansha area was not too touristy so when we were shopping for things, the Chinese were curious to know where we came from and they were, in a way, hospitable as well. Furthermore, because we went with the professor, there were many things that we were able to experience, such as having a senior villager to show us around and getting VIP seats in a local wedding.:)
1. Buying seafood.
In the Guangdong area (it includes Hongkong), there is a culture of buying seafood from the wet market first and then going to a nearby restaurant and getting them to cook your seafood for you. That was what we did, we stopped by a local wet market, bought the crabs and fishes with our whatever cantonese we knew, then went to a restaurant to get them cooked for us. Some of the crabs we bought were actually spoilt, that was quite a waste:/
2. Local village.
We were brought to a local village thereafter and a senior villager showed us around. It was a small and quiet village which still follows the lineage system so it was quite an eye-opener for me. There are 3 main surnames (lineages) in the village and apparently the villagers actually fought with people who came from a different lineage some time not too long ago. We were also taught how the villagers name their children – there are 3 characters in a Chinese name, the first character being the surname, the second character is unique to that generation (every child from that generation in that clan will share the same character) and the third is arbitrarily decided by the parents. It’s pretty interesting I think, how one will know his/ her relationship with another person just by the name.
The senior villager turned out to be an acclaimed calligrapher in the Guangdong region and we had the good fortune of going over to his place to see his pieces. I have never thought too much about calligraphy but it is actually a form of art as the calligrapher has to plan how much space to allocate for each character and what writing style to adopt for each character. To our surprise, the calligrapher decided to give every one of us one of his works and he even wrote our names on them. It was a pleasure to watch him write my name with such care. That was my first calligraphy piece and the word on it was 缘. Indeed. 🙂
4. Local wedding.
We were brought to another village, this being a fishing village and that was where we happened to chance upon a local boat wedding. Apparently the local government organized it as they wanted to keep this old tradition alive and the participants only had to pay a nominal fee to get married in style. The only con is that they would have to share their ceremony with 9 other couples. The ceremony was pretty interesting: there were 10 boats in the river, each groom got on the boat from one end and then the boat was rowed to another end where the brides were standing. Then the bride would get on and each boat was slowly rowed to the main stage area. There was also some dance performance happening on the stage at that time and after the performance, each pair of guy/girl dancers got on each boat, symbolizing continuity of the tradition. Each couple also had their own wedding video and that was shown on the big screen. There were also firecrackers and lion dance. Many locals were crowding along the riverside to watch the ceremony so we were worried intially that we wouldn’t be able to watch it. Somehow we managed to get the VIP seats with the government officials (probably because of the professor’s connection) so we got a nice, clear view of the ceremony. Some of them were even interviewed by the local media. The organizers even invited us for the banquet after that so we had the good fortune of tasting the local delicacies:)