Beijing students to learn Peking Opera

Updated: 2008-02-25 14:41

BEIJING  -- Students in Beijing's schools found their grandfathers' favorite Peking Opera pieces in their music class repertoire as the new semester began on Monday.

"I am expecting my first music class to learn Peking Opera and I expect to wear the fancy facial makeup," said Zhang Yaoyin, a third grade student in Beijing No.2 Experimental Primary School on her way to the school.

Peking Opera was added into music courses in 20 Beijing primary and secondary schools in order to promote traditional Chinese culture.

"The Peking Opera is very vivid and I like the melody best," she said, wondering whether her school has been chosen as a pilot.

Zhang Suhan, her father, called the action a "must" in preservation and revitalization of Chinese culture.

Peking Opera, known as China's national opera, is facing the danger of extinction as its slow pace and abstruse lyrics have scared away the younger generation which prefers pop culture.

The Education Ministry decided this month to start a pilot project in the new semester in 200 schools in 10 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions.

The project added 15 pieces of Peking Opera,including both classical and modern ones, into music courses for students.

Music teachers in Beijing schools were required to learn how to perform Peking Opera before introducing it to their students.

"Most teachers themselves do not know how to perform the almost forgotten art form," said a principal in Beijing's Dongcheng District.

"It is the basic requirement that every music teacher in Beijing schools should be able to sing Peking Opera," said Wang Jun, a local  education official.

The news, however, has aroused great controversy among the Chinese. In a survey by Netease, a news portal in China, nearly 70 percent of voters were against the project.

The opera, with a history of more than 200 years, is a synthesis of music, dance, art and acrobatics and is widely regarded as a symbolic expression of Chinese culture.

Many historical events are adapted into the plays, which in the past were an important primer on history and ethical principles.

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