（By Chen Zhiying）Binyang County is located in the southern part of central Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, to the northeast of Nanning City. It is enclosed by mountains along its eastern, western, and southern borders, while its central region is an unenclosed basin which acts as a vast alluvial plain. The county has a south Asian tropical climate with lots of light and warmth, thus boasting a long and rainy summer and a short and dry winter. Some famous customs and attractions include Xiangsi lake, Cheng Siyuan’s former residence, and Binzhou old town, among which the Firecracker Dragon Festival and rice field paintings are the most unique and distinctive, making the county an attractive tourist destination for people across the region, and even the whole country.
Firecracker Dragon Festival — A feast of folk customs lasting for thousands of years
The Firecracker Dragon Festival has a long history. It was said that during the Nong Zhigao uprising in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), government soldiers and uprising army fought fiercely near Binyang county, but they ended neither in victory nor defeat. So the government soldiers came up with an idea: On the 11th day of the first month on the lunar calendar, it was required that the whole county set off firecrackers and hang up lanterns, making itself surround by a happy and peaceful atmosphere. The city residents had the Lantern Festival ahead of time. Having known the news, Nong Zhigao thought that the government solders and the whole city was celebrating the holiday and would not have military action. Therefore, he relaxed his vigilance and was defeated by the soldiers in a sudden strike.
Since then, the Firecracker Dragon Festival emerged and local residents regularly celebrated the Festival every year.
The Firecracker Dragon Festival is held on the 11th day of the first month on the lunar calendar. On that day, half a million locals and visitors will come to the region to join in the celebrations which include parades, 100-family banquets, night shows and of course the dragon dance in firecrackers which catches people’s eyes most. Needless to say, the firecracker dragon is indispensable in the activity. Usually, it has a length of 30 to 40 meters, and is regarded as a holy symbol of the Chinese New Year. With dragons, drums, eight categories of musical instruments used in ancient music, flower baskets, and torches, the Binyang-style dragon dance is a derivative of traditional dragon dances, in which the bare-chested performers hold dragons on poles and march among the firecrackers to pray for a happy and prosperous year. While the dragon dance is going on, firecrackers thrown by local residents and visitors are set off. It is said that people who cross under the dragon belly during the Festival will experience good health and safety in the new year. On that night, many people will take their children and grandchildren to cross under the dragon belly for good luck. It will be more auspicious to invite the dragon to dance in one’s own house.
This local festival has a centuries-old history attached to it with its beginnings in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), the development of which into something closer to what we see today happened during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and found finds its place in history and in the cultural calendars of China in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). In other words, it did not happen overnight. This is a festival that has grown and developed over the centuries to become what it is today and is steeped in history and culture. This is what has made the Firecracker Dragon Festival in Binyang so intense and famous across China. Honored as “China’s Carnival”, the Festival was inscribed into the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritages in 2008.
Rice field paintings — Masterpieces created by man
Binyang County also boasts fascinating natural scenery, among which the rice field paintings located in Gula Town, Binyang County is the one that you really cannot miss. Using the field as a canvas, the designers crafted various and vivid cartoon images that people are familiar with in the green field such as big squirrels, kung fu panda, lovely dogs, giant cows and mighty dragons. Each of them requires lots of preparation and is done by carefully planting different strains of rice, which grow to different colors and heights. To make the painting as wishes, farmers have to sketch out the designs on computers to figure out where and how to plant the rice and next decide what to plant in an early time so that the rice have enough time to grow. When it is come to the end of July, the best time to enjoy the famous rice field paintings, thousands of tourists will come here to visit and be amazed by the beautiful and unique masterpieces created by man. Naturally, they will record the scene with cameras when they look up from afar. Being so popular among tourists and featuring uniqueness, the rice field painting in Binyang has gained media attention from domestic and international media. It not only provides enjoyment and relaxation for tourists, but also gives them an opportunity to learn more about rice farming and agriculture taking advantage of the tradition of manual work in rice cultivation.
Binyang County is rich in intangible cultural heritage, where not only folk customs are colorful, but also natural scenery is rich. Why not come and explore the county yourself?
Source: China-ASEAN Panorama