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Beijing Olympics Promote Lost Arts in China

New America Media, News feature, Jun Wang Posted: Jul 25, 2008

Editor's note: Beijing is hush-hush about its much anticipated Olympics opening ceremony, but according to some American scholars who visited China recently, folk art will be prominently featured. They talked to NAM editor, Jun Wang, who monitors Chinese media.

SAN FRANCISCO What will be presented at the Olympics opening ceremony has been kept under wraps in China, but U.S. scholars and students revealed that folk art will be performed in the most-looked-forward-to event ever in that country.

Blair Remington, a junior art major at the University of Central Florida (UCF) told New America Media that yo-yo and bow-and-arrow performances will be showcased at the Olympics opening ceremony. Peking opera masks will also be on display. "I'm looking forward to seeing them on TV," she said.

Remington, on her trip to China in May, learned this from artists who told her they would be performing. She went there last May with a student team from UCF and the University of Oregon (UO) to cover and do research on Chinese folk arts.

Christine Dellert from News and Information Services at UCF said students were sent to China for half a dozen trips in China Vine, a joint project by the two universities and their China partner, Shandong University of Art and Design, in the city of Jinan. Students there told her that folk artists will also be displaying their skills in the Beijing Olympic Village and media center, as well as at the opening ceremony. Besides the promise of fireworks, Beijing has not released information on what the opening ceremony will be like.

The students put their coverage of Chinese folk art on http://chinavine.ucf.edu/Beijing the China Vine website. They expect the ongoing project will become a virtual hub of Chinese folk art that will be available to the world.

The folk art shows will open the door to a traditional China. The most famous folk artists in their fields are showing how to make dough figures, silk flowers, kites, masks and Bristle dolls in traditional clothing. Other artists will show how to carve wooden yo-yos, which were all a part of ordinary Chinese people's daily lives not so long ago.

On China Vine, dough figuremaker Zhang Dao Lin uses skin-colored dough on a thin stick and shapes it with a slim board with a sharp point to craft Buddha's upper body. Then he uses white dough to make Buddha's trousers, black dough to make his hair. Within minutes, a delicate finger-sized Buddha emerges.

Dough figurines and other forms of folk art have been called national treasures. However, these art forms have been either lost or have fallen out of favor. "As China rapidly becomes an economic powerhouse, young people are moving to urban areas to further their education and establish careers," UCF and UO students wrote on the China Vine. "With this migration to the cities, many folk traditions are no longer practiced."

The students pointed out that "folk art is associated with China's national identity and history."
As the Games draw near, folk arts are once again being embraced. And these arts are, in turn, embracing the Olympics. Instead of dragons and phoenixes, yo-yo makers now carve the Beijing Olympics logo on to the faces of the wooden toys, or the words: "Welcome to Beijing."

Fuwas, meaning good-luck dolls, are the mascots of the Beijing Olympics. They represent water, wood, fire, earth and air -- the five elements that are believed to make up everything in the universe, according to Chinese culture.

Ushers at the award ceremonies will be wearing specially designed dresses. The most famous ones are the "blue flower china" series. The designer was inspired by the china that originated during the Tang Dynasty over ten centuries ago. Like the famous china, the dress has blue floral patterns against a white background representing purity and elegance.

Recalling her two-week stay in China, Remington said, "(China) is a little bit both of traditional and modern." On the traditional end, "the (Chinese) government is doing a good job preserving folk art. They recognize the artists," she said. She also noticed that a number of Chinese youth are fascinated by traditional folk art. They volunteer at folk art museums, trying to introduce the art to people to keep it from dying out.

Shoe Embroidery from Chinavine.ucf.edu/home/

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