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China ABC -- Culture

New China has witnessed in the past 50 years a tortuous development of its literature and art. The first Congress of Literary and Art workers held in 1949 set into motion what was known as "socialist art cause". In 1956, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party put forward the principle of "let one hundred flowers bloom and one hundred schools of though contend", a policy that promoted the development of arts. Things were in good shape up to 1966, when the "cultural revolution" broke out, with the exception of the excessive Anti-Rightist Movement of the late 1950?痵, which implicated a big number of writers and artists. During the 10-year "cultural revolution", many excellent works were labeled as "poisonous weeds", and writers and artists were persecuted, leaving China?痵 garden of literature and art barren.
Since 1978, China has seen a revival of artistic creation. Great progress has been made in the following areas:
1. The country?痵 art performance troupes have been revamped as part of the effort to reshape China?痵 cultural establishment.
This effort has achieved major breakthroughs over the last 20 years of reform and opening up. Since 1992, the Ministry of Culture, the country?痵 chief regulator of cultural affairs, has responded to the Party?痵 call to deepen structural reforms of cultural institutions by focusing first on performance groups directly under the central government. Measures taken include redefining the relationship between the State and the troupes by introducing performance-related subsidies, and redefining the relationship between the performance groups and performers by linking employment with performance. Thanks to the effective reforms, the number of performance groups directly under the central government has been reduced from 13 to 10, but annual performances by those troupes increased from nearly 400 of the pre-reform period to 1,928 in 1997. Financially, these troupes put an end to loss-making and posted a profit of 7.43 million yuan in 1997. This experience served as a model to be applied nationwide for reforming art troupes of various sizes.
Art education and culture-related science and technology have also undergone readjustments, and pilot programs have been undertaken in promoting rural cultural reforms and reorganizing popular cultural institutions.
2. Artistic creation has flourished.
To promote art development, the government has since 1987 held five Chinese art festivals featuring time-honored stage performances. These festivals have been hugely successful thanks to the participation of professional artists and the public at large. In 1991 the Ministry of Culture launched the Wenhua Award -- the highest award for professional artists given by the government. Recipients of that award include Grandpa Shangang, Remote Town, Barren land and The Geologist.
In stage productions, the government protects and supports classical art such as orchestral music, opera and music plays, and traditional Chinese arts such as Peking Opera. The most popular shows include the New Year?痵 Peking Opera Night and the Chinese New Year Party organized by the Ministry of Culture. In 1997 alone, 417,000 shows were staged attracting a audience of 464 million.
3. A cultural market is fast emerging.
The reform program has given rise to a booming cultural market. That market encompasses performances, books, newspapers and magazines, fine arts, films, audio and video products, entertainment, historical relics, Sino-foreign cultural exchanges and art training. Meanwhile, problems have arisen along with the booming market. In 1993, a national working conference was held on regulating the burgeoning cultural market. At that meeting, the principle of "attaching equal importance to cultural prosperity and market regulation" was set forth. A series of related policies and regulations have been formulated and promulgated since. The promulgation of the Regulations on Commercial Performance Administration in 1997, in particular, represented a major milestone in cultural market legislation. Over the past years, a planned and step-by-step effort to tackle problems in the cultural market has been made and the result has been good. The macro-control measures taken to regulate the performance market, in particular, have created a positive market environment for the growth of traditional Chinese arts and classical Western arts. The rearrangement of the audio and video market has resulted in an obvious increase in the market share of authentic products. Since January 1997, a program-supply system has been introduced to ensure that video projection rooms all over the country play only authentic films, thereby ensuring the healthy development of the market.
Statistics show that by 1997 there were 257,378 business entities nationwide affiliated with cultural institutions, employing 1,160,385. That market represents not only a place for entertainment but also a source of employment and tax revenue. The cultural industry, as part of the service industry, is playing an increasingly important role.
4. Impressive progress has been made in the development of ethnic minority cultures.
To support the cultural development of ethnic minorities, the Ministry of Culture has mapped out a series of preferential policies for building cultural facilities in minority-inhabited areas, training ethnic artists, conducting cultural exchanges with foreign countries, and preserving cultural relics. With the assistance of the government, all the ethnic groups in China have formed their own art troupes. By 1997 those troupes numbered 526, including 59 singing and dancing troupes. In addition, there were 596 libraries, 658 cultural centers and 134 museums. The Ministry of Culture allocates more than 10 million yuan to minority-inhabited areas for building cultural facilities. To encourage artistic excellence, the government set up a Peacock Prize for ethnic artists, so far 166 have won the prize.
Also, 24 institutions of higher learning and secondary schools nationwide are designated to train minority artists. To support the cultural development of Tibet, for example, the Ministry of Culture mobilized 14 provinces and municipalities to aid Tibet?痵 cultural development. The first 15 projects alone involved nearly 50 billion yuan of aid.
5. Art education has been strengthened.
Currently, the country now has 30 institutions of higher learning devoted to art education, with a combined enrollment of 6,673 students and a staff of 21,284. In addition, 137 secondary schools employ 13,959 staff members with an enrollment of 68,594. These schools have produced such great Chinese artists as singers Guan Mucun and Dong Wenhua, as well as comedians Shi Fukuan and Jiang Kun.
6. The cultural infrastructure has been consolidated.
The reform and opening up program has given rise to the emergence of a host of hallmark cultural facilities in various localities. These include the National Library of China (the largest in Asia; dedicated in October 1987); the museums of Shaanxi, Shanghai, Henan and Tibet; the libraries of Shanghai, Jiangxi, Fujian and Inner Mongolia; the Changan Grand Theater of Beijing and Tianhe Book Trading Center of Guangzhou. In 1997 alone, 1,043 cultural infrastructure projects were under construction, involving a construction area of 4.5 million square meters. By the end of that year, 361 projects had been completed, with a construction area of 934,000 square meters and a total investment of 2.84 billion yuan. The Ministry of Culture alone undertook more than 30 projects, most involving over 10 million yuan each. Eight projects involved more than 100 million yuan each. The construction of a National Opera House is under way, and a number of provinces and cities have built their own opera houses and concert halls.

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