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A trio of titans

By Raymond Zhou ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-11-08 16:57:47

A trio of titans

Theater director Stan Lai. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Mass art

I often divide cultural exports from China into two categories: those that peddle chinoiserie exotica and those that display the inner strengths of cultural China.

Lee, Lin and Lai do not dazzle you with dragon dances and red lanterns — nothing wrong with that, as they represent folk traditions — but they represent a sophistication of Chinese culture which traditionally emerged in poets, scroll painters and calligraphers.

In my opinion, they are closer to the heart of Chinese quintessence than mere symbols that scream Chinese.

High culture and mass culture often stand wary of each other.

Chinese writers and artists are constantly caught in this dilemma, and a grass-is-greener mentality grips many of them.

Best-selling authors who pander to the youth market would almost buy and bribe into a writers' association and, with it, some degree of respectability. On the other hand, auteur-school filmmakers flaunt their bitterness of low box-office returns as a bruise or badge of honor.

Not these three captains of their respective art forms, who do not seem to distinguish between high and low, but rather, aim for the commonality of the human experience.

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