Pro­mo­tion of Shaanxi’s tra­di­tional arts and crafts gets new thrust

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE - By HUO YAN in Xi’an and LI YANG in Bei­jing

Since the cen­tral gov­ern­ment an­nounced the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive in 2013, Liu Kuan­ren, head of the cul­tural depart­ment in Shaanxi’s lo­cal gov­ern­ment, has been think­ing up ways to in­ter­na­tion­ally pro­mote the her­itage of his prov­ince that is lo­cated in North­west China. This is the home of the fa­mous Ter­ra­cotta War­riors.

Liu, who plays the xun, an egg-shaped tra­di­tional Chi­nese wind in­stru­ment made of clay, says cul­ture and the arts have a big role in bring­ing peo­ple from dif­fer­ent coun­tries to­gether.

Shaanxi is where the Qin Dy­nasty (221-206 BC) took root and united China. Xi’an, the prov­ince’s present-day cap­i­tal, used to be called Chang’an ear­lier, when it was the coun­try’s cap­i­tal for 13 dy­nas­ties. The mu­seum of the Ter­ra­cotta War­riors is also sit­u­ated here, mak­ing Xi’an an im­por­tant place in China’s po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural his­tory.

The city was the start­ing point of the an­cient Silk Road, the net­work of over­land and sea routes that con­nected China with the world for cen­turies, and en­abled trade and cul­tural ex­changes.

Xi’an was a me­trop­o­lis from the Han (206 BC-220) to the Tang (618-907) dy­nas­ties. The fast de­vel­op­ment of China’s coastal re­gions since the Song Dy­nasty (960-1279) led to its de­cline.

Liu thinks re­viv­ing Shaanxi’s cul­ture and the folk arts is sig­nif­i­cant to the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive, with a fo­cus on draw­ing more for­eign tourists to the prov­ince.

“Many for­eign­ers look for nov­elty in Shaanxi’s cul­ture, and there is also a ten­dency among Chi­nese to de­scribe tra­di­tional cul­ture as ‘back­ward’,” Liu tells China Daily.

He uses the xun as an ex­am­ple. The 3,000-year-old in­stru­ment has a pro­found an­thro­po­log­i­cal and cul­tural back­ground and a spe­cial tone, but “most peo­ple watch our per­for­mance only out of cu­rios­ity”, Liu says.

For­eign­ers have yet to fully see Shaanxi’s Qin­qiang Opera, shadow-pup­pet shows, Yangge dance, the waist drum dance, the tra­di­tions of pa­per-cut­ting and farm­ers’ draw­ings, he says.

“Th­ese time-hon­ored folk arts are rooted in — and are still shap­ing — lo­cal peo­ple’s lives, and they should not be deemed out­dated,” he says.

He thinks Ja­pan, South Korea and Germany set good ex­am­ples for China in find­ing ways to blend an­cient cul­ture and arts with mod­ern ones.

“They haven’t lost their old cul­ture and arts, while de­vel­op­ing newer ones.”

Shaanxi should not lose its tra­di­tional and lo­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics, and choose an ef­fec­tive way to pro­mote its cul­ture abroad.

Liu be­lieves con­fi­dence in one’s own cul­ture is the key to find­ing its uni­ver­sal value.

One way to deepen Western un­der­stand­ing of Shaanxi’ Qin­qiang Opera is to per­haps com­pare it with the sing­ing style of the late Lu­ciano Pavarotti, a world-fa­mous Ital­ian singer, says Liu.

In Shaanxi, some chore­og­ra­phers are work­ing on mak­ing Ter­ra­cotta War­riors the theme of Western bal­lets. Liu be­lieves that if the ex­per­i­ment suc­ceeds, the bal­let will make it eas­ier for for­eign­ers to un­der­stand the ori­gin of Shaanxi cul­ture.

He says more ef­fort should be made to pub­li­cize lo­cal cul­ture. “Some ac­tiv­ity or­ga­niz­ers fo­cus on scale and the num­ber of par­tic­i­pants rather than the ef­fects of cul­tural pub­lic­ity.”

Shaanxi has been host­ing the Silk Road In­ter­na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val, an an­nual event since last year. More than 62 coun­tries par­tic­i­pated in its sec­ond edi­tion in Septem­ber.

Liu says the prov­ince will make good use of the plat­form to pro­mote Shaanxi’s her­itage.

Th­ese time-hon­ored folk arts are rooted in — and are still shap­ing — lo­cal peo­ple’s lives.” Liu Kuan­ren, head of the cul­tural depart­ment in Shaanxi pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment

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Liu Kuan­ren (left) vis­its a cul­tural cen­ter in Xi’an.


A cam­era tech­ni­cian works with CBS Dig­i­tal’s Par­al­lax and Pre­viz pro­duc­tion sys­tems in Los An­ge­les.

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