The 2022 Yangtze River Culture Festival kicked off on Aug 27 in Zhangjiagang, a port city in East China’s Jiangsu province, and will run until October. The annual gathering has become a habit for artists, scholars and inheritors of intangible cultural heritages in the Yangtze River Basin, according to the Organizing Committee of Yangtze River Culture Festival. As the event has been held for 19 consecutive years, people cannot help to ask why the small city is so influential in the whole Yangtze River region.
There are 181 bends of more than 90 degrees in the main stream of the Yangtze River, and the last one forms Zhangjiagang Bay. Today, here is an ecological scenic spot where the river can be seen and nostalgia remembered. Not far away is the Shanghai-Suzhou-Nantong Yangtze River Bridge, which began operations in 2020, with the high-speed trains on it running between Shanghai and northern Jiangsu. Especially on the bridge, people can enjoy the magnificent river and the city skyline on the riverbank.
Despite that Zhangjiagang, about 130 kilometers away from Shanghai, is only a county-level city in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, it is always ranked among the top three county-level cities in China in terms of economic strength. It is generally believed that the spirit of Zhangjiagang people’s striving for the first comes from their riverside life experience featuring the courage to make the tide.
Zhangjiagang was founded just 60 years ago, but archaeological discoveries show that it was where the first civilization in the Yangtze River Basin emerged. During the Tang and Song dynasties, it was an important port for Sino-foreign exchanges, with palmette patterns typical of the western style appearing on excavated porcelain.
The young Zhangjiagang city is not only seeking to elevate its economy to the next level, but more importantly to build itself into a highly civilized city. Since the 1990s, a high level of civilization has been its pride, and the Yangtze River Culture Festival is one of its major initiatives.
Liu Pengchun, an artist who has attended the festival many times, said that artists from the Yangtze River Basin have diverse living habits, but the festival organizers manage to meet their different needs, which attracts people to the festival. Zhangjiagang boasts the best group of volunteers in China.
Another reason why the festival can be echoed across the basin is that Zhangjiagang respects cultural expression, where the diversity of Yangtze River culture can be fully showcased on the stage.
In recent years, the concept of preserving the Yangtze River and promoting its culture has gained unanimous recognition in China. Themed “Integrate, Promote, Share”, this year’s festival allows the audience to interact online and offline, learning about the diverse and splendid cultural relics exhibitions, intangible cultural heritage displays, cultural performances and more from the Yangtze River Basin.
In 2014, BBC producer Simon Reeve recorded the colorful Yangtze River culture with his documentary ‘Sacred River: Yangtze River’ in which he also expressed his concerns about over-exploitation. It is a pity that he has never been to Zhangjiagang. Zhangjiagang is an indispensable choice for anyone who wants to understand the Yangtze River and the Chinese people living along it today.
Source: The Organizing Committee of Yangtze River Culture Festival