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Traditional poetry continues in new forms

Author  :  ZHANG YIFAN     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2017-02-28

The Chinese Poetry Competition makes many people realize that poetry is not far removed from their lives and instead it has already melted into various traditions and daily routines.

During the Spring Festival holidays, CCTV launched the second season of Chinese Poetry Competition, which once again broke audience rating records. It follows the success of similar programs, such as the Chinese Idiom Competition and Chinese Characters Dictation Competition. In the program, the contestants dictate and recite poems and play interactive poetry games, and the judges analyze each poem’s background. This national television competition is intense but true to the spirit of the poems. It has prompted busy people from different age groups and professions to gather in front of televisions with family and immerse themselves in poetic language.

China is a country of poetry. Its poetry has a checkered development history, but many poems have been passed down through the ages and are continuously recited by poetry lovers. The reason why Chinese poetry has lasting vitality is that its inheritors pay attention to innovation and the forms, spread and diffusion of poems. Poetry creation was once a significant subject of the imperial competitive examination. Poets tried their best to publish poems and further their ambitions. Old-style private schools taught students poem recitation as a requirement for basic education.

Moreover, many calligraphers regarded the content of poems as a model of calligraphy for handwriting practice. Previous generations endeavored to maintain the vitality of poetry. They continuously utilized various approaches to drive the spread of Chinese poetry.

Not only has poetry endured, but many other outstanding forms of traditional Chinese cultures have also flourished with the help of new forms of communication. The creative transformation and innovative development of forms of communication has laid down a significant cornerstone for establishing the modern inheritance system of China’s outstanding traditional forms of culture.

Outstanding forms of traditional Chinese culture, representing the essences of the Chinese national spirit, are inseparable from the Chinese people’s living habits and ways of thinking, which have been completely integrated with their minds and actions. This explains why China has achieved a miracle of cultural continuity over the past thousands of years.

Some people argue that ancient people’s lives were relatively monotonous and that now a variety of cultural and entertainment lifestyles appeal to young people, so they would rather not learn about traditional culture. However, this argument cannot stand in the face of history and the current situation. A poetic life is a choice, not an unreachable goal. Rather than spending too much time on social media and becoming addicted to it, reading poems, writing calligraphy and singing Peking or Kunqu Opera may bring people peace and comfort.

The Chinese Poetry Competition makes many people realize that poetry is not far away from their lives and instead it has already melted into various traditions and daily routines. Many TV programs, such National Young Singers’ Contest and the Young Peking Opera Performers’ Competition, also play a similar role in enlightening people and boosting their enthusiasm for learning traditional culture. These programs all utilize various modern forms of media, such as the Internet and television, attracting the attention of millions of viewers. The combination of communication forms and cultural elements can make people become more familiar with traditional culture and reach their hearts.

Learning traditional culture can help us cope with the challenges of complicated modern society and rely on predecessors’ wisdom and experience. We should warmly welcome all communication forms that are conducive to spreading traditional culture and actively participate in them with family members.


Zhang Yifan is the director of the Department of Theater and Chinese Opera of the Research Center of Chinese Opera at Renmin University of China.

Editor: Yu Hui

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