Wanning people:rough but delicate?

Qionghai has been shining brilliantly because of the Boao Forum for Asia. Wenchang has been more and more developed after the construction of the Space City. Now it is time for Wanning to show off its beauty.

A few years ago, the traffic was inconvenient, and Wanning was relatively far away from Haikou, compared with Wenchang and Qionghai. Thus, it was more difficult for Wanning to connect with Haikou. Moreover, visitors to Sanya still may not go to Wanning, though it is close to Sanya . A few days ago, I paid a visit to Wanning and found that many streets in Wancheng were still the same as in the last century. So this place may be a good choice if you want to make films setting in the towns of last century. My Wanning friends said that the reason why the old downtown of Wancheng has not changed is that visitors from inside or outside Hainan province usually do not stay in Wancheng and love to visit Xinglong. The modern color of Xinglong is stronger than that of Wancheng, and even there are much more karaoke bars than that of Wancheng. In addition, Xinglong has tropical gardens and botanical gardens, people there seem to live in a huge park.

Compared to Xinglong, Wanning has Dongshanling, Liulianling, and a long coastline, as well as Taiyang River, Longgun River, Longtou River and Longwei River. There are both mountains and waters, which contributes to the tolerance in Wanning people's personality.

Are Wanning people less "noncommittal"?

Not long ago, I took a bus to Wanning. Fu Li, a writer from Wanning in the same car with me, talked about the characteristics of Wanning people. He said that the emotion world of Wanning people is somewhat like the weather in Hainan, where there is less gloomy transition between sunny and stormy days. Wanning people are rarely noncommittal between love and non-love: if they respect you, they will treat you very friendly; while they also can be merciless if they don not like you.

Fu Li's statement reminds me of the past time. Many years ago, due to the work, I often traveled among the three cities in the eastern part of Hainan. Qionghai people usually warmly welcome everyone. Wenchang people have seen so many celebrities at home and abroad that they are open-minded to meet anyone and have their own standards on how to treat you. But if Wanning people do not know you very well, then saying goodbye usually means never seeing you again; while once they make friends with you, they will be rather warm-hearted and loyal.

In the demand of work, I often go to Wanning, where I can gain the warm reception from  people here at time. A Wanning friend, Chen Guangsheng, used a Hainan saying to explain their hospitality: treating friends everyday will not become poor, while being a thief every night will not become rich as well. In other words, they are not bothered by frequent visit of their friends.

The contrast between roughness and delicacy

Wanning people look straightforward and don not like to speak vaguely, but they also can be delicate on enjoying life. They are so exquisite that they can tell whether the fish living in pure salty seawater or living where salty and fresh water meet, just according to the compliance of fish meat.

Zheng Lijian,a writer from Wanning told me that due to near Sanya at the southern end of Hainan island, the weather in Wanning is probably hotter than Wenchang and Qionghai. Therefore, Wanning people developed a special eating habit in their daily life. Because it was difficult to eat dry rice in the morning and noon, and in addition to the difficulties in rural life in the 20th century, Wanning people usually cooked a large pot of sweet potato porridge or rice porridge in the morning. If they had rice, there would be sweet potato porridge mixed with rice; if not, there would be pure sweet potato porridge. Half of porridge was eaten for breakfast, and the rest for lunch with fish or dried radish and rice. At night, they were used to having rice with meat dishes, but some poor families were not able to eat meat. When life was very difficult, it was usual to have sweet potato porridge all day, letting alone meat or fish. Now Wanning people live an affluent life, meat and fish can appear on the table for three meals, but the previous eating habits are still maintained. They have three meals a day: porridge for breakfast and lunch, and rice for dinner where dishes are more hearty. Besides, Wanning people must eat seafood everyday, or they will be annoyed if there is no fish dish for half a month.

Small fishes from Gangbei and Houan, such as mullets, flounders, mud crabs and Chinese herrings, are the specialty of Wanning. Mud crabs and Houan mullets are the most famous seafood.

The taste of whitebait, Tongpan fish, sardine fish and Liuhe fish is delicious, fresh and sweet in soup. Wanning people call them "patient’s fishes", because they could not afford such fishes in difficult times. Only if their family members were ill could they buy these fishes to supplement nutrition.

Wanning people like eating small fishes in Gangbei and are particular about their cooking methods. Clear boiled small fishes soup is the main cooking method, and then the following is fried fish and steamed fish. Even there is a saying that fresh fish soup is better than ginseng or Cubilose.

Wanning people said that "no fish, no meal", of which crab is the first dish, then followed by Dongshan goat, and fish is absolutely the indispensable one.

Zheng Lijian emphasized that it is impossible for Wanning people to treat guests without fish.

Thus, fish, especially seawater fish,is both a necessity and a luxury in Wanning people's life, and is also regarded as a symbol of hospitality here.

The delicate side of Wanning people

When it comes to Wanning people, Pan Shanwu, from Haikou Federation of Literature and Art, said that it is believed that Wanning people are rude, that is, the "hei qing" in Hainan dialect, and they somewhat lack gentle bearing. However, as a person living in Wanning, Pan Shanwu was deeply impressed by the respect for teachers and etiquette details of Wanning people. In fact, they also have a very delicate side on the esteem for culture and intellectuals.

In Pan's childhood memory, whenever there was a festival and Hou’an people cooked some delicious food, the first thing that coming to their mind was teacher. Every family strove to invite  teachers to dinner or sent delicious food to teachers’ home. He still remembered that a teacher  once slapped a child so heavily that five fingers marks were appearing on the child's face. However, his parents neither were angry with the teacher, nor complaint to the principal. Instead, they told the teacher that if the child was too naughty, he could still beat him. Children here were not afraid of anyone, but they all respected their teachers and would greet teachers first when they met from a distance. If there had not been such a custom of respecting teachers at that time, it would be impossible for so many Wanning scholars today to make great achievements.

Wanning people once maintained a very good condition in inheriting the traditional culture, even what seems to be dross today. For example, in the case of male superiority, no matter how heavy the household chores were, wife still had to do her best to entertain guests when they came. After the meal had been prepared, husband and guests were invited to the table for dinner, while wife would hide in the corner of the room, either having worse food than the table, or eating the rest on the table, without any complaint.

Betel nut is of special significance to Wanning people. When brides and grooms visit their family, betel nut is an essential gift. With betel nut playing the leading role, other gifts can be more or less. Also, if you unfortunately have a foe but want to reconcile with him or her, betel nut can be used to solve this problem. The method is that during the Chinese New Year, you cut a betel nut in half and present it to your foe with both hands. If your foe takes a piece of betel nut to chew, it means that you reconcile with each other and there will be no problem anymore. On New Year's Day, the younger generation pays a visit to the elder, and betel nut is also an important ceremonial prop. When the elder eat betel nut from the younger generation, they will give red envelopes with money to show their love.

Responsible editor: 丁昕
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