Folklore of the City 2014-09-08 19:55

  Nezha Conquering the Dragon King

  A statue of Nezha (a Taoist protection deity) conquering the Dragon King once stood around the Lion Grove Bridge over the Haihe River. Why did the statue stand there? Experiencing sea ingression in ancient times, Tianjin now stands along the coast and has quite a few places that are related to the legend of Nezha. Thus, it is believed that Nezha conquering the Dragon Kingoccurred in Tianjin.

  The legend of Nezha originated from the Chentangzhuang area of the city’s Hexi district. In the Journey to the West written by Wu Cheng’en, Li Jing (the "Pagoda-wielding Heavenly King") guarded here and his third son Nezha killed the Dragon King’s third son.

  There are detailed depictions about Nezha and his father in the Journey to the West. According to historical records, the author travelled to Tianjin several times to collect materials when he began to create the book. At that time, Tianjin was crisscrossed by rivers, lakes and canals, which aroused his emotion to his hometown Huai’an in East China’s Jiangsu Province. It is no wonder that Chentangzhuang located along the Haihe River is described in his book as a military fortress of the East Sea.

  According to Wu’s description, Nezha, a hero related to sea, has a rustic origin as he is constructed by lotus roots rather than flesh and blood. He is often shown flying in the sky riding on the Wind Fire Wheels. Besides, his image is similar to the boy holding a carp in Yangliuqing New Year Pictures.

  Shuanwawa and Xiwawa

  Shuanwawa was the most typical custom on praying for the gift of a child. In old times, the Goddess of Offspring was worshipped in the Palace of Goddess at the tripling junction of the Haihe River.

  Women who failed to get pregnant after they married for one or two years came to pray for a child. They made wishes and then took a clay doll worshipped in front of the Goddess. When back home, they hid the doll in the beddings. Such a custom was called Shuanwawa. When they gave birth to a child, they had the doll remade with some new clay, which was called Xiwawa.

  When the new doll was completed, the mother took it home, worshipped it on the bed and treated it as her child, offering tableware and three meals every day and buying clothes according to seasons. The doll ranked first among the children of the family and was called Brother Doll. Every year, the parents had the doll remade, which meant it was one year older. With its younger brothers and sisters growing up, the doll was remade from young to old. The family showed their reverence and called it Brother Doll, Uncle Doll and Grandpa Doll.

  Tianjin Temple Fair

  Tianjin Temple Fair in celebration of the Goddess of Sea originated during the Yuan and Ming Dynasties and has a recorded history since 1665. Initially it was a grand folk celebration for the birthday of the Goddess of Sea on the 23rd day of the third month in the Chinese lunar calendar.

  During the Kangxi reign of the Qing Dynasty, some proposed to host a four-day fair to welcome the Goddess before her birthday.

  The Temple Fair also involved a dragon-boat race when Emperor Kangxi and Emperor Qianlong passed Tianjin during their tours to the south. The fair won the emperors’ extolments and was endowed with Huangmagua (imperial yellow jacket), thus becoming high-profile across the country.

  Activities in the fair now involve three kinds: services such as cleaning the streets and the Palace of Goddess, escorting and welcoming the Goddess and providing plum juices; ceremonials such as guiding activities with flags, carrying guardian lions, receiving wishes and lifting cauldrons; folk arts of over 40 kinds such as drumming, dancing, walking on stilts, balancing flags and boxes and performing percussion instruments.

  Yangliuqing New Year Pictures

  Yangliuqing New Year Pictures originated during the Yuan and Ming Dynasties. At that time, a folk artist skilled in carving took refuge in Yangliuqing Town. He sold his pictures depicting the Door God and Kitchen God in festivals, which stimulated the local people’s enthusiasm for learning the art. In the Yongle reign of the Ming Dynasty, this painting art thrived as high quality paper and watercolors from the south were shipped here through the reopened Grand Canal.

  Yangliuqing New Year Pictures prospered in the mid-Qing Dynasty. People in the town and over 30 neighboring villages all mastered the painting art. At that time, shops selling Yangliuqing New Year Pictures boomed and attracted customers from across the country, making the town be dubbed as “Hometown of Painting”.

  Yangliuqing New Year Pictures touch a wide range of themes: flower, beauty, moppet, animal, scenery, current affair, folk lore, literary allusion, drama and historical story, of which the most famous is a moppet holding a carp—a symbol of excess wealth year by year.

  Yangliuqing New Year Pictures combine woodcarving, woodblock overprinting and color painting techniques featuring vivid colors, exquisite touches and smooth lines. Beauties are gorgeous and dressed elegantly and moppets are lively and lovely. Yangliuqing New Year Pictures are thus praised as exquisite and delicate.

  In recent years, Yangliuqing New Year Pictures have won many awards in national painting exhibitions and New Year Pictures competitions. They have been exhibited in the UK, France, Italy, Belgium, Canada and Japan, being well acclaimed by the local people.

  Birthday Celebration for Elders

  Decent families in old Tianjin usually hosted a three-day birthday celebration for the elders.

  On the first day, the celebration was prepared. The family set the central room as the celebrating hall, hung a large and oblong sheet of red silk with a picture of the God of Longevity or a Chinese character “勉” meaning longevity. On that day, the family ate jiaozi, which showed their expectation for the coming birthday.

  On the second day which was the birthday, the elder wore new clothes, sat in the center of the hall and received the wishes from his or her families, relatives and friends. His or her offsprings kowtowed in line with their ranks. When receiving the wishes, the elder would give bonuses in a red envelop to the kids. Noodles with four cold dishes, four fried dishes, four vegetable dishes and two dishes of sauces were served for lunch. Noodles symbolizing longevity should be kept intact. The dinner involved chicken, duck, fish, seafood and rice, ending with the coriander soup to cleanse the palate. Besides, a big family would banquet their friends and relatives with dozens of dinner tables decorated with red covers.

  On the third day, the family held activities such as banqueting friends, playing Mahjong and hosting an evening party to convey their gratitude to their relatives and friends. Now, the birthday celebration for elders still draws people’s attention, but the complicated preparations and etiquettes have been simplified in the course of time.

Annual Meeting of the New Champions Tianjin Preparatory Office