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Country fair craze sweeps nation's Generation Z

XINHUA | Updated: 2023-02-02 09:04
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People purchase Spring Festival adornments at a country fair in Qingdao, Shandong province, on Jan 13. ZHANG YING/XINHUA

JINAN — Steamed buns, fresh oysters and scallops. Li Chuyun filled the trunk of his car with delicacies following a busy day of shopping at a country fair in Shandong province.

Located on the outskirts of the coastal city of Rushan, the Haiyangsuo Fair has been held for hundreds of years. Roughly every five days, a dazzling array of seafood, agricultural produce, clothes and daily necessities are displayed along both sides of the road, stretching a length of some 2 kilometers and attracting thousands of people from nearby villages and beyond.

Li was one of many young urbanites who had made a special trip to the fair. With the Spring Festival ongoing at the time, it was even more bustling than usual, filled with excited holiday shoppers.

This kind of festive mood is rare now in the cities.

"When I was a child, I often went to the fair with my parents, but I didn't go as much after I grew up," the 21-year-old college student said.

Recently, however, a fascination for country fairs has gripped China's Generation Z. On popular mobile platforms such as Douyin and Xiaohongshu, photos and vlogs about country fairs flourish. Some share the open-air dining experience, while many others focus on the authentic local produce on sale.

Many traditional dishes and ordinary vendors have suddenly found unexpected fame after being featured by social media influencers. Swiping through their phones and drooling with envy, netizens have swarmed the comment sections asking for addresses and prices, or simply to express how much they wished they were there.

Yang Chenlu, a 19-year-old who grew up in Dongying in Shandong, was feeling homesick after she started attending college in northern China last year.

After returning home for the winter vacation, Yang visited a local fair and instantly fell in love with it.

"The familiar aroma of snacks, the cries of street vendors and small talk among neighbors — this is what hometown happiness is about!" she wrote on her social media page.

Young people enjoy new things, but in recent years, a deep interest in culture and heritage such as traditional clothing has become the new chic, the craze amplified by social media.

This has also been the case for country fairs, where the combined charm of home, childhood memories and delicious food resonates deeply with the young generation.

"Traditional fairs are storehouses of time-honored customs, dialects, specialty products and lifestyles," said Sun Jiashan, an associate researcher at the Chinese National Academy of Arts.

Local governments have also contributed to the rising popularity of country fairs, introducing a slew of policies to encourage purchasing and develop fair-oriented tourism.

"Young Chinese are taking the lead in passing on traditional culture and sharing China's stories with more people in the world," he added.

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