Zhongtang Town Guide

On June 20, 2013, village teams gather in front of the finish line at the Dragon Boat Square spectators’ stage. The annual inner-township competition takes place this year on June 13. (Credit: Ye Jia Ming)

On June 20, 2013, village teams gather in front of the finish line at the Dragon Boat Square spectators’ stage. The annual inner-township competition takes place this year on June 13. (Credit: Ye Jia Ming)

HISTORY

Zhongtang was established as a village more than 1,000 years ago dating back to the Song Dynasty. Thanks to its watery geography, inhabitants cultivated crops with great success, mainly rice. With the males out in the fields, village women, mostly housewives, toiled away de-husking with wooden mortars.

The sound of rice husking and pounding was so loud and penetrating that it transmitted miles away. For that reason the village took the name Chongtang, or a Rice Husking Hall at that time. Over time the village grew into a middle-sized trading fair, and because there was an increased necessity for written contracts, Chong changed into its homophone Zhong for written simplification. So Zhongtang is what its name shows today.

TODAY

Today Zhongtang Town resides at the very northwest end of Dongguan, a stone’s throw away from Xintang Town from Guangzhou. It’s also where State Route 107 goes through, making it a very popular entertainment destination for people from Guangzhou. But since the government’s massive crack down on the illegal sex industry early last year, signs of depression in the hotel and KTVs have been seen.

The East River winds its path through Zhongtang, so it’s not difficult to lead you to the fact that the town’s swimming team is among the best in Dongguan, and so is its paper-making industry, which requires a lot of water and crop resources. The town provides over 40 percent of the market share of paper production in Dongguan, over a quarter for the whole Pearl River Delta.

WHAT CAN I DO?

Around the Dragon Boat Festival, the races are a must see, and along with other watery towns, Zhongtang is among the best. But what you might not know is that more than 90 percent of the dragon boats are being made in Zhongtang every year.

A village called Doulang in Zhongtang draws dragon boat buyers from other towns and even from other cities. It’s said that the village has more than 200 year’s history making dragon boats. It would be a really cool experience if you could get a chance to witness how a piece of wood is being built into a masterpiece. Zhuo Xing Dragon Boat Factory in Doulang is the most prestigious and historical compared to the other seven in Zhongtang. The director himself has been doing this for over 30 years.

You might have heard that people have voted the eight greatest sceneries in Dongguan, and there is one in Zhongtang, too. In Huangyong Village which is to the east of Zhongtang, lies an ancestral temple of the Li Family. The temple was built in the Song Dynasty to commemorate a very nice son from the Li family. He was so nice that he cut flesh from his leg to mix it with medicine to cure his severely sick mother.

In Zhontang’s Yuan Jia Cong Village, senior citizens spend their free time together in January of 2014. (Credit: Liu En Hua)

In Zhontang’s Yuan Jia Cong Village, senior citizens spend their free time together in January of 2014. (Credit: Liu En Hua)

The temple is a compound complex consisting of three halls, two courtyards and fifteen rooms. Inside wood carving with Chinese characters hanging on the walls praise the virtues and merits of the ancestors. The most impressive attractions in the temple are various colorful carvings extolling nature. They are in the forms of brick, pottery, stone, lime and things like that.

You may have tried wontons, or Chinese dumplings, but have you tried them wrapped with fish? In Zhongtang, they make it in a different way and even with a different name. Yú bāo means fish bun. They cut off the tenderest part of the fish and beat it into pulp then spread it into a square wrapper and fill it. The best part about this cuisine is that no matter what filling you put in, it always goes with the flavor of fresh fish.

GETTING THERE

There are bus lines that go directly to Zhongtang from Dongguan main bus stations. If you go by car or taxi, it takes about 30 minutes and costs 60 RMB taxi fare from downtown Dongguan.

TOWN FACTS

Location: Northwest Dongguan
Area: 60 sq.kilometers
Population: 220,000
Journey time: around 30 minutes from downtown
Local Attractions: Dragon Boat Factory, Li Ancestor Temple, Huangyong Village, fish buns