Chinese Extravaganza Uses Valley as a Backdrop

The New York Times reviews Zen Shaolin, an artistic extravaganza performed outside in Henan Province:

For those who were dazzled by the opening of the Beijing Olympics earlier this month, that ceremony had its roots in shows like this one, which with government backing and private financing are drawing huge audiences to some of China’s most scenic or historic spots.

The outdoor performances are part cultural event, part tourist attraction, with a dash of Hollywood and an intriguing blend of high and pop culture.

In the new China, investors and the government can team up to acquire a mountain, hire the Academy Award-winning composer Tan Dun and the internationally known dancer and choreographer Huang Dou Dou, and produce a spectacle that includes monks from the famed Shaolin Temple.

[…] With China pushing to commercialize its art and cultural industries, state-owned companies, music and theater troupes and even military dance ensembles are being encouraged to be financially independent and to create shows that might be exported to the rest of the world.

The government wants China to be seen in a new light (not as the old nation of Mao suits or a new generation of migrant factory workers), so that the country can market its rich cultural heritage and preserve some of its vanishing traditions.

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