ELEGANCE OF A FARMER: A farmer singer performs at the opening ceremony of the first Chinese Farmers Art Festival in Kunming, Yunnan Province, on November 19 (XINHUA)
As living conditions keep improving, China's rural areas are flourishing and undergoing enormous changes, and the cultural lives of Chinese farmers are becoming more colorful and diverse. Greater numbers of farmers are expressing their feelings in various ways, art included.
Held from November 17 to 22, near Kunming, the first Chinese Farmers Art Festival (CFAF) included the finals of the first National Contest of Country Singers, folk art and crafts exhibitions, folk dance galas and forums on village cultures, showing the new look of rural China, the new life of Chinese farmers and the development of Chinese agriculture.
Farmers' artistic creation has a long history in China and is rich in content and form. It is an important part of national culture. CFAF aims to promote exchanges between farmer artists and introduce their works to the whole country and even to the world.
"The festival is both a platform to show the positive image of farmers and help innovation for the development of new village culture. It is of great significance for improving cultural literacy of farmers and will help the formation of a refined and healthy lifestyle in rural areas," Ouyang Jian, Vice Minister of Culture, said at the opening ceremony of the festival.
As part of the CFAF, the singing contest began as early as October this year. Eighty-six country singers of 14 ethnic groups from 21 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions participated, of whom 39 singers made the final held in Fubao on November 18. The contest offered an opportunity for farmers to show their talent as well as a chance to explore the essence of the natural folk songs and ethnic culture.
A Pan-Asia village music show was staged at the same time. Village music artists from more than 10 countries such as India, Myanmar, Viet Nam, Laos, Canada, Brazil and Thailand gave public performances of their traditional country music and dance to the local audience.
In the folk art exhibition, 45 types of Chinese intangible cultural heritage were on show, including clay sculpture, porcelain, paper cutting, printing, musical instrument making, tea culture and embroidery. Also, 82 exponents of intangible cultural heritage showed their artistry on site.
Li Jiyou, a 75-year-old maker of facial masks for festive celebrations, introduced the designing and history of the facial adornments dating back thousands of years in northwestern Shaanxi Province. Li's masks have even been displayed in countries and regions such as France, Canada, Hong Kong and Macao. Li, who has taught his craftsmanship to several students, including one of his daughters, said he hoped this traditional folk art can be passed down.
Fengxiang clay sculpture, a folk art from Shaanxi Province, also aroused great interest among many visitors. The models of this kind of clay sculpture are mainly animals, especially the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac. Figures in folk legends and history stories are also subjects of their creations.
Professor Yang Dexin at Yunnan University, an expert on intangible cultural heritage protection, said, "Protection of intangible cultural heritage still has a long way to go. Improper protection, the lack of inheritors and overexploitation are severely threatening the passing down of these national treasures. Both the government and society should intensify their efforts in protection. This exhibition has set up a platform for displaying, protecting and developing those treasures."
At the forum on village cultures during the festival, more than 400 representatives from 135 villages shared their experience for the promotion of cultural development in rural areas.