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Chinese Folk Customs, Games, and Performing Arts

Chinese Culture >> Chinese Folk Customs

Chinese people love excitement, and Chinese New Year and other traditional festivals are times of special celebration and joy. Singing and dancing are everywhere. In spite of the heavy influence of Western culture in the increasingly cosmopolitan Taiwan, the various customs and activities accompanying traditional fests and celebrations are still observed with enthusiasm. Many of these folk customs and performances are incorporated into the festival celebrations and competitions held on Chinese New Year and other festivals, and have been passed down from generation to generation. The most common of these are perhaps the dragon dance and lion dance. Children growing up in Taiwan, even ones who have not yet taken their first steps, have all seen one of these performances from their fathers' shoulders or on TV at home.

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There are innumerable other kinds of festive folk performances, such as "riding in a boat on land," walking on stilts, "carrying a youth piggyback," the clam spirit dance, and so forth.

In "carrying a youth piggyback," a young woman straps a head-to-waist wooden mannequin of an old person to the front of her body, giving the appearance that an old person is carrying her piggyback. This portrayal of two persons by one is performed as a burlesque pantomime.

In the clam spirit dance, a young woman puts on a clam shell woven out of bamboo strips. In one sketch, the clam spirit opens and closes her shell in response to fisherman casting and pulling in his net, but who each time gets nothing in return for his efforts. In another, a snipe tries to peck out the clam's tasty flesh for a meal, but instead gets his beak stuck in the clamshell. This performance inevitably draws side-splitting laughter and roaring applause from the audience.

Popular Chinese folk games that go back thousands of years, such as playing diabolo, kicking a shuttlecock, jumping rope, and spinning tops, challenge and delight youngsters even today.

With encouragement and support from the government, games, stage shows, and customs such as these have been brought into the twentieth century in the Taiwan today. Detailed information on their history, development, materials, technique, performance, and so forth, is widely available in cultural centers, bookstores, and craft shops around the island in the form of home videos and books. Elementary school students often get to try their hand at making some of the equipment used in these various folk arts themselves, under the guidance of an experienced teacher. in this way, these ancient cultural treasures are kept vital and new, and a part of contemporary life, so that they may continue to enrich the lives of China's people for generations to come.

 

 

 
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