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Tourism booms after investment in culture, including arts and music

By YIN RUOWEI | China Daily | Updated: 2022-10-21

Xiamen, a coastal city in Fujian province, has made notable progress in its culture and tourism over the past decade, which has led to an increase in people's sense of gain and happiness, said local officials.

Huang Bishan, head of the culture and tourism bureau of Xiamen, said culture and tourism are playing a bigger role in building the city into a cultural hub, and a city of arts and music, as well as a world-class tourism and leisure city.

To ensure residents have access to cultural facilities within a 15-minute walk of their home, Xiamen has built a wide range of facilities. They include Banlam Grand Theater, Xiamen Poly Theater, Strait Grand Theater and other facilities at city, district, town and village levels. It has been calculated that Xiamen offers a 2,000-square-meter area of public cultural facilities for every 10,000 residents.

Visits to all of the public cultural venues in the city are free of charge. Among them, 10 public libraries and seven cultural centers are of a national first-class standard. On average, each resident has access to 1.8 books in the city's libraries. Xiamen Library's Jimei branch, a building of more than 60,000 sq m, is the largest public library in Fujian province.

Artists in Xiamen have created many excellent works that extol the virtues of local people. Seventy-one performances have won national-level awards and 359 won provincial-level awards. The city has held a total of 3,000 cultural activities and 700 performances annually during the past decade.

On May 4, the theater show Xiamen Happy Events debuted on stage. It offered audiences an immersive, 360-degree viewing experience. "I couldn't tell whether I was an audience or an actor during the show," said one spectator called Chen Jianxin.

The show told a story about a group of Chinese who returned from overseas and embarked on missions to contribute to the construction of their hometown, Xiamen. During the 120-minute show, the audience followed the lives of eight characters and garnered a deep understanding of the culture, history and intangible cultural heritage of Xiamen.

Zhou Xiao, general director of the show, said that Xiamen has a good environment for the cultural and tourism industry to grow, and boasts good policies and resources. "We have received support from local government sectors in charge of tourism, port management, construction and natural resources planning," Zhao said.

"Our show contains a dedication at the end — it is 'dedicated to this city you love and to you who love this city'. We hope that residents of Xiamen and tourists will love this show and it can become a new calling card for Xiamen's cultural tourism industry," he added.

Xiamen has also seen fruitful results in the protection and utilization of cultural relics. Data from the local government show that Xiamen has 250 cultural relic protection sites, 89 Taiwan-related cultural relics and historical sites, 12 museums and 94 revolutionary sites, or Red tourism destinations, attracting more than 10 million visits annually.

Gulangyu Island is one of the most familiar landmarks in Xiamen. Located in Siming district, it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and witnessed the growth of Xiamen's tourism industry over the past decade.

The culture of Minnan region, or southern Fujian province, is prevalent across Xiamen. The Ong Chun ceremony and rituals are one of the representatives of Minnan culture. It was developed in the Minnan region and it is a series of folk customs worshipping Ong Yah, a deity believed to protect people and their lands from disasters. The ceremony was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

A series of Minnan culture-themed events have been held during the past few years. They included a song contest using Minnan dialect, a festival to commemorate national hero Zheng Chenggong (1624-62) and promotions on school campuses. There are 54 centers where residents can learn about 91 intangible cultural heritage items in Xiamen.

Xie Lida, the owner of an old garden villa on Gulangyu Island, has been living on the island for more than 30 years. He said Xiamen became sought-after in 2003 thanks to a slew of backpackers and travelers.

The boom in tourism kindled a longing in Xie to renovate his villa. Xie spent two years and 3 million yuan ($418,610) on renovations and finally decided to turn it into a coffee shop in 2008.

It soon became popular among celebrities and was considered as a must-see place for tourists. The likes of Xie's shop mushroomed on the island afterward. "That was a golden age of local tourism," recalled Lin Conghai, head of Gulangyu's bed-and-breakfast guild.

In 2021, there were 23,000 cultural businesses in the city. Of them 560 cultural enterprises were above designated size.


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