Actors dressed up in traditional opera costumes take part in 2019 Foshan Qiuse Parade on November 2, 2019.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important festival for Chinese people after Spring Festival (also known as the Chinese New Year), and has been celebrated throughout China for thousands of years with varied regional customs. Foshan City of southern China’s Guangdong Province celebrates the Mid-Autumn Festival with a grand parade called “Foshan Qiuse” (which literally means autumn colors of Foshan). The event was included in China’s national intangible cultural heritage list in 2008.
The origins of the Foshan Qiuse Parade date back to the Jin Dynasty (266-420). Back in ancient China, to celebrate good harvest in autumn, people from various sectors in Foshan would join in a gathering where participants showed off their expertise and talents. Later the event was named “Qiuse” in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), indicating that it was held during the autumn season. The parade was further developed during the period from the middle of the Ming Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Major activities at this event include displays of folk crafts and artist performances. Craft displays mainly showcase five kinds of skills, namely paper crafting, masonry, needlework, mounting, and carving; actors, on the other hand, demonstrate five genres of arts which include folk music, dancing, drama, acrobatics, and costume shows. Over time, these activities evolved into a parade that marched across the city. Nowadays, the annual Foshan Qiuse Parade proceeds 3.5 kilometers, with thousands of participants of all ages. In addition to classical dragon and lion dances, traditional folk dances, and kung fu demonstrations, festooned floats that illuminate the night have become another highlight of the festival. Each float usually presents a theme that echoes a trending topic of the era such as the “space exploration” and the “construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.”
Foshan Qiuse has a strong fan base in the region and beyond. Each year, the streets of Foshan are thronged with excited people eager to get a glimpse of the dazzling floats that pass by in the parade. In recent years, the organizers of Foshan Qiuse have invited hundreds of international friends, people from Hong Kong and Macao, and people from all walks of life to join in the celebration, making the event a bridge to forge closer bonds with international friends, overseas Chinese, and people in Hong Kong and Macao. A total of 39, 43, and 48 national and provincial-level intangible heritage projects were displayed in the 2017, 2018, and 2019 parades respectively. In 2019 more than 526,000 local people and visitors watched or participated in the parade, and the parade also received more than 2.5 million views online.
This age-old celebration of Foshan Qiuse brings together many traditional crafts, artistic and aesthetic elements of the Lingnan culture, demonstrates the vitality of ancient skills in the modern age and serves as a living medium for sustaining the cultural roots of the Lingnan region.