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For showcasing ethnic culture, the plays are the thing
By Zhao Kai in Qiandongnan, Guizhou ( China Daily )
Updated: 2013-07-24

When famous Chinese singer Song Zuying performed in Vienna in 2003 wearing traditional Miao costume, it was the first time for many Westerners to ever experience the unique charms of the ethnic group.

Ten years later, a series of musicals staged in the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong autonomous prefecture of Southwest China's Guizhou province is once again drawing growing attention to the local customs and diverse cultures highlighted in the plays.

Among them is a drama called "Silver Show", which focuses on the silver culture of the Miao people and integrates elements of Qiandongnan's unique landscape, architecture and heritage, said director Xing Shimiao.

One of the oldest ethnic groups in China, Miao people lack their own written languages.

Their culture and history have been passed on from generations to generations through dances, songs, designs of traditional costume and silver accessories.

The Miao people's silver jewelry reflects their history and has become an indispensable part of their lives. The silver ornaments are famous across the nation.

As a result, the silver industry, quiet for about half a century, has once again begun to flourish.

In Qiandongnan, where Miao people account for 42 percent of the prefecture's total population, there are now thousands of people making silver ornaments in family workshops.

And there are even some so-called silversmith villages, such as Kongbai, Maliao and Magao, where more than 80 percent of the households are involved in processing silver articles.

The 70-minute show comprises five sections and each of them represents an individual story covering a different type of subject matter, including Miao folklore, nature, love, history and life.

Striking visuals

The theater drama combines music, dance and songs with other performing arts, such as acrobatics, shadow plays and stunts to provide a multi-faceted view of the Guizhou Plateau native people.

In addition to performing arts, it also employs modern technology to improve state artistic design and highlight Miao culture, Xing added.

Since its premiere performance at the end of April, the show has been staged more than 50 times so far and on average, attracts an audience of more than 500, including tourists from the United States, Australia and France.

"It will start a nationwide tour in August. In November, we will perform at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing," said an organizer of the show. "We are also planning a world tour series for next year."

The show's management team considers the show to be a cultural brand and plans to develop a related product series in a bid to boost the creative industry and tourism of Qiandongnan, he added.

Another musical, "Colorful Guizhou", is also based on Miao culture.

Since its debut in 2006, it has been performed more than 500 times for theater audiences surpassing 500,000 around the globe, helping Guizhou's local cultures gain broad acceptance worldwide.

" 'Colorful Guizhou' has set an example for us," said Luo Yongquan, a manager of the "Silver Show" operational team.

"Our show will develop its own style and character on the path toward international stages and brand-building."


(China Daily 07/24/2013 page24)

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