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Peking Opera enters campus, young generation
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There's tangible heritage, like Mount Huangshan World Heritage Site, but there's also intangible heritage - arts, dance and music. These are equally important.

Among older people in China, Peking opera enjoys something very much like a cult following. For the much of the rest of the country, popularity for the opera is hard won. But efforts are being made to reinvigorate one of China's cultural treasures among younger people. This year, some primary and middle schools around the country introduced Peking Opera into their music education classes. Opinion remains divided about the new curriculum. But among those who are newly exposed to the music, the response is widely favourable.

Inside the No.36 Secondary School in Wuhan, many students are enjoying their first Peking Opera class.

A student said, "This is the first time I've found Peking Opera really interesting. Before I didn't understand it. I didn't like it. It was just too slow for me. This class has really changed my opinion."

The teacher Lu Zhiyu never was a professional Peking Opera performer. Fascinated by traditional opera in childhood, Lu wanted to share his passion with the students. He volunteered to give classes for free.

Lu Zhiyu, amature Peking Opera actor, said, "The young generation should know more about Peking Opera. It is a Chinese cultural treasure and can't be lost in time."

Qiu Duanfeng, headmaster of Wuhan No.36 Secondary School, said, "Peking opera reflects the unique aesthetic view of the East: implicit, profound and symbolic. For our students, learning how to perform the opera could be the best way to gain insight into the art form."

The school is one that reflects a new policy set out by the Ministry of Education. The Ministry launched a pilot program in late February to introduce Peking Opera to 20 elementary and middle schools in 10 provinces and municipalities.

The goal of introducing Peking Opera classes into the curriculum - is to keep alive this unique Chinese cultural legacy by taking it to young people.

Still, a poll by Sina.com, China's top portal website, reveals less than 30 percent of respondents support the ministry mandated curriculum.

A student said, "To tell the truth, I don't want to learn Peking Opera. I love pop songs, especially those sung by Jay Chow. Peking Opera is already out-dated. "

"I support the promotion of our traditional culture. But I am afraid that not every child has the talent for opera," said a parent.

The Ministry stands by its decision - saying the augmented curriculum does not aim to foster Peking Opera artists or fans. The Ministry hopes the plan will help cultivate a diversity of interests among students.

(CCTV March 27,2008)

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