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China's Kunqu Festival Held in East China
A Chinese Kunqu festival was inaugurated Sunday in Kunshan City of east China's Jiangsu Province, to celebrate the 1st anniversary of the opera being listed as a masterpiece of oral and intangible cultural heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The week-long gala will feature 42 young artists, who will perform and compete for 21 awards of 1,200 U.S. dollars each. The Chinese Ministry of Culture (MOC) will also award 32 artists for their long-term contributions to the Kunqu opera.

Chinese Vice-Minister of Culture Pan Zhenzhou said at the opening ceremony that Kunqu, as the oldest form of Chinese opera, was known as the "origin of Chinese operas". Throughout its 700-year history, and due to the contributions of generations of Chinese artists, it has evolved into an exceptional art form. Today, however, the art form is faced with declining popularity.

Pan said that since the founding of New China in 1949, China has adopted concrete measures to protect, preserve, renovate and develop the opera. In May, 2001, the opera won international recognition from UNESCO.

According to MOC, Suzhou City, Kunqu's birthplace, has established Kunqu schools for common people, which has helped the opera to be passed on from generation to generation. MOC has granted special awards to the local governments of Suzhou and Kunshan for their long-term efforts in reviving and promoting Kunqu art. Sources with the Suzhou city government said that, within five to 10 years, the city plans to build a national Kunqu center, which will include a Kunqu festival, a Kunqu museum, Kunqu schools, a Kunqu theater and a research center.

China is currently compiling a national list of intangible cultural heritage, and expediting the passage of legislation.

(Xinhua News Agency October 27, 2002)

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