The organizing committee for the upcoming Mojiang International Twins Festival (墨江国际双胞胎节) — held May 1-2 — were pleased to introduce the double faces of their current advertising campaign. During the weekend press conference, the official promotional song for the two-day event was also unveiled, as local media inquired about preparations for the upcoming 'twin-undation'.
Held at the Telecom International Hotel (泰丽国际酒店), the conference room was big enough for more than 100 invited guests. Attendees mostly consisted of journalists and photographers from local newspapers and television stations. We were greeted by two friendly looking pairs of twins in traditional Hani clothing at the entrance and, after many smiles and greetings, one young lady handed us a hefty bag promotional literature before guiding us into the room. We were the first guests to arrive, choosing fourth row seats just behind those reserved for committee members, sponsors and other honored guests.
Scheduled for 2pm, the press conference started with a slight 30-minute delay. The wait provided us with enough time to work our way through the abundance of informational material found in our goody-bag. We learned that Mojiang (墨江) is an autonomous county in the prefecture of Pu'er (普洱). Nestled among subtropical mountains somewhat near the Vietnamese border, it is known for producing high-quality tea products and for its year-round warm weather. Home to the Hani minority, Mojiang isn't commonly referred to as a tourism hotspot, except for once a year.
It isn't the local architecture or traditional dances that make it special. It is the region's exceptionally high percentage of twin births. Normally the chance of conceiving identical twins is slim — only about three out of 1,000. But with more then 1,500 identical twins and triplets, such births in Mojiang come around 25 percent more frequently then in the rest of the world. No one knows why this happens, and contributing factors such as inherited genes, the climate, and local well water have all been put forward as explanations.
The conference room filled up and conversations came to close as the press conference got underway. It began with an introduction of the winning twins from last years televised talent show, complete with a short display of the pair's winning ballet skills. Next, the official song for this year's festival was unveiled, sung live by a pair of twins from Mojiang. It immediately seemed to catch on, as some members of the committee, as well as a few journalists, started to hum along with the refrain.
Mojiang's yearly twin festival will include a lot of singing and dancing, plus celebrations of local Hani culture and everything twin-related in general. Identical twins from all over the world are invited to the festival to participate in these activities, which culminate in a huge talent show. It isn't always what most would consider a 'normal' talent, such as a dueling piano performance or singing, that takes first prize. A few years ago, a pair of Russian twins won the talent show for dancing provocatively while dressed in matching skintight catsuits.
After an explanation of the festival schedule — which in addition to showcasing international twins will also heavily promote southern Yunnan minority culture as a tourism draw — the organizational committee took the stage to answer questions. Some of the queries were surprising. When asked if the twin festival and its more then 250,000 expected tourist attendees would have a negative influence on Mojiang and its environment, a spokesman replied that every possible precaution to minimize such effects had been taken. The gathered media were told environmental consultants from Yunnan University were advising on how best to mitigate any damage.
The Mojiang International Twins Festival grows and garners more press attention to this small corner of Yunnan every year, a spokesman asserted. Furthermore, he explained, Mojiang's economy is mostly dependent on agricultural products such as tea, rubber and walnuts. The yearly occurrence of such a huge festival is certainly a time for fun and cultural celebration, but it is also a much-welcomed second source of income for the local community, he concluded.
Promotional images: Mojiang International Twins Festival
Other images: Andy Telvig