On March 29, about 10,000 Chinese gathered in Xinzheng City, central China's Henan Province, to attend a ceremony honoring Huangdi or the Yellow Emperor, a legendary ruler revered as the ancestor of the Chinese nation.
GRAND CEREMONY: About 10,000 Chinese people attend a ceremony honoring Huangdi, or the Yellow Emperor, in Xinzheng, Henan Province, on March 29
The ceremony, started in 2006, is annually held on the third day of the third Chinese lunar month in the area that is regarded as Huangdi's birthplace. This year, to emphasize that link, organizers chose the theme, Same Root, Same Ancestor and Same Source.
But the true meaning of the ceremony goes beyond culture for this central plains province with a population of nearly 100 million that is looking for ways to increase the prosperity of the region. Ding Shixian, Deputy Director of the Committee of the Ancestor Worshipping Ceremony, said the grand event has become a potent brand for Henan.
And the more popular Henan becomes, the better able it is to attract more events and investment in its culture industry. Several ceremony attendees were impressed with the province and had decided to bring events to the area, a move that will increase Henan's development both economically and culturally.
"I brought some projects here now because I am prepared to cooperate with the Government of Henan," said Guo Zhiming, a Chinese-American who is executive chairman of the International Martial Arts Federation (IMAF). "After this ceremony, I will go to observe some other places in Henan to possibly bring other events."
The IMAF's World Cup International Wushu Tournament will bring Chinese competitors and those from 80 other countries to the area to demonstrate their abilities. "I have permission from the local government to hold the next tournament in Zhengzhou in September 2011," said Guo.
Liu Tiankui, also a Chinese-American, another guest at the ceremony, said he will soon bring an American agricultural and commercial observation group to Henan sometime after the event. He said he was prepared to cooperate with Henan and Zhengzhou governments in the near future.
Hong Kong businessman Li Jihua said it was his second time attending the worshipping ceremony. "Once receiving the invitation, I called my business friends from Hong Kong and Macao to come with me. Many of them wound up bringing projects here," said Li.
In Li's eyes, Henan has special geographic and business advantages because of its rich cultures and food production capabilities. The ceremony provided a good chance for Chinese businesspeople at home and abroad to further investigate the market in Henan.
"At present, my company is saving money and is ready to invest more in Chinese inland cities, especially those in Henan," said Li.
According to Wang Guangguo, Mayor of Zhengzhou, Xinzheng signed contracts for 56 projects worth 11.63 billion yuan ($1.70 billion) during the ceremony in diverse fields like mechanical production, food processing, energy development and logistics.
Liu Renzheng, Director of the Xinzheng Municipal Bureau of Commerce, said that after four years of running the ceremony, guest professionals at home and abroad got to know Xinzheng and had grown more interested in investing in the area.
Henan lies along the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River. Besides being home to the largest population in China, it also produces the country's most concentrated agricultural output. Throughout history, this area has been called the Central Plains Region, which is also considered to be the birthplace of Chinese civilization. For these reasons, Henan was once at the center of China's politics, economy and culture for millennia.
The province has four of China's eight ancient capital cities, including Luoyang, Kaifeng, Anyang and Zhengzhou. And the area is home to some of the most ancient of proto-Chinese artifacts, such as the world-renowned oracle bone scripts, Jiaguwen, which show the origins of Chinese writing that were unearthed in Anyang. Perhaps the most popularly revered cultural resource in the area, though, is the Shaolin Temple, the cradle of Chinese kungfu, which lies in Dengfeng City.
For a long time, Henan placed its development in the hands of agriculture, leaving these and other abundant cultural resources underdeveloped.
In September 2005, Xu Guangchun, Secretary of Henan Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China, visited Xinzheng and decided to develop the cultural resources when he learned more about the area's culture. He wanted to make Xinzheng the centerpiece of developing Henan's cultural heritage. The Huangdi ceremony, which began the next year, became the focal point of plans.
In the following years, the provincial government put serious energy into developing Henan's cultural attractions and has released comprehensive measures to that end. Xu said the final aim is to realize development in both economy and culture.