Culture and Tourism

Culture, kinship ease passage across Strait

Updated: Dec 26, 2023 By Zhang Yi,Shi Xuefan and Hu Meidong China Daily Print
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More Taiwan compatriots move to Fujian province as incentives rolled out. Zhang Yi, Shi Xuefan and Hu Meidong report.

An ancient temple in Chengnei village, Xiamen city, Fujian province, has helped attract a group of young Taiwan entrepreneurs who are inspired by its historic and cultural links to the island.

Lai Shu-jen, a young musician from Taiwan, has been promoting rural culture to aid the vitalization of Xiamen. She has written a song about the village's Xiacheng City God Temple which contains the words: "Grandmother told me that beyond the sea, there is a City God temple, that's where our roots are."

In the 1850s immigrants from Fujian who traveled to Taiwan built the Xiahai City God Temple in Taipei which has since become popular with worshippers.

The City God statue worshipped in the Taipei temple was relocated from Chengnei village by the immigrants.

"This connection makes me feel at home while working here," said Lai. The similar culture, way of life, and dialects spoken in Xiamen and Taiwan, eventually influenced Lai and her friends to stay in Fujian.

Chang Ya-wen, a taekwondo coach from Taiwan, teaches two students in a gym in Fuzhou, Fujian. HU MEIDONG/CHINA DAILY

They have launched a cross-Strait exchange base in Chengnei to receive more visits from Taiwan and have organized activities such as temple fairs so visitors can experience local customs. They have raised two cats in the village and named them "Brother Fujian" and "Sister Taiwan".

More people from Taiwan have moved to Fujian as the province offers a variety of incentives — in addition to its close geographical proximity — to cross the Strait and settle down.

The Chinese character rong, which refers to cross-Strait integration, was chosen as the 2023 character across the Taiwan Strait. About 15 million netizens participated in the recent vote.

Zhu Fenglian, a spokeswoman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, said the character represents "the heartfelt desire of compatriots on both sides to achieve peace, development, communication and cooperation".

In September, the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, China's Cabinet, jointly issued a circular, saying the country will make Fujian a demonstration zone for integrated development across the Taiwan Strait.

The objective, said the circular, is to make Fujian the first-choice destination for Taiwan residents and enterprises to pursue development on the mainland, advancing the peaceful reunification of the motherland.

Lai Shu-jen (middle) and her friends from Taiwan record their trip to the Xiacheng City God Temple in Xiamen, Fujian. HU MEIDONG/CHINA DAILY

Strength of kinship

Zhu Dingbo, former deputy head of the China Museum for Fujian-Taiwan Kinship in Quanzhou, southern Fujian, said the greatest advantage Fujian has is its kinship with Taiwan, which is the foundation for peaceful development.

About 80 percent of Taiwan people can trace their ancestry back to Fujian. Due to their proximity, there have been numerous instances in history of large-scale population migrations between Fujian and Taiwan.

Fujian immigrants settled in Taiwan based on clan relationships, and nostalgically named their new homes after their old ones. As a result, many villages and streets in Fujian and Taiwan share the same names.

The new arrivals also brought their beliefs and customs to Taiwan. They built ancestral temples for their families in Taiwan, and documented the arrivals of the first generation from Fujian in their family trees.

Chen Yan-ting (left) and Chang Ya-wen help with interviews at a community in Fuzhou designated for Taiwan people, that assist them in settling on the Chinese mainland. HU MEIDONG/CHINA DAILY

On tombstones in Taiwan, many of the deceased have their family's hometowns in Fujian inscribed to make clear their origins.

Zhu is an expert in genealogy research who frequently travels to villages in Taiwan to help people trace their roots to the mainland.

"Almost every family has a blood tie with a mainland family. They are brothers and sisters. When asked where their ancestors are from, they will tell you excitedly — Quanzhou, Zhangzhou and other Fujian places," he said.

Zhu said ancestral worship and tracing family roots are traditional customs on both sides. He hopes more Taiwan compatriots can visit their ancestral homes and meet their mainland relatives, to promote family interaction and ultimately advance the integration of Fujian and Taiwan.

Invitation extended

To support such integration, mainland authorities listed specific measures in September, including convenient transportation, deeper industrial cooperation, and easier adaptation to local life to facilitate Taiwan compatriots moving to Fujian.

To help Taiwan people settle in and reduce their living costs, a community designated for them was launched in Fuzhou, Fujian's capital, last year. It is the first such community on the mainland and offers rental properties at prices below market rate.

Chen Yan-ting, a taekwondo coach from Taiwan, moved into an apartment in the community last year with her partner. They opened a taekwondo gym in Fuzhou as the market was too saturated in Taiwan. Currently, they have around 60 students.

They have made clever use of the space in their apartment. In the small living room, there is a stack of stools in the corner to provide more seating when needed.

"Students and their parents often come to our home for meals," Chen said. "They are my friends and they also recommend more clients."

Chen also manages a cross-Strait exchange center to welcome Taiwan youths to the mainland.

She said she hopes to foster more exchanges between children from both sides of the Strait through sports activities.

"They can build friendships from a young age. The children can leave contact information for each other, chat regularly and eventually become friends," she said.

In Chen's apartment, families from both sides of the Strait mix and become friends and often help each other out.

Chen Wenjing, the community director, said that the community helps Taiwan households pair up with mainland neighbors who help them adjust to local life.

Residents from both sides also organize activities to celebrate festivals together.

She said she was moved by a Taiwan compatriot living in the community who told her, "Taiwan is my home, and now Fuzhou is my home".

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