Chinese cultural legacy preserved in Cuba in newly-found old movies, vinyl records

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A collection of 300 Chinese historical films was found in a shelving unit in the surroundings of Havana's China Town.

The movies date back to the first half of the 20th century when the Chinese community on the island operated four out of over 100 movie theatres in the Cuban capital.

"We have saved these films from humidity, dust and oblivion," said Chinese descendant Maria del Carmen Kouw, one of the experts taking care of the films at the House of Chinese Arts and Traditions in central Havana.

"I learned Cantonese by watching Chinese martial arts films, and now I am eager to watch them again," said the 72-year-old woman who treasures good memories of the time when she attended Chinese movie premiers with her parents.

The Toothless Tiger, Frightening Birds, and Dances from Northeastern China are some of the video titles included in the collection.

Experts have labeled most films after translating the Chinese characters written on the black boxes containing the historical reels into Spanish.

However, the stories told in the films remain a mystery due to the lack of state-of-the-art technologies to capture them frame by frame.

The Chinese historical films found in Havana could help future generations widen their knowledge about the history between the two countries, Teresa Maria Lee, director of the cultural institution, told Xinhua.

"We have found a priceless treasure thought to be lost forever," she said. "We want to convert all of these movies to digital format before they totally deteriorate."

The House of Chinese Arts and Traditions also exhibited more than 100 vinyl records donated by Chinese descendants in the Caribbean nation.

The audio collection features Chinese music and messages sent by people in China to their relatives in the Caribbean nation.

These vinyl records show the diversity of Chinese music and culture, said Maria Antonia Arozarena, an expert of heritage conservation at the cultural center.

"We have vinyl records dating from the 1920s and others covering different periods of the most recent Chinese history," she said. "They include Chinese opera, dance music, speeches and letters."

Created in 1995, the House of Chinese Arts and Traditions also preserves books and documents that trace the legacy of Chinese culture in Cuba.

Rolando Julio Rensoly, a senior Cuban historian and researcher, noted the importance of the Chinese culture in the Cuban society through many different expressions.

"Chinese migrants and descendants operated important movie-theaters, opened businesses, and shared their music and way of life with the Cuban people," he told Xinhua. "Preserving the Chinese culture is preserving the Cuban one as well."

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