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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Opera's highs make up for some lows

By Sun Ruisheng and Li Yao (China Daily)

08:58, February 16, 2012

Dancers perform drama Liberation at the Youth Palace Performing Arts Center in Taiyuan, capital of North China's Shanxi province. Featuring traditional Shanxi characteristics, the drama tells a love story related to women's feet-binding in the early 1900s on the Loess Plateau. Since first appearing in September 2009, the drama has gained popularity and received praise nationwide. (China Daily / Liang Ming)

TAIYUAN - Shi Wangzhi never imagined he would spend a night at the theater. A ticket would cost him a few weeks' wages for a start.

But there he was, a 51-year-old street cleaner sitting with his fellow workers in the plush new surroundings of the Taiyuan Theater watching a performance of Peking Opera.

He wouldn't say he was swept up in the occasion, but it was an enjoyable and enlightening experience nevertheless.

"I walked on the red carpet all the way to my seat. I felt relaxed and comfortable sitting there during the two-hour show. The toilet was spacious and smelled good. The only regret is that I didn't see backstage," he said.

The show was put on for free recently at the newly-built theater in the capital of Shanxi province to honor the hard work and contribution of street cleaners, as part of a government initiative to enrich residents' cultural life.

By getting up at 3 am and going home around 7 pm, with no holidays and little overtime compensation, Shi makes 980 yuan ($156) a month. For lunch, he gets by on the cheapest food available, such as a 5-yuan bowl of noodles from a roadside stall.

His diabetes problem, for which he takes medicine costing up to 15 yuan a day, adds to his worries.

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