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Zhejiang Gears up for Cultural Showcase

Known for its fast growing economy and the shrewd business acumen of its people, Zhejiang Province in east China will increase the cultural atmosphere in September when it hosts the Seventh China Arts Festival and the Qunxing Awards for mass amateur performers.

Hundreds of artists from home and abroad will wow audiences with about 100 performances in different styles as well as a diversity of shows by amateurs.

Hangzhou, the capital of the province, and another three cities will host the festival which will run from September 10 to 26. Sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, the festival, which is held once every three years, features Chinese traditional opera, musicals, dances, orchestral and song and dance shows.

According to Zhao Weisui, vice-minister of the ministry, the triennial event is the biggest showcase of China's artistic achievements.

"We believe that the 2004 festival will be the largest since the first national art festival launched in 1987 in Beijing," said Zhao at the press conference to promote the event.

The opening show, entitled "Sunshine Paradise," will be held in Huanglong Gymnasium in Hangzhou on September 10.

The top accolades for professional performing arts are the Wenhua Awards, while amateurs compete for the Qunxing Awards. Winners will be announced at the end of the 17-day long festival. It is also the first time the two awards issued by the Ministry of Culture are being competed for at the China Arts Festival.

A total of 51 shows will compete for the top 10 Wenhua Awards.

Among them, five are Peking Operas, which are considered to be the quintessence of Chinese traditional culture.

For example, Three-cun Lily Feet (Sancun Jinlian, referring to women's bound feet), performed by the Wuhan Peking Opera Troupe from the capital of central China's Hubei Province, tells the fate of a woman Ge Xianglian, who has bound feet.

In China's feudal society, small feet were considered a sign of great beauty. So most women were forced to bind their feet into a tiny and unhealthy size to vie for a man's favor.

Ge says it felt like torture when she was forced to bind her feet at a very young age. But once married, her feet find favor and power in a big feudal family.

When her daughter prepares to have her feet bound, Ge hesitates. The love she has for her daughter forces her to strike out against the practice.

Besides Peking opera, many other folk operas are also billed, including Yuju Opera, Kunqu Opera and Shaoxing Opera.

The Shanghai Shaoxing Opera Theater will give a performance adopted from Ba Jin's famous novel Family.

The opera focuses on marriage, hard work and finally the death of Ruijue, wife of the eldest son in a big feudal family. It also exposes the corruption evident in big feudal families in old China and the cruelty of the old marriage system.

Audiences can also enjoy some musical and dance dramas.

The musical Blue eyes, Black eyes, performed by Zhejiang Song and Dance Theater, features exotic love. An Austrian girl falls in love with a Chinese student and comes to China with him. During half a century, they encounter many frustrations but remain faithful to their love.

Performers from Zhejiang Province will stage 16 shows highlighting the local culture to make people around the world enjoy a better understanding of the region's rich culture.

The mass cultural event takes the form of music, dance, drama, calligraphy, photography, painting and folk art.

The festival not only shows the most outstanding Chinese performances, but also features talent from overseas. Artists from Chinese Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao and from Germany, Hungary and the United States are also performing.

Moon Water by the Cloud Gate Dance Theater of Taiwan, the percussion concert by Taiwan Ju Percussion Troupe, the ballet Spartacus by the National Ballet of Hungary and the musical Sound of Music by Broadway's Troika Entertainment from the United States are on the show list.

In addition to the colorful showcase, visitors to Zhejiang can also visit some 24 art exhibitions displaying the excellent paintings, photography and calligraphy of famous artists, as well as cultural relics, instruments and jade.

(China Daily September 3, 2004)

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