HAIKOU, China, Feb. 8, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — The Spring Festival, the most significant festival in Chinese culture, was just around the corner. Wu Qizhen, the 66-year-old successor of a traditional sugar-making technique included in the intangible cultural heritage list, was busy instructing workers to manufacture the brown sugar for the last “sweet” order before the festival on February 3.
Mr. Wu’s brown sugar workshop was established in Zuntan Town, the south of Haikou, Hainan province. According to historical records, the traditional sugar-making industry has existed in Zuntan Town for over 600 years. The local sugarcane provides the raw material for the Zuntan brown sugar, which is manufactured through such procedures as juicing, boiling and solidifying. It is known as the “Oriental Chocolate” with high nutritional and medicinal value.
Mr. Wu told us that his brown sugar is made with an ancestral technique, including juice extraction, filtration, boiling and crystallization. The process of turning raw sugarcane juice into syrup takes about 8 to 12 hours. After the boiling, the syrup is poured into molds to get cubes after solidification and air-drying. Those sugar cube has the attractive shape and color of chocolate, but the taste is refreshingly sweet after it rapidly melts in the mouth.
According to Mr. Wu, the locals have regarded the traditional sugar-making technique as a sweet but hard-working skill with a low yield. Now, there are only five traditional sugar technique successors in Zuntan Town, all of whom are over 50 years old.
Mr. Wu’s traditional brown sugar workshop has been listed as an intangible cultural heritage project in Haikou (at the provincial level). In addition to the traditional product portfolio of the ginger brown sugar, the rose brown sugar and jujube brown sugar, Mr. Wu planned to invent a new variety with Hainan characteristics, the coconut brown sugar. He also upgraded the production equipment in 2020, and began to train his son to be the sixth generation of traditional sugar technique successor. “Perhaps, there will be more people willing to learn the traditional art of sugar-making when the sugar workshop gains more growth,” said Mr. Wu.
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Caption: The worker pours the boiled brown sugar syrup into a mold and waits for it to be air-dried into sugar cubes.