Text bY Ron JinaPhotographs by Ron Jing and Ran Yujie
"Aclose neighbor is better than a distant cousin," goes an old Chinese proverb. But in the modern era, increasing numbers of urban dweUers within the same reinforced concrete building find it more difficult to maintain regular communication with their neighbors on the other side of the cold cement walls. However, in the countryside, scenes of residents of an entire village coming together remain an integral part of rural Clunese landscapes.
Long Street Banouet
On the day marking the beginning of spring on traditional Chinese calendar, more than 6,000 Qujiang Community residents in Tongchuan Ancient Town of Santai County, Sichuan, take seats at some 100 tables along the old Wainan Street to share the various dishes prepared by respective households. Known to locals as the "Long Street Banquet," the event is the highlight of the county´s Neighbor Festival.
The ancient town of Tongchuan, nourished by the Pujiang River for ages, was historically bustling with convenient transportation. Stretching between the city gate and dock, Wainan Street was particularly noisy, frequented by traveling merchants and officials who patronized the local restaurants, taverns, and teahouses. Wule mer chants struck deals on the street, local residents congregated alongside them, chatting with their neighbors and watching their children playing. When spring arrived, locals began gathering on the street to share food in the warm sunlight, which gradually became a celebrated annual custom.
Despite its long tradition, the Neighbor Festival vanished for a period, and didn´t resume until four years ago. When a community remodeling project was launched, it inspired the village´s elders, who longed for a chance to once again share home-cooked delicacies with all those around and join in the joy and excitement of spring´s arrival with their neighbors. The reincarnated Neighbor Festival saw its fourth edition in 2010, and thanks to the great support from the local authorities, the once quaint folk custom has evolved into a potential tourism resource, attracting visitors longing to experience kinship among neighbors that is somewhat hard to find in cities.