As the morning sun spreads across Zhengzhou, capital of Central China”s Henan province, visitors begin touring around a new theatrical theme park, a journey that takes them back thousands of years into the province’s rich history.
“Unique Henan: Land of dramas” are the welcoming words at a gigantic theater complex on the city’s outskirts, covering more than 40 hectares. The site comprises 21 theaters with close to 1,000 actors and actresses performing various shows themed on the history of Henan and the culture of the Yellow River, the”mother river” of the Chinese nation. Since it opened last year, the attraction has become a huge hit.
“I think what I have seen is not so much a drama but the rich history of Henan. This is a place that deserves many visits,” said a tourist named Wang Lin.
Henan is rich in cultural resources where many ancient dynasties established their capitals. It is home to sites of great historical interest, including the Shaolin Temple and the Longmen Grottoes. The popularity of fine traditional culture shows its increasing charm in the minds of Chinese people.
Melody of the Lonely Warrior, a popular modern song, reverberates through an international convention center in Zhengzhou. It is played by nine ancient musical instruments, an innovation by the Huaxia Ancient Music Ensemble affiliated to Henan Museum.
Since its establishment in 2000,the ensemble has restored and produced replicas of more than 300 musical artifacts, including a 5,000-year-old pottery clay flute called taoxun, some 3,000-year-old bronze bells and an ancient stringed instrument known as konghou.
The team has compiled and created over 100 pieces of music based on ancient musical scores and literature. It has also tried livestreaming shows on social media to attract more audience.
“Cultural relics are the witnesses of history,” said Ma Xiaolin, head of Henan Museum. “We want to bring relics back to life, so that visitors can listen to the sounds of the past.”
Advanced technologies such as 3D reconstruction and augmented reality have been widely used to promote fine traditional culture. Last year, at Henan’s Spring Festival gala, a dance performance called Night Banquet at the Tang Dynasty Palace showed reproduced pottery figurines of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Using 3D and AR, the show combined virtual scenes with a real stage, bringing dancing to a museum setting. It was viewed over 2 billion times on various online platforms in 2021. The microblogging site Sina Weibo was abuzz with comments on the dance,with related topics generating 490 million views.
“There is a misunderstanding that young people have lost interest in traditional Chinese culture,” said Chen Yunjie, a college student who is a fan of the dance performance, adding that young people will be attracted by traditional elements if they are properly displayed.
Henan Museum has been working on integrating creative ideas with its promotion of cultural relics.The sales of its boxes of “archaeological finds” exceeded 40 million yuan($5.8 million) since they were launched in late 2020.
“We combined the popular concept of blind boxes with cultural relics to allow people to experience the joy of physically digging replicas of relics encased in dirt,” said Song Hua, director of the museum’s cultural and creative office.
As more museums become cultural hubs, related tours have become popular in Henan in recent years. The number of museums in the province has increased from 180 in 2012 to 384 in 2022. A total of 278 million visits were made over the past five years.
During the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25), Henan plans to invest 40 million yuan annually to promote the digital transformation of cultural tourism and cultivate”immersive” digital venues.
With the growing popularity of traditional clothing, historical and cultural audio-visual programs, and archaeology as a study option in higher education, there is a strong demand for fine traditional culture in today’s world, said Ma. “Young people now boast an elevated sense of national pride and a deeper love for fine traditional culture.”