Reshape Jiangnan Culture

  China News Weekly reporter/Xu Tian

  Issued at 2021.11.1 Issue 1018 of "China News Weekly"

  It was getting late, and a wooden boat was walking leisurely in the water outside the Canglang Pavilion.

Standing on the bow of the ship, the scholar in white robes came over the moon.

After landing, he recites Kun Bai, leads the audience into the Canglang Pavilion, and also enters the story of Shen Fu and Yunniang.

Kunqu Opera "Six Chapters of a Floating Life" was first performed in Canglang Pavilion, Suzhou's oldest garden in 2018. This garden version of immersive Kunqu opera based on the concept of "Kun Opera + Garden" has been out of the circle among young fans.

  It is not surprising that Suzhou was able to create this real Kunqu Opera.

This city with a history of more than 2500 years has too many cultural IPs: 2 world cultural heritages including gardens and the Grand Canal, and 61 national key cultural relics protection units, including Kunqu Opera, embroidery, and Kesi. 6 world-class and 33 national-level intangible cultural heritage.

  With the advent of the cultural industry wave, how these IPs can expand their connotations, create their contemporaryness, and become Suzhou's core competitiveness is an important issue facing Suzhou.

  According to the "Three-year Action Plan for "Jiangnan Culture" Brand Building" released earlier this year, the city is working hard on the exploration and research, display and presentation, transformation and development, dissemination and promotion of Jiangnan culture, and strive to make Suzhou a "Jiangnan Culture". The core narrator, communicator and leader of culture.

"If'Made in Suzhou' is our'hardest core', then'Jiangnan culture' is our'brightest business card'." Xu Kunlin, then member of the Standing Committee of the Jiangsu Provincial Party Committee and Secretary of the Suzhou Municipal Party Committee, said that Suzhou will be fully launched "Jiangnan "Culture" brand reshapes the core position of Jiangnan culture.

Homesickness and Jiangnan Dream

  "Six Chapters of a Floating Life" will be released because the producer of the project made an idea.

If foreign tourists come to Suzhou and can only stay for one night, which aspect of Jiangnan culture do they most want to experience?

Producer Xiao Yan said that the answer they gave was World Heritage Gardens and Intangible Heritage Kunqu Opera.

  Jiangnan culture is undoubtedly rich in connotation, but to a certain extent, it has become a kind of "stereotype" of the Chinese people: it is a family sleeping in a river, an alley with white walls and tiles; it is a Kunqu opera floating out of the river, uncle A casually humming Pingtan; it is handmade three prawn noodles in early summer and fat and tender hairy crabs in late autumn.

  However, Wang Yao, a Changjiang scholar and director of the Academic Committee of Soochow University, pointed out to China News Weekly that Jiangnan culture has not yet formed a clear definition.

Outside of Suzhou, Shanghai, Nanjing, Jiangsu, and Hangzhou, Zhejiang are all interpreting Jiangnan culture from a local standpoint, hoping to master the core voice.

  Xiong Yuezhi, a distinguished professor at Fudan University and a researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, explained that these four cities are the four cultural centers that have existed in the history of the Jiangnan region. Nanjing and Hangzhou have become cultural centers due to their elevated political status, while Suzhou and Shanghai are mainly due to The economic status has been elevated and it has become a cultural center.

  However, Wang Yao believes that Nanjing and Hangzhou were both national capitals in history and were heavily influenced by politics. Their Jiangnan culture was not pure and extreme; Shanghai rose at the beginning of the last century. Due to its international characteristics, its culture has changed into Shanghai style. culture.

Only Suzhou still retains the cultural heritage that has been passed down from ancient times to the present day.

  In fact, the Jiangnan culture in Suzhou was gradually constructed.

On the first floor of the West Pavilion, which was just opened on September 29, the Suzhou Museum, the curator Li Jun and his colleagues gave their own understanding of this construction process in the permanent exhibition "Pure Jiangnan".

  Before the end of the Western Jin Dynasty, Wu was still a martial artist.

Most of the famous Spring and Autumn Swords that survived the world were produced in the land of Wuyue.

"Han Shu" records, "Wu Yue princes are brave, so his people are easy to use swords, easy to die." As the center of power moved south, the gentry moved south, the land of Wuyue became the country's politics, economy, and culture. In the center, Wu Feng also gradually changed to Chongwen and polite.

Xiong Yuezhi said that in the Six Dynasties, the atmosphere in the south of the Yangtze River was very different from that of the Western Han Dynasty.

  The context of Suzhou has been further developed in the Tang and Song dynasties.

The Tang Dynasty poets Wei Yingwu, Bai Juyi, and Liu Yuxi successively served as Suzhou provincial governors. Liu Yuxi once said, "Suzhou provincial governors can write poems."

Fan Zhongyan, a politician and writer of the Song Dynasty, also governed Suzhou and founded the government school.

This is the first state-run school in China. Since then, students have come and gone, helping Suzhou to reach the pinnacle of "Jiangnan Culture" in the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

  Four Wu Schools, including Tang Yin and Wen Zhengming, were all the rage. Feng Menglong's "San Yan" became the pinnacle of Chinese classical short stories in vernacular.

Kunqu Opera, which originated in Kunshan, Suzhou, innovated the water mill tune in the Ming Dynasty and became the mainstream opera genre.

There were more than 50 kinds of craftsmanship of Su Zuo during the reign of Emperor Kangxi and Yongzheng, professional and delicate.

Among the more than 1.8 million collections in the Forbidden City, the collections involving Su Gongsu are divided into 10 categories and approximately 317,000.

Apart from Beijing, Suzhou is the most closely connected city with the Forbidden City.

  During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the "Jiangnan Culture" with Suzhou as its core city entered a period of comprehensive prosperity.

Kong Feili analyzed in the book "Calling the Soul" that the rulers of the Qing Dynasty had a headache on how to establish political control over the arrogant upper academia in the south of the Yangtze River. The latter sought more than just a place in the imperial examinations or high-ranking officials. Hou Lu, if anyone can make a Manchu feel like a rude foreigner, it is a Jiangnan literati.

  Wang Yao said that the Chinese people’s homesickness for traditional culture is actually a Jiangnan dream, a poem and a distant place where humanities and landscape coexist.

And Suzhou is precisely the master of this aesthetic taste.

Keep integrity and innovation

  In 2011, he received both an offer for financial work and an acceptance letter from a university in the UK. However, Zhang Xue, a boy who is about to graduate from his senior year, made a decision that surprised everyone around him.

He returned to his hometown of Suzhou and inherited his mother's embroidery skills.

  Mother Xue Jindi is the representative inheritor of the intangible cultural heritage of Suzhou embroidery, and she is also the most traditional type of craftsmen of the previous generation in Suzhou.

Born in Zhenhu, the important birthplace of Suzhou embroidery, he grew up on a textile machine and later worked in a state-owned embroidery factory. With the state-owned restructuring, Xue Jindi brought a group of embroiderers to take orders in his own handicraft workshop.

The works are sold to Russia and the United States. Generally speaking, the more embroidered and the more complicated the stitching, the more popular it is with customers, such as full-width peonies.

  Zhang Xue, who was gradually leaving a teacher, soon discovered the disagreement between herself and her mother.

Influenced by ancient poems and landscape paintings, Zhang Xue, born in the 1980s, likes a minimalist style with blank spaces.

Mother is a little puzzled. Embroidery should reflect the skill of the hand. Is too much white space acceptable?

  In fact, this is the core issue that Jiangnan culture is being passed down to the present. Intangible cultural heritage including Kunqu Opera and embroidery, to some extent, represents the highest aesthetic of Jiangnan culture. This aesthetic can be changed due to the development of the times. NS?

Need to cater to the needs of the contemporary market?

  Qu Qixia, secretary of the Party branch of Kunshan Contemporary Kunming Theater, also found the same problem.

As China's eighth Kunming Theater, it was named "Contemporary Kunming Theater" at the beginning of its establishment, which means to be based on tradition and face the contemporary.

But the exquisite and elegant Kunqu opera is in line with contemporary people, and it has also encountered problems.

  On the one hand, it is the literary words. The words of Kunqu Opera follow a strict lyric pattern. Now that the language environment has changed, the audience has the problem of not being able to understand or understand.

Some young viewers even said that watching English subtitles is easier to understand than watching the original subtitles.

On the other hand, Kunqu Opera is proud of the water mill tune. The water mill tune is mellow and long, like a stone milled rice, and it is sluggish. Once it was released, it was immediately popular with fans of the Ming Dynasty.

But in the fast-paced moment, the audience only has two hours left for a movie. How can the slow-paced Kunqu opera retain the audience, not only retain the water-trimmed tune within the limited total time, but also make the plot wonderful and reasonable?

  Li Hong, director of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Department of Suzhou Culture, Radio, Film and Television and Tourism Bureau, told China News Weekly that because the concept of intangible cultural heritage appeared late and subject construction lags behind, many theories are inconclusive and are still in the exploratory stage.

Some experts believe that intangible cultural heritage should be immutable, and apprentices should accept and pass it on exactly what the master passed down.

Of course, there are more people who believe that intangible cultural heritage has been passed down from ancient times to the present, and it has not been the way it was when it was born. It has undergone development and changes.

Inheriting from the contemporary to the next, it should also be allowed to be improved without violating the inner core, which is more in line with the aesthetic needs of contemporary people.

  In Suzhou, inheritance and innovation are more mainstream practices. Of course, innovation must be prudent.

Since its establishment six years ago, Kunshan Contemporary Kun Opera has inherited 40 classic Kunqu operas, and on this basis, it has created 5 new plays.

In new dramas with contemporary themes, they try to combine contemporary language to create chants.

The audience feedback that even if you don't read the subtitles, you can understand it.

Feng Huiqing, deputy director of the Kunshan Municipal Bureau of Culture, Sports, Radio, Film and Tourism, said that they hope to retain young people in the theater and "grab the aesthetics of Kunqu Opera from the dolls". In a few years, these people will become loyal fans of Kunqu Opera. The inheritance of Kunqu Opera is of great benefit.

  Zhang Xue's innovation has also been recognized. He insisted on doing minimalist embroidery and fixed his personal style, which attracted the attention of experts and the market.

One of his works only embroidered a case, a censer, a stick of incense, and cigarettes curled up, with the word "Buddha" scattered all around.

The 8th Jiangsu Art Museum Silver Needle Cup Embroidery Competition awarded the gold prize to this work, which is considered to be ethereal, deep, elegant, and beautiful, and its artistic conception is reflected in the white space.

Later, Netease games, the movie "Detective Pikachu", Tencent QQ show, etc. all came in, hoping to cooperate with this unique style of embroidery inheritor.

  In Li Hong's view, all innovations will be market-oriented, and the market will vote with their feet and give answers.

Before the answer is clear enough, Qu Qixia said, everyone is carefully demonstrating, thinking and practicing.

This prudence is even more evident in the market-oriented attempts of the famous World Cultural Heritage Humble Administrator's Garden.

  In November 2020, the Humble Administrator’s Garden opened 12 acres out of the total area of ​​72 acres, using light and shadow technology to create the night tour project "Humble Administrator's Questions and Elegant".

This is a completely different experience from a day trip, more like a wonderful night in a garden.

The landscape paintings hanging in the hall came to life, and the water gurgled down from the mountains; three deer strolled in the idle courtyard on the low slope by the side of the road; listened to the banana leaves outside Yuxuan swaying with the wind, and the sound of the wind came from the interactive headphones. The sound of rain and thunder, at that moment, the tourists seemed to have the Humble Administrator's Garden, and Basho leisurely listened to the rain.

  Although "Humble Administrator's Questions about Ya" made a stunning appearance, Xue Zhijian, the director of Suzhou Garden Museum, revealed that the Humble Administrator's Garden had made a year-long demonstration for the night tour project.

The garden is a fragile life body. If you add a few more hours of night tours every day without rest throughout the year, is the garden's self-repairing capacity sufficient?

The Humble Administrator's Garden decided to delay the closing time of the garden by one and a half hours in May last year to observe the effect.

Five months later, after a full assessment, the night tour program of "Humble Administrator's Questions for Ya" was officially opened.

In order not to damage the pavilions, ancient trees and famous trees, all the light and shadow equipment in the night tour are detachable.

After the park closed at 5:30, the workers urgently set up equipment, and after the night tour, they all dismantled them and put them in the warehouse, as if they had never appeared before.

Li Jiangnan, view the world

  Shanghai’s International Convention and Exhibition Center is a huge "four-leaf clover" with a total construction area of ​​over 1.5 million square meters, of which 1,200 square meters belong to Suzhou.

In May of this year, the Su Zuo Museum opened in Shanghai, and 12 works of Su Zuo including Su embroidery, Kesi, nuclear carving, Ming and Qing furniture were displayed in the museum.

  Going out is an indispensable step for Suzhou to fully develop its Jiangnan cultural brand.

Lu Pinggui, general manager of Suzhou Cultural Tourism Group Cultural Development Co., Ltd., told China News Weekly that the positioning of Su Zuo Pavilion is very clear, and it is a boutique flagship store for the concentrated exhibition and sales of Su Gong Su Zuo at home and abroad.

  This has also led to another core issue that Suzhou must face to reshape the "Jiangnan Culture". In Suzhou's external narration, besides the small bridges and flowing water, the white walls and the black tiles, the Kunqu gardens, and the exquisite elegance of Su Gongsu's works, Can the connotation of "Jiangnan Culture" be further enriched?

Does the "Jiangnan Culture" have its contemporary performance since its development?

  Compared with the GDP of over 2 trillion yuan, the development of Suzhou's cultural industry was slightly weaker in the past.

The Suzhou Municipal Bureau of Culture, Broadcasting and Tourism told China News Weekly that Suzhou's cultural industry is characterized by "big but not strong".

For example, the added value of the cultural industry is high, but its proportion of GDP is not high; the contribution rate of cultural manufacturing is high, but the proportion of cultural service industry is relatively low; the number of cultural industry units is large, but there are not many enterprises and brands with national influence; There are many employees in the cultural industry, but not many high-level cultural talents.

  To this end, Suzhou is making efforts in various ways to make up for its shortcomings.

During the "14th Five-Year Plan" period, under the condition of tight fiscal funds, the scale of the cultural industry special support funds arranged by the city's fiscal plans at all levels will double that during the "13th Five-Year Plan" period, increasing from 150 million yuan to 300 million yuan per year .

  On the one hand, Suzhou is exploring how to activate and make good use of Jiangnan cultural genes, give products more Jiangnan cultural connotation, and strive to transform cultural resource advantages into industrial development advantages; on the other hand, Suzhou is also looking for the contemporary place and grasp of Jiangnan culture. hand.

Chen Long, Secretary of the Party Leadership Group and Chairman of Suzhou New Times Group, told China News Weekly that before the epidemic, Suzhou received 130 million tourists a year. When everyone came to Suzhou, in addition to visiting the old city and gardens, enjoying Kunqu Opera and Pingtan, they could also Do something?

This is a problem that Suzhou needs to solve urgently.

  Some people also expressed confusion. If the "Jiangnan culture" becomes contemporary, will it change or be pure Jiangnan?

Wang Yao said that from the history of Suzhou, "Jiangnan Culture" has amazing vitality, and there is no need to worry about it being eroded and changed too much.

"Jiangnan culture should be confident and embrace other cultures vigorously. When a city is modern enough, or even internationalized, it will be dominated by one culture and have multiple cultures blending together."

  What's more, in his opinion, unlike many other cities and urban cultures, Suzhou's "Jiangnan Culture" has been closely integrated with secular life.

It is the poetry shrouded in every ordinary day and night, circulating in the stage, calligraphy, painting, Su writing and literature, permeating among boys, young people, the middle-aged and the elderly.

Every tourist who comes to Suzhou can find the taste of old Suzhou from the streets and alleys and understand the new stories that Suzhou wants to tell.

  China News Weekly, Issue 40, 2021

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