THE First Hangzhou Qiantang River International Cultural Festival kicked off last week. The festival, which will run until November in Jianggan District, will have 21 activities including a photography contest, surfing competition, poetry festival and a cultural forum.
It began with a forum themed on “Humans and Rivers.” Qiantang River is one of the world’s three largest tidal bore rivers along with the Amazon and the Ganges. Professionals from India and Brazil were invited to deliver speeches on river and cultural protection on the site.
The forum also got support from international organizations, including Alliance for Water Stewardship, The Nature Conservancy, Waterkeeper Alliance, and a local non-governmental organization Green Zhejiang.
Since its establishment in 2000, Green Zhejiang has earned fame as an NGO involved in water conservation. It has employed 56 inspectors to monitor 47 rivers in Hangzhou. These voluntary inspectors cruise along the rivers periodically and report pollution issues to government departments.
“One of the inspectors suffers from throat cancer, but he insists on carrying on inspection work,” says Xin Hao, the founder of Green Zhejiang.
“Zhejiang government is sparing no effort to harness watercourses and has seen huge success. It cannot succeed without ordinary citizens’ participation.”
Local government and organizations expect to draw experience from other countries in conserving river and culture at the forum.
“Many countries have a history of polluting rivers and then harnessing pollution, like Yarra River in Melbourne in Australia ... It suffered from pollution throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries, but now it has been harnessed, and the annual Moomba festival celebrates the river’s increasing cultural significance to Melbourne,” Xin said.
The NGO collaborates with other non-governmental and official organizations to preserve rivers and creeks in Hangzhou and Zhejiang.
As the mother river of Hangzhou and Zhejiang Province, Qiantang River has always been considered the cradle of silk, tea and porcelain cultures as seen from the unearthed antiques that were lined along the watercourse.
At the opening ceremony, a Qiantang cultural map was released through visual technology. It showcased museums, libraries, pagodas, temples, relics, historical stories and myths along the river.
Some of the centuries-old cultural heritages along Qiantang River were included in the national and the UNESCO intangible heritage lists like the antique Hangzhou style silk weaving techniques.
“The opening ceremony was hosted at City Balcony of Qianjiang New Town. It symbolized that the city’s development had shifted from West Lake to Qiantang River,” said Xu Deqing of Jianggan District government.
The festival organizers invited five leading figures to be their cultural ambassadors.
They were Olympic swimmer Sun Yang, literary critic Chen Zhenglian, president of Xizi Group Wang Shuifu, foreign teacher in China Academy of Art David Dumont and popular local opera performer Wen Renkang. They will promote the festival in their respective fields.
The ambassadors issued the Humans and Rivers Joint Declaration, which called for harmonious development between people and rivers, and more protection for watercourses.
“Next year, we will invite 20 cities that are along the rivers to join the forum,” said Xu. “We need to learn from each other and let the public realize the importance of river and culture conservancy.”
Last Saturday, a walk along Qiantang River attracted more than 10,000 people from 20 countries. The idea was to raise awareness among the public to conserve the river.
The walk was divided into three categories, namely the 5-kilometer family route, 12km and 25km trails. People walked along wetland parks, dams, historical zones and tidal bore scenic spots, through which they learned about the history and development of the mother river.