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Neighborly exchange

The Smile of Angkor, resident performance in Angkor, Cambodia. (Photo: Courtesy of Yunnan Culture Industry Investment Holdings Company)

Eclipsed by the glorious results from economic cooperation, mutual exchange between China and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in the area of culture have been somewhat undervalued, despite long-term cultural links and certain similarities.

Since the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area was launched in 2010, China has now become the organization's largest trading partner. Now to catch up with bilateral economic achievements, cultural exchange and cooperation are being emphasized.

Yunnan takes the lead

As a bordering province with a few ASEAN member nations, Yunnan Province is playing a lead role in this regard. Earlier this week, the China ASEAN Culture, Business and Tourism Seminar took place in Shilin county of Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan.

At the seminar, ambassadors and diplomats from the 10 ASEAN member countries as well as managers of local cultural groups shared their views and suggestions on how to further boost the cultural cooperation between the bordering region and the economic bloc.

"Yunnan features a diverse ethnic cultural pattern that is shared by that of the ASEAN countries," said Tao Guoxiang, general manager of Yunnan Culture Industry Investment Holdings Company, which has contributed to the exchange of art performances between Yunnan and ASEAN.

"The kindness and inclusiveness delivered by Ashima culture also represent the spirit of ASEAN," he stressed at the seminar.

With 26 ethnic groups residing in the region, Yunnan has long been known for its various ethnic cultures in the country. Since its folk narrative poem Ashima was made into film in 1964, it became a lively symbol of Yunnan culture.

In conjunction with the seminar, a ceremony was held to inaugurate the construction of Ashima Grand Theater in Shilin. "The theater will be mainly used to present cultural exhibitions and art performances from ASEAN countries," said Tao.

Art performances

The ethnic people of Yunnan are widely-known for their talent of singing and dancing, which has enabled the province to reach much further in cultural cooperation with ASEAN. Since 2010, more than six large-scale stage performances have been produced and have gone on tour to several ASEAN countries.

For example, The Smile of Angkor, themed on the traditional culture of Cambodia, has become a resident performance in the country since premiering in Cambodia in November 2010.

Also the epic singing and dancing performance Dreaming Tengchong, produced in 2010 in Yunnan's most western region Tengchong county which borders Myanmar, represents the busy business scenes in the port during the period of the Ancient Tea-Horse Road that originated in the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

And it's not only that art performances produced in Yunnan are introduced to ASEAN countries, but some are visiting the province from outside. In Shilin, performances of Phuket Fantasea in Thailand featuring singing and dancing, acrobatics and magic shows have been invited since 2010.

And there are other plans in the works. "In the future, we will cooperate with ASEAN countries to produce movie and television works, and meanwhile invite artists from those countries to produce and exhibit their works here," said Tao.

"China and Myanmar now have some regular cultural exchanges, like the visit of cultural troupes to each other every year," said Nilar Aung, the cultural counselor of Myanmar in China.

As they share a long border, Myanmar and Yunnan Province have some similarities in culture. "Our traditional costume, the longyi is very similar to the long clothing people wear in Ruili (a western city in Yunnan bordering Myanmar)," said Nilar. "Also the rice noodles that Yunnan is famous for (crossing-over bridge rice noodles), we also have in our country. We call it myeshay," she said.

"We have had cultural exchanges for a long time, and I think it should be further promoted, not just art performances, but also the clothing and food culture," she suggested.

While Yunnan is geographically near countries like Myanmar, the province has more space to cooperate in culture with ASEAN countries that are farther away. "China and Brunei have some cultural exchanges, but not on a big scale," said Magdalene Teo, Ambassador of Brunei to China.

"In the past, we have sent a lot of cultural troupes to China, and we hope to continue this momentum in the future. In the case of China, the government has also sent art troupes to Brunei," she mentioned. "We also have some art and photography exhibits going to different provinces that we are trying to introduce."

According to Teo, Chinese cultural industry is well advanced. She said in the past some Chinese art troupes sent by the government have helped Brunei to develop the country's orchestra. "We meet a lot of good musicians, chorographers, art directors. We need some assistance to build up our culture and entertainment industry," she told Global Times.

All-around cooperation

Enjoying the same geographical advantage as Yunnan with ASEAN, China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region is also speeding up their cultural cooperation with ASEAN countries. As early as in the 1960s, local film Liu Sanjie (the third sister of the Liu family) was very popular among southeastern Asian countries.

And in recent years, Liu Sanjie, the parallel cultural brand to the Ashima of Yunnan, is also becoming a calling card for Guangxi among ASEAN countries. They have cooperated with Vietnam to produce a marine performance A More Beautiful Vietnam, and outdoor performance Smiling Khmer with Cambodia.

Since establishing a dialogue with ASEAN in 1991, the cultural cooperation between China and ASEAN has been progressing. In 2005, the two sides signed the Culture Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding. In 2006, the first China-ASEAN Culture Industry Forum was initiated and later became an annual event.

At present, besides the art performance exchanges taking place regularly, other cultural areas including films, art exhibitions and publishing are quickly expanding. Now among all of China's imported TV series, shows from ASEAN take a 30 percent share. And each year, many actors from ASEAN countries are coming to China to participate in TV series or shows.


Source: ecns.cn
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