Panda Cup Qingtian Tour: Home Away from Home

PRNewswire December 25, 2023

LISHUI, China, Dec. 25, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — A news report from China Report ASEAN:

On November 26 and 27, more than 30 winners of the Panda Cup Foreign Student Essay Contest traveled to Qingtian County, Lishui City, which is located in the mountainous region of southern Zhejiang Province. During the trip, young students from more than 20 countries experienced the cultural charm of Qingtian, acquired a better understanding of the ecological system of rice-fish symbiosis, and gained greater appreciation for the economic and trade development prospects of the county, a well-known ancestral home of overseas Chinese.

Artistic Charm of Stone Carving

Qingtian is reputed as the Hometown of Chinese Stone Carvings because the county abounds in Qingtian Stone, one of the four famous brands of stone in China. The first stop of the students’ trip was the Qingtian Stone Carving Museum.

Qingtian stone carving dates back 6,000 years. Shen Peng, a famous calligrapher and chairman of the Chinese Calligraphers Association, inscribed the museum’s name at the entrance. The museum is the only museum dedicated to stone carving culture in China. Its exhibits on the 6,000-year history of stone carving create a window into Qingtian’s stone carving culture.

More than 400 meticulous stone carvings in different shapes are exhibited, emanating the enthusiasm and creativity of the artists. The students were amazed at the long history of stone carving and drawn to the artistic charm of the exquisite works as well as the stories behind each.

“There’s so much history behind the exquisite stone carvings in this museum,” commented Lenka Hamplova, a student from the Czech Republic. “My understanding is that Qingtian stone carving is famous not only in China, but also all over the world.”

After the tour, the students attended a seal carving training session before testing their new skills with a real knife and stone. Malaysian student Tan Wan Xuan carved the Chinese character for “good fortune.” “It looks like a simple task to carve a simple character,” she reported, “but it’s not simple at all because it takes a lot of effort to complete a single small stroke. The whole process of carving is a good test for patience.”

“It was a little tough at first,” said Myanmar student Min Min. “Thanks to the guidance of the instructor, I gradually figured out the tricks.”

Lenka Hamplova was also happy with her achievements. “This is my first time trying stone carving,” she said. “The instructor showed me how to hold the knife and stone properly, which produced better results.” She wrote the Chinese character for “good fortune” on one side of a paper fan with the seal she had just carved and her Chinese name “Zi Xia” on the other side with a brush.

Rice-Fish Symbiosis

Layers of terraced paddy fields appear like a huge green drawing board spread across mountain slopes. Small streams of water irrigate rice seedlings in the fields with fish swimming in between. The harmonious coexistence of rice and fish in the same paddy field—rice-fish symbiosis—is a traditional mode of agricultural production that has been used in Qingtian for more than 1,300 years.

The students were fascinated with the beautiful scenery and took a lot of pictures. Led by a curator, they visited the Qingtian Rice-Fish Museum, where they toured the main exhibition, an agricultural cultural heritage exhibition, and a rice culture exhibition.

Qingtian’s rice-fish symbiosis system was listed in the world’s first group of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) designated by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2005, becoming the first GIAHS in China. Longxian Village is the birthplace and core protection area of the system. Located in the mountainous region of southern Zhejiang, the village is heavy on mountain slopes with little cultivated land for agricultural production. Therefore, since ancient times, local residents have built terraced paddy fields on the slopes with canals and ditches to divert spring water to the fields. After long-term farming practice, they innovated methods for fish farming in the terraced fields and passed the system from generation to generation. So far, more than 3,300 hectares of land have been cultivated with this system in the county.

The students were quite interested in the long history and ecological significance of this mode of agricultural production. “Unbelievable!” exclaimed Sri Lankan student Liyanage Manoj. “This rice-fish symbiosis system is already more than 1,000 years old.”

“I’m quite impressed with the way that the farmers are raising fish in the paddy fields,” commented Indian student Barkathulla Asrafali. “This traditional farming technique is an interesting manifestation of local farmers’ wisdom. I was told that the fish raised this way taste very good. I can’t wait to try!”

“I’m from Paris, but Qingtian is my native land,” said a student with Chinese heritage. Her parents immigrated to France. Although Qingtian is her parents’ native land, she never before understood the rice-fish symbiosis system. “If I had not traveled back here with the Panda Cup, I wouldn’t understand the history of this sophisticated system,” she said. “This journey has been meaningful for me and provided a better understanding of my native land.” 

Over the years, Qingtian County has inherited and preserved its intangible cultural heritage while seeking common prosperity for all. It has promoted sustainable development and added value to the rice-fish symbiosis system. The heritage has developed into a famous brand, which transformed Longxian Village from a rural village with a single agricultural product to one with a combination of the processing and sale of agricultural products, rural leisure tourism, cultural creative industries, and agricultural heritage research. The traditional rice-fish symbiosis system has gained new vitality in the new era.

Ancestral Home of Overseas Chinese

Qingtian is the ancestral home of many overseas Chinese who migrated to other countries since the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Today, 381,000 overseas Chinese living in 146 countries and regions around the world see Qingtian as their ancestral home. In mid-November, the 5th Overseas Chinese Imported Commodities Expo & Qingtian Imported Wine Fair took place there. The 3rd International Coffee Expo was also held in Qingtian.

At present more than 70,000 imported goods from 70-plus countries and regions are on sale at Qingtian Imported Commodity City, which operates under the motto “buying from the world and selling across the country.” During the visit, almost all of the students found some goods imported from their home countries.

Also located in the Imported Commodity City is the Qingtian World Wine Center, which integrates the promotion, exhibition, sale, training, incubation, and service of imported red wine. The center acts as an agent for more than 450 globally famous brands and more than 20,000 types of red wine. This is the crystallization of the wisdom of the overseas Chinese business people native to Qingtian, and a microcosm of the county’s opening-up with overseas Chinese serving as a bridge.

At the World Wine Center, the students acquired more information on the historical origins, brewing techniques, and distribution of famous red wines before learning about methods for sensory evaluation of red wine with the eyes, nose, taste, and feel in the mouth. They also learned about etiquette and food collocation before sampling various red wines.

Chen Baojun is a Malaysian postgraduate student at Chongqing University. She called the knowledge acquired during the trip fascinating, interesting, and useful for her future daily life.

Chen was quite happy with the results of this trip. “I’d like to thank the Panda Cup for this opportunity to experience the history and culture of the Chinese countryside and make new acquaintances with the students from other countries,” she said. “I will seek more opportunities to see more of China.”

The field trip was supervised by China International Communications Group (CICG) and the Publicity Department of the CPC Zhejiang Provincial Committee, sponsored by the CICG Asia-Pacific and the Foreign Languages Press, and organized by the Zhejiang University of Media and Communications and the Publicity Department of the CPC Qingtian County Committee.

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