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Book documents traditional craftsmen

2014-01-14 10:06:56



Tsinghua University Press launched "Four Chinese" on Friday, a book that searches for the basic and true human nature amid the hustle and bustle of modern life. ( Boyuan)

Tsinghua University Press launched the book "Four Chinese" in Beijing on Friday, in order to draw attention to traditional Chinese craftsmanship that is fading away from the nation's collective memory.

The four people documented in the book each possess a traditional technique. Lv Congde, from Huaxian, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, is a shadow play performer; Chi Suying, from Zanhuang, north China's Hebei Province, is a fan-drum dancer, Gao Xiye, who leads a simple life in Yulin, also in Shaanxi Province, performs improvised chanting at villagers' weddings as well as funerals; and Cheng Xiaochun, from Quzhou, southeast China's Zhejiang Province, makes calligraphy paper for a living.

In depicting these four ordinary rural craftsmen, along with how they use their traditional expertise in daily life, the book invites readers to consider how traditional Chinese culture could survive and co-exist with modern society.

Co-author Ms. Jiao Ruiqing said at the book promotion that urban people, especially those born in recent decades and those living in major cities, would be interested in such people, labeling them as "grass-root artists" and their craftsmanship "artsy."

"These people make a living from their skills. They never thought they were doing anything fancy, because they are practicing a skill passed on from older generations," said Jiao, also a Tsinghua graduate.

She added that such seemingly outdated and primitive techniques truly represent traditional Chinese culture, and people should take pride in them.

Jiao recounted one rural woman in Hebei, also a fan-drum dancer, said her "greatest achievement in life" was building a new house for her son, to help him get married.

In sharing this story, Jiao said the rural women talked about the essential needs of life – a place to live, family, and love, which modern urban people either lack or find it difficult to pursue.

Gao Yiye, who was documented in the book, appeared humble at the book launch ceremony. He repeatedly said he was "from the grass-roots, and doesn't have much education" but was delightful that the book made his trade "better known to the outside world."

The book said the four people have preserved the bottom line in life, though they live in remote areas and are separated from their acquaintances. Lei Jianjun, another of the book's authors, explained that the four craftsmen's simple human nature was a result of their leisure.

"Modern people tend to seek comfort in the media and media-based communications. But the media do not represent true life and they increase anxiety, however these four people are at leisure. They are not rich, and their desires are limited. That's why they have found pleasure from their leisure. Pleasure cuts off anxiety," he said.

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