Traditional Chinese art struggles to regain lost ground (3)

08:36, June 16, 2011      

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For years, both the Chinese government and the country's artists have spared no effort to promote the spread of traditional art forms.

In 2004, China joined UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage safeguard convention, pledging to pay greater attention to the preservation of its intangible cultural history. A law concerning the protection of intangible cultural heritage will be passed by Chinese legislators in June.

The provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, Fujian and Jiangsu have also unveiled regulations to preserve their local traditional arts.

"The protection of traditional arts is like a fight," said Cai Shaohua, head of the Suzhou Kunju Opera Theater.

Fortunately, it seems to be a fight that Cai and his colleagues are winning.

Cai says that Kunqu has won favor among college students in recent years. These students have a background in fine arts education and have enough spare time to learn about and enjoy these neglected art forms.

"Kunqu is beginning to attract the attention of the younger generation. The challenge ahead is to add modern aspects to these traditional arts," said Bai Xianyong, a renowned writer from Taiwan who has spent years promoting Kunqu.

In 2004, he proposed a new version of "The Peony Pavilion," a classic Kunqu Opera piece. He proposed adding modern elements to the play and chose younger actors and actresses to perform it, making it markedly more popular with the country's younger generation of opera enthusiasts.

Bai's version of the play has been performed over 200 times and attracted 360,000 fans, approximately 75 percent of whom are younger Chinese.

Bai previously presented a series of lectures on Kunqu classics at China's prestigious Beijing University. The lectures were acclaimed by the university's students as the most popular public lectures in the school's history.

"With more young Chinese beginning to enjoy Kunqu and other traditional performances, these ancient arts will soon regain their lost ground," Cai says.

However, Fu Jin, a professor at Beijing's National Academy of Chinese Theater Arts, pointed out that Kunqu will continue to face obstacles in its path toward regaining popularity, such as a lack of playwrights, directors and composers

"It's hard for a playwright to create a new Kunqu opera if he or she does not know at least 1,500 ancient Chinese poems," Fu said.

Source: Xinhua

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