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China’s Fangchenggang: a blending of natural beauty and port economy

Accolades for Fangchenggang:

Home of egrets in China (中国白鹭之乡)
A well-known city for having longevity clusters in China (中国长寿之乡)
A famous city with natural oxygen (中国氧都)

Located on the Gulf of Tonkin coast, Fangchenggang city(防城港市) of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is the only city in China that borders with an ASEAN member country, Vietnam, by sea and land. It is also an important port for Guangxi.

With a total land area of 6,222 square kilometers, the city has a population of 915,600, according to the 2012 census. The city is inhabited by 21 ethnic groups including Han(汉族), Zhuang(壮族), Yao (瑶族), Jing (京族) etc. Mandarin Chinese is in common use in Fangchenggang with other popular spoken languages being Cantonese, given its historical link to Guangdong province, and the local dialets of Zhuang, Yao and Jing.

Dongxing(东兴), a county level city under the administration of Fangchenggang, is a popular abode of retired and old people. As the lyrics of a local folk song amply illustrate:

People in their 80s are not old, people in their 90s can be found everywhere and people in their 100s are still in good health.

According to the local officials, many people choose to move to Dongxing after retirement for the beautiful countryside and the clean air rich in “negative oxygen ions” which is beneficial for the human body.

With over half of the land area covered by forest, there are 2182.4 hectares of mangrove forest on the coastline of Fangchenggang city, as large as over 4,000 American football fields, which is the largest concentration in China. Local people call it Hongshulin(红树林), or red woods, because the inside of the trunk of the tree is red.

Mangrove forest is a symbol of clean environment, because it will not grow in polluted environment.

Apart from its role in protecting the beach and purifying the air, the mangrove forest offers home for tens of thousands migratory birds. And among the birds, egrets, who used to migrate to the south during the late summer and early autumn, have chosen to stay.

The three islands of Wanwei(万尾), Wutou(巫头) and Shanxin(山心) in Dongxing are the only habitat of the Jing ethnic group in China. The Jing, also called the Kinh nationality in Vietnam, is the country’s largest ethnic group. The Ha Festival(哈节), an event to commemorate the god of the sea which climaxes with people singing all through the night, is the most important festival of the Jing people, who have lived on marine fishing for generations. “Ha” means singing in Jing language.

Jing girls play monochord, a musical instrument of the Jing people which is a unique tradition of art and also a national intangible cultural heritage of China.

Fangchenggang has plenty of special products among which the “five reds and five goldens”(五红五金) are most well-known. The “five reds” are red sweet potatoes(红薯), red peanuts(红衣花生), red wax apples(红莲雾), red pitayas (红龙果) and red star anises(红八角). The “five goldens” refer to golden camellias(金花茶), golden tangerines(金蜜橘), golden sticky rice(金香糯), golden cinnamons(金肉桂) and golden pineapple(金菠萝).

Port industries

Two boys in Fangchenggang look at thecity's layout on June 1, 2013. Photo: Carol WU/Sino-US.com

As one of the 12 major port hubs of China, Fanchenggang has a coastline of 584 kilometers and 115 berths. In the year 2012, its cargo handling capacity reached 100 million tons, accounting for almost 60% of the total of Guangxi ports.

The construction of a nuclear power station with a total investment of 25.6 billion yuan ($4.17 billion) was started on July 30, 2010. It is the first nuclear power station in western China and is expected to be put into operation in 2015. Besides, the construction of an iron and steel base with a total investment of 63.99 billion yuan ($10.4 billion) and a nonferrous metal processing project with a total investment of over 30 billion yuan ($4.89 billion) is in progress, according to local officials. The grain and cooking oil processing base of the city with an annual production value of 30 billion yuan is the largest in China.

Streetscape of Fangchenggang city. Photo: Baidu Baike

 

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