Looking for genes in Hainan culture
News source:hiHainan / By Ye Haisheng / 11 29,2019 11:32:07 / Culture & Travel

Does Hainan have its own culture?

There must be. For example, adapting to the food culture in the tropics, the specific production of food such as “Qingbuliang”for summer is unique to Hainan.

However, if you look for the genes of Hainan's overall culture, the imprint of inheriting the Central Plains culture is obvious.

The phenomenon of inheriting Central Plains culture for Hainan Island can be found everywhere. The setting of the academy and the imperial examination are almost a replica of the cultural education of the Central Plains. In social life, one of the characteristics of the Central Plains culture is patriarchal, and the patriarchal nature develops into the record and identity of the ancestral lineage,which is from the "Kong's family tree" of the narrative tradition. This kind of inheritance tradition of narrative family tree is relatively rare to maritime civilization,but it is very common and has a long history in Hainan. The ancestral temples in Hainan are quite illustrative of the influence of the Central Plains cultural genes in the island's cultural system.

Surname genealogy is the embodiment of the narrative tradition

I interviewed Deng Guanghua, a cultural scholar of Ding'an, and read the "Deng's genealogy" of the Ding'an people he provided. The genealogy recorded all the major events of his family. Whoever gave birth to a son or daughter, which brother was promoted, whoever got into the college, what awards have been received... all recorded in the genealogy of fine printing. It is in the same vein as the Central Plains cultural genes. 

The Zhang's ancestral temple in Ding'an City. (File photo)

Deng Guanghua told me that the society advocates the law is correct, but there are many things in life that are often not solved by law alone. The soft constraints imposed on family members' good deeds and even bad things through the "genealogy tree" can suppress evil to some extent, promoting goodness and "kill" some evil thoughts in the cradle.

The existence of the Central Plains cultural gene chain can be traced in Hainan's residential houses. The Hou’s family compound in Qiongshan district of Haikou is similar to the Beijing courtyard, and the hall house is more spacious than other houses. It is prominent in the courtyard and the ancestors are enshrined in the house. The position of ancestral tablets is the center of family rituals. During the holidays, weddings and funeral ceremonies or birth banquets, family members will set up ceremonies in the hall, and the married daughters will return home to meet their parents here, clearly reflecting the obvious characteristics of the Central Plains culture, the ancestral identity, and the authority of the parents. Hou Zhongcai, a descendant of the Hou’s family, told me that the ancestors of the Hou’s family were in Guangdong Province.

The above phenomenon shows that Hainan Island, as an island that is assimilated by mainland culture, has its cultural genes originated from the Central Plains. It has never produced a deliberate impulse to rectify or break free of the mother in the cultural roots. Even if the dynasties were ups and downs, the Hainanese never change their initial thoughts. Many such cases: Hainanese who have migrated overseas for decades or even hundreds of years returned to their hometowns of the motherland, they had no stranger feelings about respecting the ancestors and worshipping them. Similarly, Hainanese who moved from Hainan to the mainland or overseas returned to their hometowns in Hainan before and after the Qing Ming Festival, their feelings of seeking roots and exploring their ancestors were as hot as the local folks.

As the years passed, the rituals of many large ancestral temples and ancestral tombs in Hainan were gradually lost. Some Chinese and overseas Chinese returned to their hometowns to visit their ancestors during the Spring Festival and the Qing Ming Festival. It is inevitable that they would be disappointed when they saw the loss of the ceremony. In some places, even overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia bring back the ritual programs of foreign countries in order to observe and learn. Fortunately, after all, the cultural genes are the same, and they can quickly merge and reproduce their memories.

Island marine culture also has the farming characteristics

Talking about marine culture, Mei Guoyun, dean of the Hainan Provincial College of Liberal Arts, told me that there are also sea god worships in Hainan and Western religions, but the nature is different. The western sea god Poseidon is holding a trident, reflecting the spirit of conquest and conflict in the marine culture. It is full of the power of tension and opposition, attracting Westerners to worship on the spiritual level, and the action is also quite attacking. The "Sea Dragon King" and "Mazu" on the coast of China, as good deity and kind deity, reflect justice and kindness, attract people to seek to deal with the unknowable "evil", or seek to protect the peace and safety of the sea.

Ceramics discovered in the South China Sea. (File photo)

Like other coastal areas in China, Hainan has a long coastline. People rely on the sea, make a living by the sea, use the sea, watch the sea, and cultivate the sea. The marine culture has a long history and rich connotations. However, it is deeply restricted by the Yellow River culture and has obvious stamp of farming nature. If the western-style island culture is called the competitive and expanding marine business culture, the Hainan Island culture can be called the obedient, conservative and introverted marine agricultural culture. But even if it is on the same island in Hainan, the specific situation is not the same. People in Wenchang, Qionghai, Wanning, Danzhou, Dongfang and Lingao of the coastal areas have relatively strong spirits of adventure and enthusiasm of the marine culture. Historically, it was subject to factors such as transportation and technology, and the colors of farming culture are heavy in the central part of Hainan, such as Tunchang county, Qiongzhong county, Ding'an county and Wuzhishan city.

In terms of the culture of the ancestral hall, the function of the ancestral hall in Hainan is consistent with that of the ancestral hall in the mainland. It is not only a place for ancestors and sages, but also a place for educating future generations. People often regard the size of the ancestral hall and the quality of the maintenance as a symbol of whether the descendants of the entire family are prosperous. For example, according to the Memorial and the records of Qiongshan district of Haikou city, there are 213 names of various kinds of Archways for fame and imperial examination including Chastity Memorial Archways built in the Qiongshan district since the Ming and Qing Dynasties. There are 115 archways for filial piety, fierce and chastity. The reason for the existence of the archways in Hainan is the same as the Central Plains.

Hainan is an island with a large population of immigrants from all over the country and around the world. Hainan culture has its characteristics of eclecticism, more diversity, multi-level and inclusiveness. It is compatible with the Central Plains culture, Minnan culture, Lingnan culture, overseas Chinese culture,Li and Miao Minorities culture, marine culture,educated youth culture and national defense culture. After the military conquest of the dynasties, the population moved in and the officials exiled to Hainan island, and the island civilization in the Ming and Qing dynasties showed the characteristics of the Central Plains culture as a gene chain. The Central Plains culture has basically completed the impact on the full coverage of island culture in terms of political system, social foundation and core values.

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