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Drumming up Support for a Legacy
Every morning Wang practices with his dance mates in a community park_副本.jpg 2.jpg It takes Wang less than 20 minutes to make a Taiping drum_副本.jpg 4.jpg 5.jpg
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  • Every morning Wang practices with his dance mates in a community park
  • The drum Wang uses has been made by him. The hoop decoration comes from his grandmother’s drum, which is a century old
  • It takes Wang less than 20 minutes to make a Taiping drum
  • Wang Chengqiang says the Taiping Drum Dance makes him optimistic about life and gives him an antidote to his diabetes
  • Wang Chengqiang dons his costume for a form of the traditional Shijingshan Taiping Drum Dance, called cockfight. The moves in this dance are like the movements made by roosters when they are fighting, complete with drumbeat
  • Every morning Wang practices with his dance mates in a community park_副本.jpg
  • 2.jpg
  • It takes Wang less than 20 minutes to make a Taiping drum_副本.jpg
  • 4.jpg
  • 5.jpg

Photos by Wei Yao

As a young boy, Wang Chengqiang, like all children, played with a drum. But it was more than play. His grandmother, who had learned the art from her elders when she was a child, taught him the Taiping Drum Dance, a lively folk dance in which the dancers use drums as props.

The genre, which originated among ordinary people to entertain themselves, appeared in Beijing during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and grew popular in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Taiping is associated with peace and tranquility and the drum is also called the Yingnian drum because it is played during Chinese New Year celebrations.

An offshoot of the traditional art is the Shijingshan Taiping Drum Dance, which developed in the capital’s Shijingshan District. A group of people, often in a circle, move back and forth to the beat created by hitting a small drum, which they hold in their left hand, with a stick held in the right, sometimes accompanying it with short, catchy songs. Many of these verses are based on traditional stories or classics. In 2006, the Shijingshan Taiping Drum Dance was listed as a national intangible cultural heritage.

The 61-year-old Wang is an heir of the vanishing art form. Today, Wang is dedicated to popularizing the drum dance once more. A diabetic with a stent in his heart, Wang nevertheless practices every day, teaching the art to people, both young and old, so that it is passed down to the future generation and more people know about the cultural tradition.

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