Downtown amenities flow to rural villages

More villages in the Meilong Town are building entertainment centers to delicate the balance between traditional lifestyle and modernization.

Meilong Town is doing a delicate balancing act between modernization and tradition.

“We are building cultural and entertainment centers,” said Yang Jianhua, the town Party secretary. “They are places of culture, debate and public gatherings that seek to preserve the traditions of the past while providing modern facilities.”

Among the 15 villages that comprise the town, five have already built entertainment centers as an antidote to the rapid urbanization hat has been a death knell for many villages.

Before the centers were built, entertainment for most villagers meant a card game. For activities beyond that, villagers had to travel for hours to other sites.

“This project started out in 2015, when we realized the needs of villagers,” said Fang Lina, who works for the Meilong Town government.

The cultural centers attract performances that enable villagers to enjoy some of the same entertainment as residents in inner areas of Shanghai.

Stand-up comedian Wang Rugang said he was impressed after giving a village performance.

“The village staff gives us feedback so we know what villagers want to see,” he said. “We will be giving three shows this month.”

Downtown amenities flow to rural villages
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The Energy dance troupe rehearses at Hangnan Village cultural center.

Hangnan Village

Hangnan Village has the largest and latest of the cultural centers. Its most eye-catching feature is the display of prizes and certificates won by the local dance team.

The troupe, which calls itself Energy, is comprised of 30 villagers, ranging in age from 47 to 68.

“We started out in the Qiangwei Elementary School grounds, but the music disturbed some nearby residents,” said Zhang Guoqin, the leader of Energy. “Then we moved to an underground parking lot.”

Village leaders heard about the plight of the dance group, altered the entertainment center to provide a studio for Energy and even purchased a stereo system for the dancers.

Caozhong Village

About 500 residents of Caozhong Village were relocated because of urban renewal. They return to the village every New Year’s Eve to have dinner at the village center with to their former neighbors.

“Their roots stay in the village,” said Lin Caiping, deputy director of the village. “No matter how far they go or how much things have changed, the village is always in their hearts.”

The wall of the culture and entertainment center displays village photos stretching back 40 years. One shows villager Lin Haiying living in a straw hut in 1976. Subsequent pictures show the tile-roofed house the family built with their own hands. By 1986, the family had moved into a two-story villa.

“The center is also a place where we can discuss issues,” said Tang Aibing, the secretary of Caozhong Village. “We had one lively debate on how to reconstruct the village.”

Some residents proposed the construction of a public square, but others said they feared the noise of square-dancing there might be intolerable. Other issues included parking spaces and maintenance of greenery.

“The more issues are debated, the more issues get resolved,” said Tang.

Xujing Village

Downtown amenities flow to rural villages
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Song Shicai is spoiled for choice of what to read at the Xujing Village center.

Ninety-year-old villager Song Shicai walks to the cultural center every day to read.

“I didn’t have the chance to read or study when I was young,” he said. “My family couldn’t afford education, so I dropped out of school after the third grade.”

Song said that he tries to learn something new every day. Neighbors joke that is the secret to his longevity.

“I can chat with friends over cups of tea when I get tired of reading,” Song said. “I’m very content with my current lifestyle.”

Jixin Village

Downtown amenities flow to rural villages
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Villagers enjoy a show at Jixin Village cultural center.

The theater in Jixin Village can hold 300 people. It has hosted 23 shows to date.

“I’m a fan of Huju Opera,” said Jin Xianghua, chairman of Jixin Village Drama Club. “A troupe from Meilong often performs shows here, and I’ve never missed one. Our club gives weekly performances, from classics to modern works. The latest show, entitled ‘A Thousand Teardrops in the Heart,’ deals with the subject of drugs.”

Ping Guiqin, a professional performer who lives in Xingxi Village, heard about the club and volunteered to teach classes there, becoming a favorite of the locals.

Some 50 villagers have already joined the club. Their passion compensates for any lack of professional training.

 “Now we can watch plays or sing,” said Jin. “It’s a more meaningful way to kill time.”

Hangxi Village

Downtown amenities flow to rural villages
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Yang Baicai(left) takes a patient's pulse during a medical check-up at the Hangxi Village cultural center.

Yang Baicai, a volunteer practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, uses the culture and entertainment center as consulting room to serve hundreds of patients.

Before the center was constructed, he was forced to use a tiny room for his volunteer visits.

“Patients had to queue outside the door,” said Zhu Wenping, the secretary of Hangxi Village. “They can now sit comfortably in an airconditioned waiting room.”

When news spread that a traditional Chinese medicine specialist from the prestigious Longhua Hospital in downtown Shanghai was seeing patients in Hangxi Village, residents started coming from nearby villages. The queue begins as early as 8am

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