Shao Zhiqing [Youth.cn]
Theater chief Shao Zhiqing from southwest China's Guizhou Province is a delegate to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and an expert in the local Huadeng opera.
Known as Huadeng Opera, the theatrical folk art combines singing, dancing and performing, with the distinctive use of handkerchiefs and fans.
Presenting Huadeng Opera at National Event
Shao attended the opening ceremony of the 19th CPC National Congress in Beijing on October 18, and listened to the congress report carefully.
In particular, she was filled with excitement by the initiative to foster stronger cultural confidence and to promote a more prosperous socialist culture.
The next morning, Chinese President Xi Jinping joined Guizhou delegates' discussion where Xi fully affirmed the achievements made by Guizhou in the past five years.
The general secretary hoped delegates could thoroughly carry out the congress spirit and build a richer and more ecological life for people, Shao said.
"As a delegate from the arts circle, I am supposed to show Guizhou culture and express my feelings through Huadeng Opera," she explained.
As other delegates were taking photos with Xi, Shao improvised a Huadeng tune and recited it repeatedly, preparing to perform before Xi.
"General Secretary, I am a performer of Guizhou Huadeng Opera. I have prepared a small piece of Huadeng music for you and our Party's 19th national congress," she said, before singing.
"The general secretary said Guizhou Huadeng Opera is pleasant to the ear," said Shao, calling the experience "unforgettable".
For Shao, Xi's remarks on cultural development in his report were also unforgettable.
"Culture is a country and the nation's soul. Our country will thrive only if our culture thrives, and our nation will be strong only if our culture is strong," she cited Xi's report.
"Without full confidence in our culture, without a rich and prosperous culture, the Chinese nation will not be able to rejuvenate itself.
"We must develop a socialist culture with Chinese characteristics, inspire the cultural creativity of our whole nation, and develop a great socialist culture in China."
These words have been deeply engraved in Shao's mind.
Publicizing Congress Spirit
The day after the closing of the national congress, Shao flew to Shanghai for the 19th Shanghai International Art Festival, where she starred in The Moon Shines On the Maple Wood Ferry, a typical work of Guizhou Huadeng Opera.
To promptly and accurately publicize the congress spirit, she took up every opportunity, conveying the voices of the Party to media and other actors even when putting on her make-up backstage.
After returning to Guiyang in Guizhou, she began rushing around local art troupes, giving speeches about the spirit of the congress.
"We should build stronger cultural confidence and create more brilliant works that live up to the trust that the people and the Party have placed in us," she said in a publicity activity.
Recently, Guizhou Huadeng Opera Theater is putting together a new work which will display the great changes local villages have undertaken in recent years under Guizhou government's poverty alleviation efforts, Shao introduced.
"In addition to large operas, we are also creating some small and medium-sized works to extol the Party and role models who fight on the first line of poverty alleviation," she added.
Inheritance of Huadeng Opera
In recent years, Shao has put much energy into cultivating traditional opera talents.
Originating in the Tang (618-907) and Song dynasties (960-1279), Guizhou Huadeng Opera prospered in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties (1644-1911), gaining strong foundations as was passed down among the people.
Shao began to learn traditional Chinese opera at the age of four and studied Huadeng at School of Arts, Guizhou University, at 15. After her graduation, she was assigned to Guizhou Huadeng Art Troupe.
In her 38-year career, she has experienced Guizhou opera's most prosperous period, and the decline caused by changes in the entertainment industry.
The outflow of talents from traditional Chinese opera to more modern art forms has been an issue that has greatly bothered her.
In 2011, Guizhou Huadeng Art Troupe was transformed from a cultural institution into an enterprise, and renamed Guizhou Huadeng Opera Theater. Shao became president and the Party chief of the company.
To enhance staff members' capacities for innovation, she has maintained contact with higher education institutions and outstanding art troupes across the country, constantly sending actors and actresses to other cities to further their study.
In 2013, Shao cooperated with Yunnan Vocational College of Culture and Art in setting up a Huadeng class. Through a series of selections, they enrolled 30 trainees for a four-year-long course.
This year, trainees graduated and of them, 21 became members of the provincial theater while the rest went to art troupes of local cities and prefectures, developing and inheriting Huadeng Opera.
Inspired, Shao reached a consensus with Beijing Vocational College of Opera and Arts this year, planning to enroll 30 trainees.
In recent years, Shao's theater has produced over 100 works which were staged in the U.S., the UK, France and India, receiving great popularity among audiences at home and abroad.
(Source: Youth.cn/Translated and edited by Women of China)