Flower festival blooms as tradition fully blossoms

China Daily| April 19, 2024


The Huazhao Festival at Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai is offering visitors an immersive spring tour through traditional Chinese culture. [Photo by Gao Erqiang/China Daily]

The ongoing Huazhao Festival, or flower festival, at Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai is offering visitors immersive experience of traditional Chinese culture.

Celebrated for over 2,000 years, the festival is held in the second month of the lunar calendar to commemorate the birthday of the flower goddess. According to ancient beliefs, the flower goddess controls human reproduction, and it became customary to celebrate her birthday to invite prosperity.

Despite regional differences in celebrating, the resurrected Huazhao festival usually shares a number of features; hanfu, traditional Chinese attire, flower appreciation and traditional culture.

Running through April 27, the festival at Yuyuan Garden features colorful installations based on flowers and flower fairies. A slew of activities is also taking place to help immerse visitors in a traditional Chinese culture vibe, including light shows, performances, markets, parades and interactive events.

According to the festival's organizers, enthusiasm for traditional culture has been growing among young people in recent years. Products and activities featuring traditional elements combined with modern designs — dubbed the "new Chinese style" — are becoming increasingly popular. Through special events like the Huazhao celebrations, the organizers aim to promote traditional culture and boost spending at the same time.


The Huazhao Festival at Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai is offering visitors an immersive spring tour through traditional Chinese culture. [Photo by Gao Erqiang/China Daily]

A stage for heritage

One of the most popular activities during Yuyuan's Huazhao celebrations is lacquer fan painting, which is regarded as an innovative expression of lacquer craft — an intangible cultural heritage in China.

Lacquer is a natural resin extracted from lacquer trees, and China is believed to have been the first country in the world to use it. Archaeological findings show that lacquer ware first appeared in China about 8,000 years ago.

Zhangwu Wanqian, a brand specialized in creative cultural products featuring lacquer, was invited to the festival to offer visitors the experience.

"Instead of using a tool like a brush, lacquer fan painting is done only by the lacquer and water. The process is extremely simple, visitors first choose the colors they want to use, drip the colored lacquer into the water, stir it, place the fans in the water for a while, and then remove them. That's it," explains Ruan Xiyuan, founder of the brand.

She also says that the process of making each fan is like opening a blind box, as no one can know in advance how the finished product will eventually turn out, and so every fan is unique. In addition to fans, the brand also sells other creative cultural products like ornaments, accessories and tea trays.

Having made a buzz on Chinese social media platforms, Ruan shares the same goal as the festival's organizers.

"We are seeking to integrate innovative and modern expressions with intangible cultural heritage as we believe this path will allow more young people to get to know ancient craftsmanship and contribute to its preservation in a long term," says Ruan.

"We also hope that one day products representing traditional Chinese culture will be seen across the world."


The Huazhao Festival at Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai is offering visitors an immersive spring tour through traditional Chinese culture. [Photo by Gao Erqiang/China Daily]

Wowing visitors

As a landmark tourist attraction in Shanghai, Yuyuan Garden has been receiving large numbers of visitors, both domestic and foreign, throughout the year. With the Huazhao celebrations taking place, many were deeply impressed by traditional culture.

Wang Jing, a 30-year-old trade manager based in Beijing, was one. It was her first time in Shanghai and she came to Yuyuan to admire its architectural features.

"It is a total coincidence that I am here during the festival. Although I didn't know much about the Huazhao Festival before I came, I felt it is lively, and has a strong cultural atmosphere. I think young people will love it," she says.

Wang adds that she also enjoyed the mix of new Chinese style and traditional culture, like the wearing of new-styled hanfu and qipao (a style of dress), as well as appreciating ancient poetry with updated interpretations.

"I think many places in China are doing a wonderful job of cultural tourism. The new Chinese style is becoming more popular with young people. I love it and am happy to be part of it," says Wang, who plans to continue her trip through the Yangtze River Delta region.


A fan painted with lacquer. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Antonio Gangemi, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Bologna, was also visiting Shanghai for the first time.

There to discuss possible collaboration with companies in the medical and surgical field, Gangemi said that the Yuyuan Garden area was one of the most authentic places in the city. Like Wang, he knew little about the festival before visiting, but said that it was "a great and pleasant surprise" once he found it.

"It's a great opportunity for a foreigner to get to know better about Chinese culture. I really enjoyed it," says Gangemi.

"I did know some (about the traditional Chinese culture), but I have to be honest that most of the things that I knew about China were not accurate. However, my knowledge of China and Chinese culture had greatly improved and benefited from this visit. I do think I know much more now about China and about Shanghai."

The city, which Gangemi describes as "dynamic, friendly and innovative", has impressed him during his one-week business trip.

"Shanghai is a very dynamic city that has incredible potential to become a center of international importance in many different fields and aspects, not just commercially speaking. And I have the impression that China is making great investments in innovation, especially in the context of technology.

"I think we will be impressed by what China will be able to accomplish over the next years," he adds.