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China's Cultural Workers Adapt to Modern World For Survival
Xiao Ya, a Yue opera actress just back from overseas, set up her own studio in China's cultural hub Shanghai and recently raised 500,000 yuan (US$60,386) through issuing stocks to rehearse and perform her new opera.

The Yue opera, entitled "Pursuing Love", features a moving story. A young married man, who is forced to leave his wife and become the son-in-law of an emperor, bravely struggles royal power and loyally seeks his true love.

The opera not only won praise for its artistic value, but also for its remarkable financial returns and more market-oriented delivery.

From scene writers to casting to stagehands, Xiao employed no more than 10 staff. She signed contracts with them and after the performances finished they shared the profit according to their contracts and then each went his own way.

"In the past, I only concentrated on how to perform well, but today, I am much more concerned about how to make an opera popular and how to create a profit," Xiao said. "Sometimes, I felt very much pressurized, but I know it's an on-going trend that art troupes or individuals have to assume responsibility for profits and losses themselves. The 'iron rice bowl' has been smashed."

Kuai Dashen, a research fellow with the Shanghai Municipal Academy of Social Sciences said that since China's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), its major art troupes, cinemas and other arts and cultural ventures are undergoing a significant change from surviving through government sponsorship to today's climate of making more money by performing more and effectively marketing and promoting themselves.

The Shanghai Kun Opera Troupe gave 73 performances during the first five months of 2002, nearly equal to its total in the previous year.

And the Shanghai Peking Opera Troupe on average gave one show each day during the first six months of this year, three times more than in the same period last year.

However, according to a new blue paper issued by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, up to 1999 there were still more than 1000 art troupes living on government funds out of the country's total of 2,632.

Minister of Culture Sun Jiazheng told Xinhua that China's reform of its cultural sector has lagged far behind its economic reforms. The 16th National Congress of the Communist Party of China pointed out that the country's cultural reforms should widen.

He also suggested that national art troupes take a lead in setting up companies and running themselves in line with market rules.

In Shanghai, some art troupes have employed management professionals as chiefs, changing their original management style in which talented artists usually are appointed as troupe leaders.

At the just-closed fourth China Shanghai International Arts Festival, the organizing committee announced the festival could independently raise capital through attracting sponsorship and earning advertising fees from domestic and overseas companies, and did not need any government funds.

The committee put Japan's biggest ticketing company PIA in charge of issuing tickets, and the month-long festival attracted a total of 250,000 people. The average occupancy rate of its total 109 performances reached 80 percent.

At the same time, Chinese cultural officials repeat that although more and more art troupes are studying how to survive, the government still intends to sponsor the country's cultural and artistic legacies, such as Peking and Kun Opera and other ethnic folk arts.

(Xinhua News Agency December 14, 2002)

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