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Mysterious Chinese arts

By Mu Fangzhou (CNTV)

08:56, November 12, 2012

The Peony Pavilion (CRI Online)

When thinking about China's influence around the world many immediately think of business and manufacturing. But that's just one small piece in a much greater whole. As China's influence steadily expands around the globe, interest in the country's culture is growing in kind.

The treasures of China's theatrical arts are being taken abroad more often than ever. One of Chinese people's all-time Kunqu opera favourites, "The Peony Pavilion", has been introduced to western drama critics. The play now has several adaptations, including Taiwan playwright Pai Hsien-Yung's world acknowledged youth version, and a ballet version adapted by National Ballet of China. The dance performance packed the 9-hour long story into 2 hours, and has been performed on grand stages like the Edinburgh International Festival.

Jonathan Mills, Festival Director, Edinburgh Int'l Festival, said, "This is a perfect bridge between the UK and China. Because it is a fusion of western and Chinese dance, Kunqu, western instruments and traditional Chinese instruments, so it alone stands as a cultural bridge. A bridge that I think will speak very eloquently to European audiences, but it’s extremely representative of the very best of classical Chinese performing traditions."

Besides reinventing traditional hits, both independent artists and state-owned troupes are trying to showcase Chinese aesthetics while creating new material. Stage productions like "The Legend of Kung-fu", "The Charm of Dunhuang" and "My Dream" from China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe, have already impressed world-wide audiences, and go on tours regularly every year.

"Silk Road & Flower Rain" is another one of China’s latest drama exports. Gansu Song and Dance Theater teamed up with China Arts and Entertainment Group, a state-owned corporation, to launch "Image China". It was made in an effort to unite independent artists for a greater collective impact on the world’s theatre scene.

Zhang Yu, President & G.M., China Arts & Entertainment Group, said, "’Image China’ is a cultural brand started in 2009. We have promoted dozens of outstanding Chinese stage performances to mainstream theaters in Europe, America and Oceania, and we are confident that it will be welcomed by American audiences. We also hope that ’Silk Road’ can survive a space in the competition in the US and become a successful commercial show. "

And there’s still much more to be done. A reform to boost China’s cultural industries is also underway, encouraging art groups to further collaborate with foreign counterparts, blending Chinese and western aesthetics on the stage.

For the artists, it may be a daunting task to step out of their comfort zones and try to connect with an international audience. But they’re stepping up their game, not only competing in the fierce global theatre market; they’re also sharing their love of Chinese culture with the world’s contemporary art scene.

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