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People's Daily Online>>Life & Culture

Centers of culture

By Mu Qian (China Daily)

10:07, April 16, 2012

Villagers stage a performance at a "cultural yard" in Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang province. Photos by Mu Qian / China Daily

The reformed and revived cultural center system brings a better quality of life. Mu Qian reports in Beijing.

Liu Xiuyun felt she had lost focus after retirement. All the 70-year-old did was watch TV and cook - until she joined a cultural center's choir in Jilin's provincial capital Changchun.

She rehearses three days a week with people who share her hobby, under the direction of a professional musician.

"Singing in the choir has become a major part of my life," Liu says.

"It's good for my physical and spiritual health."

The Sound of Love choir gives concerts in communities throughout the city and joins singing competitions. Although the choir hasn't received any awards, Liu says the experiences were reward enough.

But the choir is just one of the programs run by the Cultural Center of the Kuancheng District in Changchun. It also offers free courses in guzheng (a six-stringed Chinese zither), keyboard, dance, calligraphy and tai chi.

"Chinese people are demanding more culture in life," the center's director Dong Hong says.

"We hope to create more opportunities for ordinary people to embrace culture and improve the quality of their lives."

The center also runs free public lectures in its 306-seat theater. When Dong read the news that 70-year-old Wu Jijun wanted to perform a concert of her own music, Dong contacted her through the reporter and agreed to provide the theater for free.

The center is one of many in the country. Cultural centers - called "mass art centers" in some places - create a system of governmental cultural organizations established after New China's 1949 founding.

The system covers various levels, from the local to the provincial.

But it hasn't always functioned well. A lack of funding over the past two decades forced some to rent out space to game parlors or poolrooms. Some even closed.

The landscape began to improve in early 2011, when the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Finance issued a statement declaring public art museums, libraries and cultural centers at State and provincial levels would be open free of charge by the end of 2011. It also said such public-funded cultural organizations at all levels will be open for free by the end of 2012.

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