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High hopes for lion dance of the air

Updated: 2024-04-01 07:50 ( China Daily )
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Chen's team tests strings before a performance at the village. [Photo provided to China Daily]

As their skills have improved, the troupe has received more opportunities to perform. Their commitment has also won them the support of the elderly craftsmen in the village, who have helped them with woodwork, while others have helped raise funds.

"The string lion dance is not just a hobby now, but also a passion to carry on traditional intangible cultural heritage," Chen Jihong says.

When they have trouble getting the funds to take performances on the road, Chen Jihong takes odd jobs, such as peddling handmade glutinous rice balls, to make ends meet. He considers this a test the troupe has to pass before it is able to really make a go of the art.

"We just have to make do, and see what happens," he says. "I dig into my own pocket if I have to, because if we don't, things will eventually fall apart."

Recently, their story has been turned into a documentary.

Liu Shenghui, the documentary's producer, says that it hasn't been easy for the troupe to persist for more than a decade. "Through this filming experience, this group of youngsters truly touched us," Liu says.

Despite the lack of funding, and the general feeling among many people that art is not a serious pursuit, the team members have continued to fight for what they love.

Zhang Shuxi, the documentary director, says the troupe's perseverance is worth learning from.

Chen Jihong says he's grateful that he and his troupe have been featured in a documentary and that they will work harder to bring the art to a bigger stage.

So far, they have explored ways of integrating the dance into learning tours of the village and are working on building a website and a WeChat account to promote it.

"The organic integration of contemporary trends with traditional culture is the greatest advantage our generation has in inheriting intangible cultural heritage," Chen Jihong says.

Yang Jie contributed to this story.

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