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Goat Meat Village dines out on its history
By Tan Weiyun

A big bowl of goat meat and spicy goat blood soup, loaded with hot yang ("hot") energy to warm people up throughout the chilly winter, is a centuries-old traditional dish on the dining tables of farmers in Zhangqiao Village of Jinshanwei Town, Jinshan District.

The town's Goat Meat Festival is in full swing, offering various goat dishes - from liver and blood and legs - for not only local diners but also urban gourmets. The festival will run through January 6.

This year goat meat gourmands also have the chance to learn to sing traditional village songs, passed down through generations of local farmers.

"They are all impromptu performances," says villager Shen Zhihui, 77. "We don't have any lyrics. We sing when we want to sing. Sometimes we will be joined by other voices and expanded to a choir."

Jinshan village songs have just been collected, recorded and preserved as one of the district's intangible cultural heritages.

"It's a truly Jinshan experience, eating goat meat and humming village songs," Shen says with a smile.

The village's annual goat gala in winter goes back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) when the famous General Qi Jiguang (1528-1588) won a great victory over Japanese pirates who harassing communities along the coastal waters in the Zhangqiao area.

To celebrate the victory and reward his soldiers, the general ordered that a giant bronze pot be cast, which was said to be able to contain enough goat meat that could feed more than 1,000 people.

Thus the tradition of eating goat meat was passed down from generation to generation. During the 1960s, local farmer Huang Zhiyun, who raised and butchered goats, opened a modest restaurant offering goat meat.

For a long time, Huang's restaurant was the only one in the village offering goat meat. Then in 1996, with the widening of the Xinwei Road and the construction of Jinshi Road, other goat meat restaurants began to open nearby.

Many villagers started raising one or two goats at home and selling them later to the restaurants.

Earning the reputation of "Goat Meat Village" (a registered trademark), Zhangqiao has built up its goat industry, increasing goat raising and butchering and opening more restaurants and stalls in a central goat cuisine plaza.

For the past seven years, it has held goat festivals and aims to transform itself from a rural community into a tourist attraction with entertainment facilities, tea houses, motels and goat souvenir shops.

In recent years, the local village government, seeing the opportunity to develop the goat meat business as a way of increasing incomes for farmers, has launched a series of preferential policies to encourage villagers to raise goats.

A goat farming association was established last year, and the goats the villagers raise are guaranteed to be purchased by the association.

So far, more than 100 households in the village join the association, each family farming about 10 to 20 on average, which can generate about 2,000 goats each year. Other initiatives for raising goats take the number up to more than 4,500 annually.

"My main duty was to pick up my grandson from the school every afternoon and now I feed grass to the five goats in my backyard, which makes me occupied during the daytime. It's a very good pastime for me," says villager He Yinfang, 60. "It's so easy to raise goats. They are clean and only eat grass, which is growing everywhere in the village."

Sixty-two-year-old Shen Weizhen farms more than 50 goats, which has been her family's major income. Earlier this year Shen spent 2,500 yuan (US$400) to set up a new goat shed.

In 2006, the local government invested 3 million yuan to set up a 10,000-sqaure-meter goat base in the village and a 14,000-square-meter goat plaza, which housed many home-style bistros offering steaming hot goat dishes, three supermarkets of goat meat products, a central square and a parking lot.

In 2008 the government registered the trademark "Goat Meat Village," and this year sees the seventh version. It also developed various types of goat meat products in vacuum packaging for urban diners who want to take some home.

Traditional Chinese medicine holds that goat meat is especially good in winter as it contains hot energy, warming and powering your system.

An infusion of yang energy can help relieve blood stasis (poor circulation), some heart problems and menstrual irregularities.

Eating goat meat can also help expel toxins, especially when combined with drinking strong liquor such as baijiu or Chinese distilled alcoholic beverage.

During the goat meat festival, other Jinshan famed agricultural products, such as black kerneled rice, glutinous rice, red bean, green bean, bamboo leaves, rice straw and a wide range of fresh fruits are also on display and available.

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