The 2023 Jinhua Mountain Wong Tai Sin Cultural Festival Officially Opens

The 2023 Jinhua Mountain Wong Tai Sin Cultural Festival, hosted by Zhejiang Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism and Jinhua Municipal People’s Government, and sponsored by Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee of Zhejiang Province, Zhejiang Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese and the United Zhejiang Residents Association (Hong Kong), is officially open on October 24. The festival, which has been held for multiple editions over the past two decades, is to be convened at Jinhua Mountain and Lanxi prefecture, i.e. the ancestral home town of Wong Tai Sin.

As General Secretary Xi Jinping stressed at the meeting on cultural inheritance and development in June, 2023, it’s our new cultural mission to build modern Chinese civilization. Xi Jinping paid a visit to Zhejiang Province in September, 2023, during which he emphasized that Zhejiang should play an active role in building modern Chinese civilization.

The Wong Tai Sin culture advocates “doing good deeds, upholding benevolence and condemning evil, giving free medicine and medical service to the poor, and helping the poor”, and undertakes the mission of “acting benevolently and teaching benevolence”. Its cultural essence is in line with the “outstanding characteristics of Chinese civilization”, and exerts wide influence in Chinese communities worldwide. It’s endowed with special significance to host the 2023 edition in the new era. The festival serves as one of the major actions by Jinhua to earnestly study and act on the instructions made by General Secretary Xi while he visited Jinhua. It is also a measure to develop Jinhua Mountain into a “high-level famous Chinese cultural mountain” as decided at the 3rd meeting of the 8th Plenary Session of the CPC Jinhua Municipal Committee, and decision of the 4th meeting to “maximize Jinhua’s eight cultural advantages and build demonstration projects for the construction of cultural commanding heights in the new era”.

Take a close look at the program of the festival, and you may notice how uniquely it is planned. During the welcome reception, opening ceremony and tracing the roots of the Wong Tai Sin culture, works in various artistic forms, such as Turning Stone into Sheep/Wong Tai Sin at Jinhua Mountain, are displayed to showcase the vitality of outstanding traditional Chinese culture in the new era. Besides, enthusiasts for the Wong Tai Sin culture from art, education, business and academia communities are gathered at the seminar on development of the Wong Tai Sin culture, and deliver key-note speeches titled “Jinhua Mountain Restarts as a Teenager”, “The Role of the Wong Tai Sin Culture in International Exchanges” and “The Upgrading and Empowerment of Jinhua Mountain Culture”, through which a new round of exploration and discussion about Wong Tai Sin’s cultural values is conducted. Being the birthplace of Wong Tai Sin, Lanxi serves as a sub-venue of the festival, and hosts a series of special folk activities related to the Wong Tai Sin culture concurrently. When a map showing global distribution of Wong Tai Sin’s shrines, temples and ancestral halls is slowly lit up, 30 million believers from more than 30 countries and regions around the world, though not all present, are united and inject powerful cohesion into “benevolence”.

In general, the 2023 edition upholds global vision, deepens its essence and upgrades many aspects. First of all, it highlights the cultural theme. Based on resorting of the life stories and spirit of Wong Tai Sin (a.k.a. Wong Cho Ping), the festival adopts the theme of “Embracing Virtue and Universal Benevolence” so as to amplify the universally applicable cultural element of “benevolence”. Second, it has unprecedentedly large scale. The 2023 edition features the widest engagement and highest number of attendees. Representatives from 70 relevant organizations in 17 countries and regions are present. More than 300 scholars, experts, young students, and fans of the Wong Tai Sin culture are brought together to discuss the development of the Wong Tai Sin culture, brainstorm its prosperity, and enjoy the view of Wong Tai Sin’s ancestral home town in person. Third, it has diverse activities and events. In order to “showcase the ancestral home town, and deepen international exchanges”, the festival consists of the opening ceremony, seminar on development of the Wong Tai Sin culture, and a series of events to trace the roots of the Wong Tai Sin culture at Jinhua Mountain and in Lanxi.

With 11 successful editions over the past two decades, the festival continues to innovate its forms. However, Jinhua Mountain has been sticking to its original aspirations over the past two decades: the spirit of “acting benevolently and teaching benevolence” that Wong Tai Sin culture advocates boasts wide influence in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, China, as well as more than 30 countries, such as Singapore, Malaysia, the USA and Russia. The festival aims to promote the Wong Tai Sin culture worldwide and strengthen exchanges, which has also been the foundation for Jinhua Mountain to inherit and carry forward the Wong Tai Sin culture.

For instance, Jinhua Mountain organized the commemoration of the 1677th anniversary of Wong Tai Sin’s birth, “Visit of Students from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, China, to Jinhua Mountain”, and “Visit of Students from Overseas Top Schools to Jinhua Mountain”. Based on the spiritual essence of the Wong Tai Sin culture, it has established the cultural tourism brand with the slogan of “Immortal Jinhua Mountain, Scenic Nature”, produced many music pieces, films and TV series, and commissioned an inheritor of national intangible cultural heritage to make a giant jade stone carving artwork titled Wong Tai Sin recording legends of Wong Tai Sin.

In previous editions, Jinhua Mountain focused on the exchanges of the Wong Tai Sin culture with the view of bonding and making cultural exchanges with compatriots in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, China, as well as overseas Chinese by means of culture, and transforming the domestically renowned culture into outstanding traditional Chinese culture to be carried forward at home and abroad.

The “Legend of Wong Cho Ping (Wong Tai Sin)” (Jinhua Wong Tai Sin Cultural Research Institute as the protection unit) was approved by the State Council to be included in the second batch of national intangible cultural heritages in June, 2008. The “Wong Tai Sin religion” (Sik Yuen as the protection unit) was included in the fourth batch of national intangible cultural heritages in November, 2014. All those remarkable milestones are worth remembering and taking pride in.

In addition, on the occasion of the festival, Jinhua Mountain launches a new round of research and protection, inheritance and development, and promotion. On the basis of exchanges and discussions with enthusiasts for the Wong Tai Sin culture at home and abroad, we will further dig into the spiritual essence of the culture, summarize up-to-date cultural identity, and create a “think tank group” for in-depth cultural research. Moreover, we will organize popular events to promote the Wong Tai Sin culture abroad, bring the cultural bond to full play and spread “benevolence” to youth around the world, and maintain its momentum and vitality. We will continue to work on cultural projects, such as the Wong Tai Sin International Art Village and Wong Tai Sin Cultural Exchange Center, so as to complement Jinhua being the ancestral home town of Wong Tai Sin. Last but not least, we will render the Wong Tai Sin culture more relatable and accessible, and cultivate individual and emotional consumption needs of the general public in its derivative merchandises.

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