Profits Rise in ‘Snake Villiage’ Zisiqiao
As the year of the snake approaches, the BBC’s Martin Patience visited the ‘snake village’ of Zisiqiao, where villagers expect to see a profitable year due to the Lunar New Year:
The reptiles are reared for their meat, which is sold to restaurants, and their body parts, which are highly sought after in traditional Chinese medicine.
“In the year of snake we hope our company’s profits will double,” says Yang Hongchang, the 61-year-old farmer who introduced snake breeding to the village decades ago.
But with rising demand for snakes, the once poor village of Zisiqiao is now relatively wealthy, with many residents boasting revenue of tens of thousands of dollars.
“Snakes are my saviour,” he said. “When I first came here I was scared of snakes but that’s no longer the case.”
Aside from Zisiqiao, Chau Ka-Ling in Hong Kong says she serves over 1000 bowls of snake soup on her busiest days, Reuters reports:
Trained by her father in childhood to handle snakes, Chau, now in her early 50s, took over the business he founded, serving up a small bowl of soup for $35 Hong Kong dollars.
From boiling the essence out of snake, chicken and pig bones, to spicing it up with an array of ingredients that include five types of snake meat, the traditional southern Chinese snack can take over six hours to make.
Yet as the cold deepens in the weeks leading up to the Chinese New Year and the Year of the Snake it ushers in on Feb 10, Hong Kong locals huddle inside small street shops like hers.
“I’ve killed snakes for so many year, but actually I don’t want to. Because there are fewer and fewer snakes now,” she said. “But I can’t make a career change. There’s nothing else I can do.”
According to China Daily, Chinese reception of the snake has had mixed responses as it is usually associated with venom:
On these occasions, Chinese people have traditionally resorted to euphemisms to represent the snake in an auspicious light. The dragon, a symbol of power and majesty, is often used to stand in for its earthbound peer, which is certainly one of the reasons for envisioning the mythical animal; hence the term “the little dragon”.
While overwhelmingly repulsed by the snake, Chinese sentiments for the 2013 zodiac animal can be more complex, varying with time and locality. In Fujian province, the snake is held in a god-like position. It is not to be killed if found in a home, but removed gently into the wild. It is definitely not to be eaten as food. Some say they love the tickling of a python slithering around their body. At a mid-year festival, a parade is organised in which every participant holds a snake, which is supposed to bring them peace and harmony.
Maybe, given time, we can celebrate the Year of the Snake with an upbeat interpretation of the animal that incorporates our modern sensibilities. Maybe the snake can at once charm and be charmed. Maybe it can be male in form, a python of Herculean strength and courage…
Forget about that. The snake in Chinese incarnations will always remain female. You know what? As spelt out in pinyin, snake is “she”. I heard that’s the reason the Taiwan girl band S.H.E. was invited to the 2013 New Year’s Eve gala on national television.
Meanwhile, in order to celebrate the year of the snake, Shanghai Xintiandi is featuring installations by Liu Yi, from The People’s Daily Online:
A dramatic Snake Pavilion at the Xintiandi Piazza instantly catches the eye. Supported by silver-colored steel pipes, the structure is decorated with auspicious snake patterns and pulsating neon lights. The dazzling light and shadow evokes a dancing snake that brightens the whole square.
The pavilion and body of the snake is decorated with auspicious Chinese characters and symbols. These include the double fish meaning peace all year round, the double gourd meaning peace and auspiciousness and the Chinese knot meaning prosperity and connection.
Walking toward the entrance gate of Xintiandi Style shopping area, visitors see a snake-shaped neon installation, which appears to be a snake in the clouds and mist. The gateway arch and the body of the snake are decorated with various auspicious patterns that are both traditional and modern.
The artist creates a “moving snake” made of many fabric “scales.” It connects more than 1,000 Chinese characters(happiness) and the double fish paper-cuts to form an intertwined chain structure.
After the marriage rush on 12/12/12 and ‘love you forever day’, another China Daily article reports there is a superstition that says getting married during the year of the snake will bring bad luck:
According to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, there will be no li chun (the beginning of spring, one of 21 four-solar terms) during Lunar 2013. Some Chinese media have quoted Chinese experts as saying that it is “feudal superstition” to say Lunar 2013 will be “a widow year”, which means women who get married this year will suffer bad luck.
The reality is the young generation do not take the traditional belief seriously. Experts say there will be no significant effect on wedding-related commerce in 2013.
Looking around China, it seems the wedding-related business is not being affected by the “widow year”. Chinese media have already reported that in Shenyang, the capital of Northeast China’s Liaoning province, and Hefei, capital of East China’s Anhui province, wedding banquets to be held during this year’s May Day Holiday and the National Day Holiday in October are almost fully booked.
Compared with the older generation who like to check the almanac to see which year or which day is suitable for a wedding, the young generation are more concerned with how to make the ceremony more memorable.