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Farmers to preserve intangible cultural heritage

By Yang Jun in Guiyang ( China Daily )

Updated: 2017-06-28

Feng Wanming could not have imagined that he would one day be talking to college students about intangible cultural heritage.

The 68-year-old farmer from the Dong ethnic group is an exponent of shuochun. He has been performing the art in the villages of Shiqian county in Guizhou province for the past 50 years.

Shuochun is a traditional performance art of the Dong ethnic group practiced for 10 days every year around lichun (the beginning of spring), the first of 24 solar terms, dating to the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

It combines singing and storytelling. The performances are often staged as rituals related to agricultural activities - to mark the arrival of spring and to pray for a good harvest for the coming year.

Farmers to preserve intangible cultural heritage

Left: Feng Wanming (left) passes down the essence of the shuochun art form by mentoring young people. Right: Elderly shuochun inheritors light incense before they perform. Photos Provided to China Daily

Feng says early spring used to be the busiest time for him - he had to visit the villages for shuochun performances.

"In the past, we were very popular. Wherever we went, we attracted big crowds," he says.

But the young generation has lost interest.

"The essence of our traditional culture is being lost," says Feng.

Statistics show that Guizhou province has 85 types of intangible cultural heritage in the national category and 561 in the provincial category.

To help raise awareness about local cultural heritage and to attract visitors to Guizhou, a series of "weekend gatherings" are being held until October. They're organized by Guizhou Provincial Department of Culture.

This is the second year of such "weekend gatherings", which started in May.

One of the key events is for shuochun performers like Feng to give lectures and showcase local intangible culture heritage on campuses.

Jiang Guiwu, the head of the "weekend gatherings" organizing committee, who is also assistant general manager of Colorful Guizhou City Construction & Management Co, Ltd, says the campus project allows students to experience traditional culture.

Feng was nervous when he first entered a classroom at Guiyang University on May 29. However, as the class progressed, the students listened to him attentively.

"It's great!" Feng said proudly after the class. "I was surprised that students came to me after the class to ask for my contact information. They are deeply interested in the art, and some even decided to write papers on shuochun."

Wen Pengfei, a Guiyang University sophomore, says: "We learned a lot, and the content is not in our textbooks. We got a special experience through the showcasing and explanation of the intangible culture art form."

Long Youming, the deputy director of the Guizhou Intangible Culture Heritage Protection Center, says lectures for college students is a good way to protect traditional culture. The campus project will expand to 20 counties.

Dong Xianwu contributed to the story.


(China Daily 06/28/2017 page18)

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