Xiamen Folk Customs and Culture

Xiamen is a famous international tourism city, where tourists can appreciate the enchanting island scenery, feel the boundless glamour of a modern city, and enjoy the unique local customs.

Xiamen is a city where classical and modem folk customs and lifestyle are interwoven with each other, and South Fujian's conditions and customs with strong local characteristics are blended with the graceful artistic glamour. In Xiamen, the peaceful coexistence of the people believing in different religions, the high popularity of the extensive and profound tea culture, and various folk festivals and celebrations a time-honored history, such as the dragon boat race full of local flavors, the "Moon Cake Game" held at the Mid-Autumn Festival, Nanyin which is known as the "living fossil of music," and the prolonged local quyi (folk art forms including ballad singing, story-telling, comic dialogues, clapper talks, cross talks, etc.), have given birth to the unique and exciting local culture of Xiamen.

Local Customs

Located in a large triangle zone, Xiamen is the hometown of a great number of overseas Chinese and foreign citizens of Chinese origin from South Fujian, Taiwan and Southeast Asia. With advantageous location richly endowed by nature. Xiamen combines marine culture with continent culture. and has given birth to unique local customs and habits totally different from other places.

□Gongfu Tea in South Fujian

As one of the birthplaces of gongfu tea. Xiamen has a strong tea culture atmosphere. The quintessence of Xiamen's tea culture is the tea ceremony. which is known for its tealeaves, the brewed tea, the tea set, the duration and degree of heating and the environment.

First of all, fresh tea is the most precious. Most of the Xiamen people love to drink Oolong tea.

Second, particular attention should be paid to the water for making tea. The content of calcium and magnesium in a liter of water should not exceed eight milligrams.

Third, the duration and degree of heating should be appropriate. The water for making tea should be boiled, but should not be over-boiled. Only with appropriately boiled water, can we prepare a cup of mellow tea.

Fourth, the tea set should be carefully selected. The Xiamen people prefer to use the pottery tea set with cover, so as to "preserve aroma" and "retain the taste."

Fifth, the tea ceremony is particular about the environment. People in Xiamen like to decorate the sitting room with ornaments, vases and antiques, burn incenses and broad-cast music, making the tea ceremony become a lofty spiritual pursuance and a high-quality leisure way.

Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival. which falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, is called the "Fifth Month Festival" by the local people of Xiamen. At the Dragon Boat Festival, the local people of Xiamen are accustomed to drying clothes in the sun. doing general cleaning at home. eating zongzi (pyramid-shaped glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in reed or bamboo leaves), and holding the dragon boat race. The Dragon Boat Pond in Jimei University and Yundang Lake in the city proper are the venues for holding the dragon boat race.

The dragon boat race is an activity to commemorate Qu Yuan (340-278 B.C.), a great patriotic poet of the state of Chu during the Warring States period (475-221 B.C.). Legend has it that after Qu Yuan's death, people of the state of Chu went out in their boats, trying to rescue the patriotic poet and drive away fish in the river. because they were afraid that Qu Yuan's corpse would be eaten by fish. Since then the beautiful legend has been handed down and the dragon boat race has gradually been evolved into a folk custom.

□Moon Cake Game at the Mid-Autumn Festival

When Zheng Chenggong stationed his troops in Xiamen. he invented a dice game associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival to help soldiers enjoy the festival rather than think of their dear ones far away. A total of 63 prizes are named after imperial titles earned from the exams. and are won by rolling particular combinations of numbers on six dices. The Moon Cake Game has been handed down generation by generation and has become a popular activity as it expresses the people's desire for a happy life. The game can make every player enjoy to his heart content.

□Sacrificial Rites

Of the many solemn and attention-catching folk sacrificial rites in Xiamen. paying homage to Buddha is the most prominent. On the birthday of Buddha, which falls on the 19th day of the second lunar month. the sixth lunar month and the ninth lunar month, the locals would go to the temples to offer fruits and offerings to Buddha and their own ancestors. On the second day and the 16th day of every lunar month. businesspeople would go to the temples to pay homage. 

These ancient sacrificial rites have lasted until today. Numerous religious believers follow this traditional way to pray for safety and a good luck.

□Folk Quyi

With a lone history, Xiamen's folk quyi (folk art forms including ballad singing, story-telling, comic dialogues, clapper talks, cross talks. etc.) has been spread far and wide, involving extensive themes. However there are basically no written records on Xiamen's folk quvi. In the past several decades, local quyi working personnel in Xiamen have created a great number of works. Many quvi forms are circulated among the people in Xiamen, such as Nanyin, Gezai and Gaojia and Liyuan operas and Dazuigu (cross talk in South Fujian dialect).


Also known as "Nanqu," "Nanyue," "Nanguan" and "Guanxian," Nanyin (literally translated as the "music of the South") is a traditional opera sung in South

Fujian dialect, which preserves the characteristics of ancient music of the Jin (265-420) and Tang dynasties, and incorporates the musical quintessence of Central China. the Western Regions. and South Opera, acrobatics and legendary ballads. With strict rhyme and rhythm, Nanyin has been known as a classical artistic treasure of the East. Nanyin is known as the oldest music in the Asian-Pacific region.

Nanyin shows the simple, unsophisticated. graceful and mild artistic style; the music is slow and unhurried: and the melody incorporates with the libretto. featuring one word with several kinds of vocal music. Nanyin has been well received not only in Xiamen and Quanzhou. but also in Hong Kong. Macao, Taiwan and Southeast Asia. The representative plays of Nanyin Opera include Plana Blossom Exercises, and Eight Horses.

□Gezai Opera

Also known as "Xiang Opera," it is a local opera sung in South Fujian dialect. The roles on the stage generally fall into four categories: sheng (male characters), dan (female characters), jing (painted faces) and chow (male clowns). The singing of Gezai Opera absorbs much from folk songs, with beautiful tune, lively rhythm and mellow music, full of local flavor of South Fujian. Gezai Opera has over 100 melody forms, such as Mixed Tune. Seven Character Tune, and Mixed Recitation Tune, in addition to some folk ditties, such as "Shi'ersonggediao" and "Niuniudong". The main instruments of accompaniment are kezixian (a stringed instrument), daguangxian (a large two-stringed Chinese mandolin). Taiwan flute, sanxian (athree-stringed plucked instrument), yueqin (a four-stringed plucked instrument with a full-moon-shaped sound box) and vomit flute. Gezai Opera is very popular in South Fujian, Taiwan and Southeast Asia. Its music derives from folk songs sung in the streets and teahouses; and the librettos, which come from the folks, are flexible in length, some short and the others long. Gezai Opera has over 500 traditional and modern repertoires.

□Gaojia Opera

Also known as "Gejia Opera," "Jiujiao Opera," "Daban" and "Guban", Gaojia Opera is a genre developed in the mid Qing Dynasty on the basis of the Quanzhou folk recreational performances. It incorporates many local operas, such as Kunqiang, Xipinggiang. Geyanggiang, Huidiao, Peking Opera, puppet show, Liyuan Opera and Nanyin and forms its own unique singing and acting. The performance gut of chop (clown) is acclaimed as a "gem in the theatrical art treasure house." Many repertoires of Gaojia Opera are from ancient folktales.

Tourists who are interested in Gezai Opera, Nanyin and Gaojia Opera are suggested going to the People's Theater on Zhongshan Road.

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