The “Opera in Ten Thousand Villages” project is used as yet another tool for propaganda for the CCP and against “xie jiao and illegal religion.”
by Wang Zhipeng
China’s traditional opera is a cultural treasure all Chinese love. In Anhui province, a campaign has been launched to bring opera also to remote villages and under-developed urban areas. The project is called “Bringing Opera to Ten Thousand Villages” (送戲進萬村). In fact, the villages involved are not ten thousand, but by setting up makeshift outdoor stages, performances have been offered even in areas where cultural events are rare.
Performances have included parts of the romantic Romeo-and-Juliet-like opera “Bid Farewell in Eighteen Miles,” which tells the story of the so-called “Butterfly Lovers” of Ningbo, Zhejiang, and another celebrating the classic poet Lu You, who died in the year 1210.
This was not entertainment only. Villagers were offered lectures on the operas. Lu You was presented as an early Chinese patriot who fought for the integrity of China’s territory. It is true that Lu You supported the Song Dynasty in its efforts to reconquer territories controlled by the non-Han Jin Empire. However, to claim that Lu regarded all the territories within the present boundaries of China as Chinese is anachronistic.
The performances are also the opportunity to distribute brochures against “xie jiao and illegal religion,” and use classic love stories to explain that today families and couples are broken when somebody falls prey to “feudal superstition” or “cults.”
A villager in a rural area near the prefecture-level city of Bengbu told “Bitter Winter” that, while he believes that bringing opera to small towns is a good thing, unfortunately “these days you cannot go to an event in China and avoid being lectured about your duty to follow the Party and stay away from what the Party does not like—including religion.”