Advanced Search
Business | Metro | Nation | World | Sports | Features | Specials | Delta Stories
Group battles to keep ancient storytelling art
29/10/2004 11:28

While most people lead their lives close to the winds of ever-changing fashions, a group of minorities are reinventing arts that once boomed in old times.
Luogushu, an old traditional storytelling art, is a treasured part of the cultural heritage of suburban Nanhui District.
"If all the traditions were lost, we would hardly distinguish one place from another, and the world would quickly become dull," said Tan Jingde, a retired musician from Nanhui Cultural and Art Center.
Tan is now dedicated to saving luogushu.
Luogushu is similar to modern rap-music but performed at a slower rhythm and accompanied with gongs, drums and vivid facial expressions.
The number of actors, dressed in traditional Chinese costumes, range from one to a dozen, depending on the theme of the story and the size of the stage.
Luogushu dates back to Eastern Han Dynasty (25 to 220 AD) and was originally used as part of religious ceremony and sacrifice.
The art reached its pinnacle during the Qing Dynasty (1616 to 1911), when it spread through Nanhui District as a popular form of local entertainment, often performed in tea houses.
But the art nearly died from the late 1960s to the middle 1970s, when people dismissed it as a superstition.
While discrimination against the art no longer exists, luogushu is now being submerged by the spread of pop music.
But thanks to Tan's efforts, whose history of the ancient art form has won praise from experts, luogushu has been listed as a "top priority" in the preservation of precious traditional Chinese folk art.
Tan traveled through Nanhui District, Songjiang District and suburban towns in Zhejiang Province to collect information from senior luogushu artists.
He often asked old artists' to write down their plays and reveal milestones of the art's evolution.
Old artists developed an interest in luogushu as children.
"I loved listening to luogushu and I became a performer at 15," said Song Baofei, a senior master from Nanhui District.
The old man only stopped performing last year. He is now writing down some of the more obscure plays.
But the group of luogushu performers say it is important to modernize the content of the plays and its style.
Modern stories are added, along with folk dances and jazz music, to try and cater for the youth.
Training centers have been set up to educate potential artists.
"At first, I preferred folk and pop music to luogushu, but after learning about it, I found its songs, sung in our native tones, as some of the most beautiful in the world," said Kang Wenying, the party secretary from Datong Cultural Center from Nanhui District.