On the 16th March 2019, more than forty international visitors and expats from twenty two different countries came together to attend the Madam Xian Cultural Festival.
This was the second excursion of the year which was put on by the Haikou Foreign Affairs and Foreign Experts Bureau.
The trip out was organized to give international guests an insight into Hainan’s rich culture and history, it also gave attendees the opportunity to take part in a traditional Hainan parade. Madam Xian Festival, also known as “Jun po festival” has a history dating back at least 1300 years.
Around 9 am everyone boarded the two coaches and set off from Guomao for the first destination, Bin teng village to learn of a famous love story and how Haikou’s villages are developing due to a very special plant that grows in volcanic rock.
Bin teng village is famous for its upas trees which were planted by a couple during the Ming dynasty to commemorate their marriage. To this date, newlyweds still visit the trees to have a photo taken between them. There were no newlyweds on the tour but it was time to take a group photo between the trees.
Like many villages in the surrounding Haikou countryside, Bin teng village has undergone significant redevelopment in recent years. One of the major factors in the change is the Dendrobium Nobile plant, a member of the family Orchidaceae which has been used for medicinal purposes in China for at least 2,000 years.
Unlike conventional plants, Dendrobium Nobile anchors its roots in volcanic rock and trees. Due to its importance in Chinese medicine, households within the village farming the plant can earn an additional 25 – 30,000 yuan per year.
It was time to get back on the coaches and head for lunch, after a short ride on the bus and a 30-minute walk the group arrived at a local villager’s house for a traditional festival style meal of Wenchang chicken, Hainan fen and vegetables.
Lunch was eaten by a small pond where local children were fishing, which gave the group an opportunity to meet and chat with some of the locals from the village and try their hand at fishing with the kids.
Bellies full of food and a few beers and baijius later, it was time to head to the final destination which was a temple, located a couple of kilometres away. The festival is the largest of its kind in Hainan, and due to its popularity traffic was heavy causing the group to walk most of the way, which was a great chance to see the countryside on foot.
As the group approached the temple the sound of firecrackers grew louder, echoing throughout the Yangshan area. Hordes of locals who were either going to or returning home from the temple lined the streets.
The group put on their yellow T-shirts which were provided by Haikou Foreign Affairs Office.
After arriving it was time to take part in the parade which snaked its way through the streets to the beat of drums and symbols. A shrine to the goddess Madam Xian was carried in the procession to commemorate lady Xian, stopping at various points along the way to allow for traditional style dragon dancing.
The trip came to a successful end around 5 pm, a little later than expected but worth the delay.
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