Soul of China can be found in its traditional music

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A two-hour concert by the China National Traditional Orchestra attracted some 500 people to the Center for Fine Arts.

"The name and shape of traditional Chinese musical instruments may be strange to me, but that did not stop me from enjoying the music," a young audience member said after the Friday night performance by the Chinese musicians.

The concert, part of the ongoing Europalia China art festival, began with a jazzy and cheerful concerto Memories from Yunnan. That was followed by Fire Ritual played on a two-stringed violin. That music was composed by Tan Dun, the only one likely to be familiar to music-lovers in Brussels.

Another highlight of the performance was Leaping Buddha, a piece of work by contemporary Chinese composer Zou Hang. It was a witty composition in which the members of the orchestra not only played, but also shouted and sang.

For Chinese-music lovers like Peter Zocholl, the concert was a feast. Zocholl, who came from Germany for the concert and to see the exhibitions at the Europalia art festival, said he loved Chinese music and had many CDs at home.

"The Chinese music tells about the man in general. And It's full of feeling and full of human understanding," the high school teacher said.

Musseche Daniel, a fan of Western classical music, said that although he did not know the instruments, he was pleased with the concert.

"We have seen the orchestra on TV in the Netherlands some years ago, but now we would like to see it in real," Daniel said.

Daniel and his wife also went to the first performance of the orchestra on Thursday in Hasselt, about 80 kilometers northeast of Brussels.

Nouwen Hilda, also new to Chinese traditional music, said it was great for Belgium to connect the music to the art of China.

"We will find the soul of China in music," she said.

Claire Kirschen, general commissioner of the Europalia China art festival, said the orchestra had demonstrated China’s traditional civilization and offered a unique opportunity to present the country's cultural heritage.

As a cultural project jointly organized by Europalia International and the Chinese Ministry of Culture, the Europalia China art festival presents about 50 exhibitions and 450 art performances and cultural events in more than 70 cities in Belgium and four neighboring countries, including the Netherlands, France, Luxembourg and Germany.

The art festival, which was under four major themes of "Eternal China, Contemporary China, Colorful China, China and the rest of the world," started on Oct. 8, 2009, and will end on Feb. 14.

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