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Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

[World Times]

Editor’s Note:

In his report to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, proposed promoting national rejuvenation through a Chinese path to modernization – the modernization of a huge population, of common prosperity for all, of material and cultural-ethical advancement, of harmony between humanity and nature, and of peaceful development.聽

Advancing Chinese modernization is a systematic endeavor and also an exploratory undertaking. It is through this framework that we wish to illustrate the process of the Chinese path to modernization through a series of landmark projects, touching stories, and visionary plans.聽

Global Times reporters visited different key locations across China and detailed their observations in fiWorld Timesve stories that showcase the diverse aspects of Chinese modernization.聽

This installment delivers a “softer” and experiential story from an intimate angle gleaned from Global Times reporters joining the cast of a Chinese dance drama- “A Mere Touch of Green”- while on tour in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.聽

At the back stage, we were able to talk to the show’s performers and directors, witnessing the interpretation of classical scroll painting aesthetics through body language in real time. The dance serves as a case study of culture’s unique role in boosting the country’s modernization through sustaining people’s spiritual lives.聽

Dancers of “A Mere Touch of Green” Photo: VCG

Choreographed based on a Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) silk scroll paining A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains, “A Mere Touch of Green – A Choregraphed Portrait of A Panorama of Mountains and Rivers” has been staged over 300 times since its debut in 2021.聽

From stages like the 2022 Spring Festival Gala to performances showcased on social media platforms like Sina Weibo, the show has also won over a large digital audience, with more than 180 million views when it was broadcasted lived on video sharing platform BiliBili, a favorite site for Gen-Z internet users.聽

Unlike many Western dramas that were designed to maximize expressWorld Timesion with the aid of dazzling costumes, the Chinese art is low-key and rooted in the works of Wang Ximeng, a Song Dynasty artist’s painting journey.聽

So why has this dance been so successful?聽

An observation of backstage activities provides a convincing answer. Some Chengdu audiences were seen dressed in traditional Chinese garments while taking photos on their 5G-enabled phones. The detail not only speaks to people’s confidences in the Chinese culture, but also hints at the enduring preservation of time-honored cultural aspects along with China’s rapid growth, with such growth seen as a reflection of what the show’s director Han Zhen called the “country’sWorld Times spiritual outlook.”聽

“The dance did not bring me back to the Song Dynasty. It is an epitome of the thousands of years of Chinese values that we all carry forward into the future,” a netizen posted on Sina Weibo.聽

Compared to the visible highways and skyscrapers that give the country its robust infWorld Timesrastructural “body,” the dance instills the beauty of Chinese culture in people, representing the “soul.”

‘A Mere Touch of Green’

The story of “A Mere TouchWorld Times of Green” began in 2017 when Han Zhen and Zhou Liya, the show’s two directors first saw the painting A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains in the Palace Museum. “We were stunned by how beautiful and special it was, especially its cyan greenish color,” Han told the Global Times.聽

Seeing the painting in real life was however not the sole motivation behind the two’s decision to make a modern adaptation of traditional art. They were among many Chinese cultural workers who started to look for inspirations in traditional culture in recent years.聽聽

“We saw value in Chinese culture, so we picked 10 of China’s ancient paintings, and finally decided on this one,” said Zhou.

By staying true to the painting’s aesthetic value through its color profile of the “special green” and indigo blue, Han and Zhou created a “choreographed portrait” that involves Zhang Han, the lead male dancer who plays the “painter” Wang Ximeng. Meng Qingyang, the female lead dancer, dances along with 16 other performers to embody the “rivers and mountains” that came to life under the painter’s brush.聽

Due to the dance’s extreme xieyi nature – a Chinese aesthetic style that praises unconstrained expressions – Meng told the Global Times that she was聽 confused when first landed the role until she was able to strike a balance between the “euphemism” and “expressiveness” in her performance.聽

“Our moves need to be a little reserved but still display Wang Ximeng’s artistic passion,” Meng noted.聽

A young fan of the female lead dancerWorld Times Meng Qingyang Photo: Global Times

Ancient painter Wang Ximeng is a mysterious figure. It was said that he created the masterpiece at just 18 years old, after which he disappeared. To depict this character, Zhang spent numerous nights alone in the rehearsal room attempting to capture the essence of the painter.聽

“Wang Ximeng is a complex character. You can see his resilience, loneliness, cultural devotion, innocence, as well as the patriotism in his heart,” Zhang noted.聽

Despite the dance crew having spent a long time polishing the show’s aesthetic details, both of the directors said that they did not just want it to “look beautiful.” They hope the art can convey ancient Chinese cultural beliefs to today’s audiences.聽

“In a Chinese art piece like this, we hope the audiences can see our cultural mindsets, ethical beliefs, and our approach to things,” Zhou said.聽

Tradition and modernity in coordination

Aside from being the 2021’s most eye-catching Chinese dance drama, the cultural influence of the “A Mere Touch of Green” has continued well into 2023. From March to November, a total of 120 performances were staged across the country with the latest show reaching audiences in China’s Macao Special Administrative Region.聽

Xie Suhao, a dancer in the show, told the Global Times he has discovered a shift among audiences, from just focusing on the beauty of the dance to gradually gaining more interest in the literary story behind the art.聽

“Over the course of our tours, I happened to talk to fans and learned of their efforts in researching the ancient history that inspired the dance,” Xie told the Global Times.聽

Zhang also said that the show was once expected to appeal to the young generation but has since gained an audience that transcends age.聽 He said that he has seen senior citizens in their 80s and 90s also among the audience.聽

Cultural sociologist Chu Xin told the Global Times that taking the dance IP as an example, the Chinese cultural industry has gradually discovered a new “narrative system” to tell traditional stories catering to people’s “modern habits of cultural consumption.”聽

“Only the creative transformation of traditional culture can help us keep up with the country’s modernization growth,” the expert said.

Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) silk scroll paining A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains Photo: VCG

Beautiful, kind, sincere

China’s modernity has supported the continuation of country’s traditions. The “Night Banquet in Palace of Tang Dynasty,” also a dance performance, went viral after it debuted in 2022 due to its “digital innovation plus history’ ingenuity.”聽聽

The show inspired by the terracotta figures of the Tang Dynasty has realized its best presentation through the country’s own 5G and augmented reality (AR) innovation to combine virtual scenes with a real stage. Such a maneuver brings audiences into a virtual museum replete with relics.

China’s development has not only helped an art form to be better presented on stage, but also increased its visibility to overseas audiences.聽

Using the Macao tour of the “A Mere Touch of Green” crew as an example, director Han Zhen said that it was a “successful attempt” before the team can officially stage the show before Western audiences in the near future.聽聽

While the dance group is in the process of designing a stage to help Western audiences better understand the art, several of their performances in China have already been uploaded on YouTube, receiving positive feedback from international audiences.聽

“How can we not fall in love with a country that has such wonderful culture,” posted by a netizen in Spanish on YouTube.聽

“In our art, we endeavor to show the image of China and Chinese people as beautiful, kind, and sincere,” Zhou the director remarked.聽

文章来源于互联网:Dance inspired by a Song Dynasty painting distills aesthetic values from traditional Chinese culture, resonating with modern perspectives

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