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A fieldtrip to Nansha 有关南沙旅游业发展小考

Viewed 1415 times 2016-4-24 16:59 |System category:News| research, provides, further, raising, 旅游业

On April 9th 2016, we were organized by South China research center for a visit to Yu Wotou 鱼窝头 and Dongchong 东涌, the southern coastal region of Guangzhou. The name of Yu Wotou suggests the fertility of the region. The village was established in late Qing by which time the two nearby pools were alive with fishes. Decades of sand sediment enlarges the habitat and provides rich soil to plants such as lotus roots. To further accustom the sandy lands to rice raising, dikes were constructed. Soil was excavated from a pond and used to build the dikes near the pond. When the tide bulges, the water would be filled in the pond which could be a favorable environment for fishes. When it is the season of farming, the water could be drained through the outlet. The pond mud fertilized by fish now offer various nutrition to the crops such as rice and sugar cane.



 Today the local market is still full of cheap and fresh seafood and fruits. With 200 RMB, we could buy a big grouper, four squids and some shells and other seafood on the market and ask the chief in the nearby restaurant to cook for us. The village leader told us that by outsourcing more than 3000 mu fish pools, they are able to gain around 10 million RMB per year. He then took us to one of the outsourced fish pools built along with duck feeding places and grain fields. In fact, the locals have practiced the eco-chain for a long time: the ducks eat out the grass in the field and their excrement offers nutrition to the watered fields which make it favorable for fishes.



  However, if we travel back to the history, the rich and relaxing life could rarely be imagined by the early inhabitants. The Tanka, or boat people have been living offshore for numerous of years before they settled on the productive land. The sea livelihood has bent their feet, which was commented derogatorily by land dwellers as “曲蹄”. In fact, the history of the Tanka is the history of outcasts. Because of their impoverished living conditions and pervasive illiteracy, the Ming and Qing government listed them as “untouchability” (“贱民”). It was not until the Republic era (民国)that their rights were protected by anti-discrimination law issued by the Republic government. After the the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, the Tanka were arranged to live on the land by the government thus gradually being assimilated into the society. Nowadays, the unique culture such as 鹹水歌(a kind of musical dialogue in antiphonal style) and 通靈(psychics) which were preserved due to the isolation from the mainstream society have become their culture assets. It is surprising to me hat once a backward and superstitious culture would be promoted as the unique characteristics of a group. This interesting contrast would later be seen in the folk museums in Dong chong as well.



  The formation of the Dongchong county is similar to that of Yu Wotou. In fact, Chong means the river branch at the estuary. It is also through sandy sediment that this region turned from shallow sea to fertile soil. In Dongchong, we were guided by a writer, He Lin. Originally from Guizhou province, he migrated to Guangzhou working in a factory in his twenties. He is now in charge of “reconstructing” cultural and agricultural heritage for Dong Chong. Various places were visited including folk culture museum, agriculture corridor. 



  The way to construct the traditional heritage is worth thinking for firstly, as mentioned earlier, elements of superstition and rusticity that suggest the under privilege and adversity of the Tanka people become “selling points” in developing tourism. For example, the wedding scene that guests would be invited to sit on the ground for feast (which suggests the poor condition at that time) was exhibited in the folk museum; also, a short video about a witch using the psychic power to communicate with ghost was displayed; 豆沙喉 a kind of hoarse and exhausted singing developed by beggars became the orthodox Dongchong art. Secondly, it is hard to “reconstruct” tradition while keeping the sense of history and tradition. When we were on the bus, we saw a row of newly constructed houses, which according to Mr. He, is modeled on local traditional architecture. However, those gray houses built in concrete seem so new that they were far from tradition or antiquity. Meanwhile, the local government also renovated an old fortress. Once we saw the new and smooth surface of the ancient building, a sense of dissonance appeared. In some cases, “reconstructing heritage” become materialized and quantifiable.  In the town center, some architectures were built to symbolize the fish and water culture, each costing millions of RMB. More hotels and restaurants would also rise to accommodate potential customers.



  The urge to develop the unique traditional local culture lies behind the transformation of Guangdong’s economy. While the last three decades have seen the economic boom of Pearl River Delta due to its export-driven and labor-intensive industry, the advantage of low cost labor is gradually lost because of the decreasing working force in China. The Guangdong government have been seeking for different ways to transform its economy. Building high-tech parks and upgrading the industries is one way. Developing tourism is another. It is mentioned by the government that by 2020 the tourism industry would account for 20 percent of the total GDP of the province. My concern is that when cultural development and heritage construction become one of the indexes of economic growth, we might be too utility-oriented. The commercialization of culture could not just be realized by simply building hotels, statures or fake “traditional architecture”. More detailed plans are required.


(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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