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January 24, 2017

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Home » City specials » Ningbo

Sharing the traditional delights of Spring Festival

Under the guidance of older Chinese practitioners, a group of foreigners recently took up long Chinese bam­boo brush pens and practiced writing traditional Chinese couplets and phrases. This was part of a day of fun activities supported by the Ningbo government and organized by local English-language publication Ningbo Focus. It brought some 150 foreign guests from different vocations — including students, teachers and entrepreneurs — to Dayan Town, in Ningbo’s Fenghua District, on January 21, where they experienced traditional Chinese ways of cel­ebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival.

“I think it’s a better choice to really experi­ence Chinese traditional things in rural areas such as the Dayan, instead of urbanized areas of the city where things are modern,” said Patti Wallace, the head of student counseling services at University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC).

Dayan is located outside of Ningbo, past the Hengshan Reservoir, in a forested area where ancient buildings with tiled roofs and brick walls can still be observed.

“We appreciate the traditional things here and we think China should not lose these things, including the environment in the village where the sky is blue, the ancient architecture and the preserved culture,” said Anna Maria from Hun­gary, 29, who is a foreign teacher in Ningbo.

In an ancient wood-framed house with pebbled courtyard, foreigners witnessed the making of tangyuan, dumplings made of glu­tinous rice and filled with black sesame. These are a famous speciality of Ningbo, having been made in the area for hundreds of years and served as part of a Spring Festival tradition.

Tangyuan is a special holiday food in part because it sounds similar to tuanyuan, which means “reunion.”

“I think the Chinese Spring Festival empha­sizes much more the concept of reunion than other festivals celebrated in foreign countries, as Chinese people try their best to get together with their family members from places far away and celebrate the festival so ceremo­niously,” said David Lewis, from London, a professor of UNNC.

The foreign visitors also tried making other traditional foods themselves, including mim­antou (steamed rice buns) and maci (glutinous pudding).

Steamed rice buns are a local snack with a sticky texture and sweet and sour taste. Gluti­nous rice is soaked in water and ground into paste. Then sugar and yeast are added to the paste to make it ferment. After the fermentation is completed, the paste is made into balls with a spoon or pastry bag and put into a steamer. After several minutes of steaming, the little buns are ready to eat.

Maci is a much more labor intensive treat. Glutinous rice is ground into powder first, and then steamed with water and a little bit of sugar. The white steamed rice is put into a stone mortar, with natural coloring agents such as green mugwort or purple sweet potato. Heavy mallets are then used to pound the hot rice until it achieves a sticky consistency. The resulting dough is then rolled flat and placed into a wooden mould.

“It is interesting for us to personally ob­serve how the Chinese traditional foods are hand-made instead of buying them from su­permarkets in the city,” said Wallace.

The foreign visitors also viewed traditional entertainments such as dragon dances and kicking shuttlecocks.

After they observed how locals made the long cloth dragon dance in the air by waving long poles, they were allowed to take part in the dragon dance themselves. Many were surprised by the amount of strength and coordination it took to manipulate the dragon.

“I love the Chinese dragon and I hope to show my parents the Chinese kung fu I learned here when I get back to Italy,” said a young partici­pant named Robert.

The visitors also took part in another popular Chinese activity: kicking the shuttlecock. Fre­quently described as “Chinese hacky-sack,” the shuttlecock is a round metal disk with feathers fixed to it. The goal is for multiple participants to keep the shuttlecock in the air by kicking it back and forth from player to player before it falls to the ground. Players can also kick the shuttlecock on their own.


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