Young people and traditional cultures

Many regions in China have local traditional cultures, which play an important role in the local area. Is it the responsibility and mission of the younger generation to promote and carry forward these distinctive cultures in fast-paced development and the influx of new trends?

Due of China’s vast territory and large population, there are cultural differences between regions, which has led to the creation and development of traditional culture and artistic products with local characteristics in each place. Some of them have been in development for many years now, and have gradually developed into large-scale and influential regional culture characteristics, even to the nation and the world.

The local traditional culture is the symbol of the region and the outstanding material representative that the local people are proud of. It is a common phenomenon that many natives, especially young people, know little about them and even ignore their existence and significance. This is probably a bad thing for the transmission of local culture, which would mean that these outstanding cultural goods would leave the limelight and be disappear in some day.

In recent years, traditional Chinese art forms have caught the attention of more and more young Chinese, due to their innovative nature. One of the most popular among young people right now is Suzhou Pingtan, a folk ballad about the art of story-telling. Pingtan is a regional variety of opera and a musical and oral performance art form popular in southern Jiangsu. As a native of the area, I was exposed to this form of music art when I was a child, but only stay at the level of having some impressions.

The long history has also laid a solid foundation for Pingtan’s development. Its contents are rich, though the form is simple. “story telling, joke cracking, music playing and aria singing” are the performing techniques, while “reasoning, tastes, unexpectedness, interest and minuteness” are the artistic features. After that, Pingtan became a new form of performance by innovating and carrying on the tradition.

I spoke to Mr Wang Chi-liang, the deputy head of the Suzhou Pingtan Performing Arts Troupe, he told me: “Young people have an inestimable and guiding role in spreading and publicizing traditional culture and folk art forms such as the Suzhou Pingtan. Their influence is extremely huge in today’s society.”

“Going to the theatre to watch a live performance of our Pingtan Art Troupe, and then posting wonderful clips on their social media, which are good to propaganda and support for the local traditional culture. After that, more and more people of the same age will contact and understand this art form.” He said to me.

Suzhou Pingtan live performance in China Central Television

As he said, this is indeed the case. The appeal and the communication power of young people are very powerful, and it is with such strengths and characteristics that they can be the executors in promoting the outreach and wide circulation of local traditional culture. As a new force in the national modernization drive, young people are placed with unlimited hope. They just make some modest contributions will have a positive and promoting effect in some extents.

Mr. Wu from Nanjing University told me “Local traditional culture is the precious cultural wealth and folk specialty, also adding some colour to people’s lives, which is deserved to be protected and respected. The contemporary youth should have shouldered the heavy responsibility of inheriting Chinese traditional culture.”

A variety of art forms emerge one after another. In the era of commercialization, traditional cultures and other cultures are more like competitors in some ways. The old artists undertook the task of passing the tradition on to the new generation. Pingtan is popularized by radio, television and Internet. Meanwhile, it faces challenges as a result of the popular entertainment industry. 

With the rapid development of science and technology, young people have a strong sense of freshness with the emergence of some new entertainment methods and artistic performances. This is a huge blow on traditional culture, which means that fewer and fewer young people will get to know these great local cultures that have been passed down for years, while more people will try out the emerging cultures to experience their charms. How to attract young people to experience traditional culture is a thorny problem.

Culture is the soul of a nation, and traditional culture is the root of the local people. It is imperative to carry forward traditional culture. China is now vigorously developing its intangible cultural heritage, which also requires many people to inherit. They may endure loneliness and isolation in the process of inheritance. Nowadays, most young people seek fame and make a fortune, but they identify too little with their sense of responsibility to society.

The cultivation of a cultural concept is not an overnight thing, but a long-term and lasting thing that needs to be accumulated. Culture needs to be infiltrated, young people can’t really feel it and go deep into it in a short time. At present, what is most needed is for influential people to really like it and spread it forward.

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