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Torchbearer's gift of song to Games
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During yesterday's torch relay in Yan'an, Wang Xiangrong impressed visitors with his version of xintianyou, a folk tune that has a bold rhythm. He dedicated it to the Olympic Games.

Wang said when he was informed he would be a torchbearer and his run would take him past the famed pagoda in Yan'an he was very pleased.

"I knew that due to space restrictions around the pagoda there would not be many people. But that suited me, as my voice would be heard.

"Moreover, it was a great honor to be at the most outstanding location of the city."

The relay showcased the great scenery of the city, and the rich culture that has stemmed from the Loess Plateau over 5,000 years.

Yan'an is home to some of the most renowned folk songs in the country - all of them crystallize the spirit, thoughts and emotions of its people.

For centuries, these folk songs have echoed throughout the vast Loess Plateau.

Born into a sheep farming family, Wang said he took to folk songs when he was a young child, like most others living on the plateau.

"Each of us, people of northern Shaanxi, is a singer," Wang said.

His home lies in a small village deep in one of the valleys that crisscross the plateau, about 100 km from Yan'an. Not until recently was there a road connecting this poor, isolated village. Its people sought relief from the daily ritual of farming by singing folk songs which have been passed down through generations.

"No more than 100 people have lived in the village at any one time since I was born. It's very lonely.

"That is why we sing and recite poetry, it provides us with an outlet," Wang said.

Xintianyou is the best known and also Wang's favorite.

"When we sing xintianyou, it comes from our hearts, it expresses our compassion and love for life," Wang said. "That's why xintianyou is so soul-stirring."

Wang's fame has been growing since the early 1970s and is now know as "the best singer of northern Shaanxi".

Wang said he knows every folk song popular on the Loess Plateau. The songs will never lose their popularity, not even with the advent of modernization, he said.

"You have to maintain and protect this art form," Wang said.

He said he was glad that in recent years, partly due to his influence, there were a growing number of folk song fans.

(China Daily July 3, 2008)

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