Dongkeng Town was originally a village founded by the Lu family from Nanxiong (in Shaoguan City today) back in the Southern Song Dynasty. Since the village resided to the east of a puddle, it was named Dongkeng, or East Puddle Village. The village prospered and gradually other new villages formed around it.
A town finally came into being around 1187. Dongkeng was bestowed with convenient location and fertile land, which led to trade with merchants from as far as Guangzhou and Huizhou on farm products. Before the Opening-up Policy in 1978, Dongkeng was a traditional agricultural town of rice, lychee, longan, sugar cane, mango and so on. After the opening up, modern industries boomed in Dongkeng. Its own Labor-Selling Festival, which has a lot to do with its agricultural history, stands as one of the most special festivals existing in Dongguan today.
Dongkeng is located in the center part of Dongguan, making it convenient to travel to Guangzhou, Huizhou, and Shenzhen, and it’s only an eight minute drive from the Dongguan Train Station in Shilong. But the town is not so easily spotted on the map for it is the third smallest among the 32 towns and districts.
Dongkeng has undergone the transformation from a small agricultural town into a new industrial one, like most towns in Dongguan. Given its size and capacity, the government’s ambition and the economic outcome might not quite match. But its endeavor to balance the economic development, environment protection and cultural reservation can be seen throughout the town.
WHAT CAN I DO?
There is a very unique festival in Dongkeng relating to its agricultural history called Maishen Jie or Labor Selling Festival. The festival, which is held on day two of the second month of the Chinese calendar, is a celebration commemorating people’s hard work in the fields in olden times.
More than 400 years ago, at the end of the Ming Dynasty, rich families in Dongkeng hired young people on that day for plowing fields to commence the annual planting. Jobless peasants poured in wearing bamboo hats and sweat towels signaling their willingness to sell their labor.
Today the festival features folk and dragon dancing, folk art sales and a job fair. But the coolest part is the water fight. People point water guns at you and “fire” at will, instead of pouring water at you using buckets which they did a few years ago. Giving a good laugh while getting soaked is the charm that draws participants from all over Guangdong.
Dongkeng has another thing to its name: Tangbu shuai, or sweet but very sticky rice balls. It’s a kind of dessert similar to tangyuan glutinous rice balls that most Chinese are familiar with, but it’s made and served in a different way. Tangbu shuai has no fillings so it’s more sticky and chewy than Tangyuan, as its Chinese name indicates, “sweet but can’t be swung apart.”
When it’s served, it doesn’t come with soup but is sprinkled with ground peanut or sometimes with sesame and shredded coconut. Tangbu shuai has long been a very traditional and popular dessert in Dongguan, but in Dongkeng, you can taste the most authentic.
If you start from Dongguan Bus Station, take bus No. L3 get off at Fuzhu shan stop and transfer to bus No. 76 at Xingdu stop.
If you start from Dongguan Nancheng Bus Station, take bus No. 16 to Dongguan East Bus Station and transfer to bus No. 76.
If you start from Dongguan East Bus Station, take bus No. 76.
If you take a taxi, it costs about RMB 100 to get there from Dongcheng.
Location: center Dongguan
Area: 27.5 square kilometers
Journey time: around 50 minutes by car and 2 hours by bus from downtown
Local attractions: Labor Selling Festival, Tangbu shuai