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The 1st China (Hainan) Dongpo Cultural Tourism Festival (Hainan Dongpo Fest) commenced on February 18, according to the Hainan International Media Center.

Opening ceremonies for Hainan Dongpo Fest, which will continue until the end of March, were held concurrently in Haikou, the capital of southern China’s Hainan Province, and Danzhou, the former place of exile of Su Shi (Su Dongpo), the life of whom the festival explores and celebrates. Communities around the island province will also be holding a variety of activities during the festival.

The festival has led to a resurgence of interest in Su Dongpo (1037-1101), a cultural giant of the Song Dynasty who was a prominent figure in Chinese classic literature known for his achievements in poetry, prose, calligraphy, painting, and even gastronomy. Su was denounced and exiled to Hainan for involvement in political factions. He lived on the island for three years, leaving local residents with a profound and influential cultural heritage.

At the International Forum on Dongpo Culture held in Haikou, Professor Wang Zhaopeng of Sichuan University shared the fruits of his research. Of the 1485 academicians involved in studying Song Dynasty history during the 20th century, a vast majority of them specialized in researching the life and historical context of Su Shi, both on his own merits and as a representative figure of the Song Dynasty.

“In recent years, there has been an increasing emphasis on Dongpo culture across Hainan,” Li Gui, a professor at Shanghai Normal University’s School of Humanities, said at the forum. Last summer, he visited Danzhou, where he had found elements of Dongpo culture incorporated at every corner.

Returning to Hainan after a year away, Li has discovered further developments concerning Dongpo culture. “Haikou has developed the Dongpo Old Wharf as a complex integrating culture, tourism, and commerce and bringing elements of Su Dongpo’s gastronomical acclaim to life. I’ve even seen young people dressed up in Song-Dynasty attire to live the ‘Dongpo Experience’. Dongpo culture clearly runs deep in Hainan.”

Su Dongpo’s fame is not limited to China. In 2000, France’s Le Monde chose 12 figures from around the globe as “Heroes of the Millennium”, with Su being the only one from China selected. In recent years, Hainan has also strengthened studies on Dongpo culture, organizing regular seminars and establishing a research center. Dongpo culture offers a promising platform for research cooperation between Hainan and the rest of the world.

“As a free trade port with Chinese characteristics, Hainan has continued to open its door wider, and the island will receive increasing numbers of visitors from around the globe.” Li Gui indicated that Hainan should capitalize on the global fame of Su Dongpo and, by innovatively developing more targeted cultural products to appeal to the broadest range of visitors, spread Dongpo culture further beyond China’s borders.