Local artisans dazzle Czech festival crowds

A delegation of Minhang artists recently broadened their cultural horizons on a visit to the Czech Republic and helped promote Chinese culture to a foreign audience.

A delegation of Minhang artists recently broadened their cultural horizons on a visit to the Czech Republic and helped promote Chinese culture to a foreign audience.

The highlight of the trip was the delegation's participation in a summer arts and music festival in the picturesque city of Sumperk, gateway to the Jeseníky Mountains.

The 23-member Minhang delegation, which included calligraphers, a drum team and orchestra players, performed on stage and displayed Chinese folk arts in festival stalls in mid-August.

The Chinese visitors were so determined to put on their best performance that they kindly declined a dinner invitation from the municipal government so they could rehearse, said Fu Yan, curator of the Minhang Mass Arts Center.

The Shanghai Xinyi National Chamber Orchestra was the curtain-raiser at the festival, with a performance of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

Xu Kaikai

An open air concert of Chinese folk music draws throngs of passers.

Feng Niankang, from the Minhang Artists Association, presented a painting of eight pandas to the Sumperk government as a gift. The work was inscribed "harmony makes peace," highlighting the theme of the trip.

"Giant pandas aren't found in the land of the Czechs as yet," said the city's vice mayor, in accepting the gift. "But thanks to Minhang delegation, we now have eight."

Fan Meina, a Sichuan opera performer, presented the ancient traditional Chinese dramatic artistry of bian lian to the international audience.

The art form, also known as "face-changing," is a dramatic way of expressing a character's emotions in a Sichuan opera. One of the most remarkable feats of the art is artists changing their masks in less than a second, without the audience noticing.

"I changed 12 masks in a four-minute performance," said one performer Fan Meina. "I could feel the jaw-dropping surprise of the audience. A lot of people abroad are still unfamiliar with Chinese culture, so I'm glad we had the chance to promote it."

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Fan Meina performs "face-changing" on the stage.

"Although the Minhang delegation was here for a little under a week, they are now quite famous among the villagers," the mayor said. "It has been a real pleasure and privilege hosting them."

The feeling was mutual.

"I became acquainted with several excellent Czech artists," said Chen Yuxing, an artist with the Minhang Artists Association. "We became friends."

Another delegation member, Chen Xingzhi, introduced traditional Chinese sachets to festival-goers, ruing that she didn't bring more on the trip as they proved to be quite popular.

She told festival audiences that the sachets are worn during the Dragon Boat Festival as a way of warding off the emergence of insect season when the event is held early every summer.

"I displayed around 20 kinds of sachets," Chen said. "The town's mayor was intrigued and inspected every one of them, asking about contents and traditional meanings. The translator told me that he expressed amazement at Chinese culture. In fact, he was so fascinated that he postponed the opening ceremony by 15 minutes!"

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The town's mayor shakes hands with Chen Xingzhi.

Chen presented the mayor with sachets filled with sleeping lotus and other herbs as a gift.

Crochet expert Jin Longhua helped Chen make an additional 100 sachets in their hotel overnight to present as gifts to a children's choir.

The Sumperk government posted 60 photos on its Facebook page for anyone who missed the festival activities.

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