China's education department will start pilot projects to teach students in primary and secondary schools how to perform Peking Opera, one of the nation's unique cultural treasures.
"It is a significant move not only to Peking Opera itself but also the whole Chinese culture," Wu Jiang, president of the China National Peking Opera Company told Xinhua.
It will bring today's children and teenagers closer to the heart of Chinese traditional culture, he said, "Peking Opera is not only a form of art but also a concentration of cultural traditions."
The Ministry of Education is to add Peking Opera into music courses for primary and secondary schools in 10 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions including Beijing this year, as part of the efforts to promote traditional culture.
In the coming new semester, 20 schools in Beijing will launch Peking Opera courses.
Peking Opera, with a history of more than 200 years, is a synthesis of music, dance, art and acrobatics and is widely regarded as a symbolic expression of Chinese culture. Many historical events are adapted into the plays, which in the past were an important primer on history and ethical principles.
The education department has chosen 15 pieces of Peking Opera, including both classical and modern ones, said Wang Jun, an official of the artistic education division under the city education department.
Teachers are asked to not only teach students how to sing and perform but also introduce to them the storylines and background information so as to help children develop understanding and taste about traditional culture, he said.
"We have found that many children are weak in traditional literature and arts," Wang said.
The schools will also invite Peking Opera performers to train music teachers, he said.
To make the course easier for kids, schools will begin with modern plays, such as The Red Lantern, one of the eight Model Plays written some 40 years ago, which tell stories of Chinese revolutionaries.
"The storylines and lyrics are closer to modern culture, compared with the classic ones that tell stories from hundreds of years ago," said Zeng Yue, headmaster of Shuangyushu school in northern Beijing.
Classical plays will be introduced to students in higher grades that are more informed about ancient literature. Students of the sixth grade will start to learn a classical play Zha Mei An that tells of Bao Zheng, a legendary judge from China's Song Dynasty (960 to 1279 A.D.) who investigated a case involving the emperor's son-in-law.
"I think that the plan is not aimed to foster Peking Opera artists or fans," Wu said, "It just opens a door to children, giving them a chance to develop interests in traditional culture. If they are not interested, at least they are getting to know something about it."
(Xinhua News Agency February 21, 2008)