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Intangible cultural heritage continues to enrich China-US exchanges

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-03-14 09:03
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A visitor takes photo of an embroidered hat at a Chinese cultural promotion event in New York in February. [Photo/Xinhua]

NEW YORK — In a remarkable act of cultural diplomacy, a series of events showcasing the rich heritage of Henan province, a central Chinese region celebrated for its deep historical and cultural significance, captivated audiences in New York City and Philadelphia.

On Feb 29, the Chinese Consulate General in New York was transformed into a vibrant epicenter of arts and traditions that displayed the ancient crafts of paper-cutting and dough sculpture, the disciplined elegance of martial arts, and the emotive allure of Yuju Opera. The exhibitions drew enthusiastic responses from a diverse audience.

One of the event's highlights was when Yuan Shengke, a master of Chinese paper-cutting, created silhouettes of guest speakers David Adelman, a board officer of the US-China Green Institute, and Jessica Bissett, senior director at the National Committee on US-China Relations. Yuan captured their likenesses with astonishing speed and accuracy.

"His abilities are amazing. I can't believe he made this in just two minutes while I was speaking. It looks a lot like me," says Bissett, expressing her admiration of Yuan's skill.

The New York Shaolin Temple Kung Fu Center, led by Lan Chaohai, enhanced the spectacle with an artful demonstration of Shaolin, a symbol of Henan's martial legacy.

Chen Daoyong, a master of dough sculpture, demonstrated the 2,000-year-old folk art by turning simple dough into intricate, colorful figures to narrate the tales of heroes, deities, and daily life in ancient China.

Adding to the cultural feast was an intriguing performance of an excerpt of the renowned Yuju Opera Hua Mulan, celebrated for its expressive storytelling, elaborate costumes, and unique musical style. This performance wowed attendees, further showcasing Henan's diverse culture and its contributions to the performing arts.

Driving home the importance of these cultural exchanges, Adelman, who has visited China numerous times since 1987, called for enhancing partnerships at the state and provincial level, particularly through people-to-people connections.

"The states in the United States are looking for business (in China), and increasingly, Chinese businesses are looking for opportunities in the West. It's a good partnership, mutually beneficial," he says.

"China has an interest in American success, and America has an interest in China's success. It should be perfect," he says, pointing out the wide-ranging eagerness within the US to engage with China, from Hollywood to Silicon Valley, the agricultural centers in America's heartland, and Wall Street.

Bissett adds a forward-looking perspective on the role of youth and more initiatives in enhancing China-US cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

"There'll be a lot of Chinese delegations from various cities coming to the US in the next few months," says Bissett. "I hope that these delegations can help further encourage an increase in people-to-people exchange and help Americans better understand various regions of China."

She emphasizes the need for the two countries' younger generations to step up and take an active role in this endeavor. "And that's why we're here today. We look forward to playing more of an engaged role in the future."

The Philadelphia Flower Show, which closed on Sunday, also witness to exchanges between China and the US.

Zhengzhou, the capital city of Henan province, made its debut at the show with a floral exhibition that showcases its culture.

The exhibition drew inspiration from Zhengzhou's famed Songshan Mountain, known for its stunning natural and cultural heritage. Visitors to the show enjoyed the beauty of Songshan Mountain and Zhengzhou's city flower, the Chinese rose.

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