Performing arts

Traveling troupe tells State's stories well

Updated: Feb 6, 2023 By Sun Ruisheng in Taiyuan and Li Yang (China Daily) Print
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The troupe stages a show at the lookout on the Taihang Mountains in Shanxi province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Group of blind artists dedicated to serving Party and people

Wang Wenjie, who was born unable to see, began studying at the Lingchuan County Blind People Folk Art Publicity Troupe in Shanxi province eight years ago at the tender age of 8.

Since then, the teen has mastered several musical instruments. He has learned a great deal about music and culture and dreams of becoming a pianist one day.

His teacher, Song Xuemin, is a 38-year-old musician who was one of the first students to study with the troupe and now serves as its deputy director.

"In 1995, I was one of eight children who came to join the troupe," Song said. "Hou Songsuo, the then troupe leader, started a Braille class to ensure we didn't suffer from illiteracy the way our teachers had."

After studying for eight years, Song was admitted to the Shanxi Special Education Secondary Professional School in Taiyuan to study massage in 2003. After graduating, he turned down a position as a masseur in the provincial capital and returned to the rural troupe.

Thanks to the support of the local government, the Braille class has become the county's calling card. Some 200 children have benefited, and 20 of them have gone on to higher level institutions.

"I believe everyone has a mission and a path. And in the world of music, I have found mine," Wang said.

The troupe was originally founded 76 years ago by 24 blind artists, and its members performed much like the minstrels and traveling storytellers of the time.

"It was the Communist Party of China that liberated us from the old ways. We should repay the Party's kindness and contribute to its work," troupe member Bai Lu said. "The early founders often told us that although we were unable to see, we could speak, so we could also act as Party messengers and perform stories about its policies for the people."

Supported by government subsidies, the troupe has spent the last three-quarters of a century helping the county government communicate with residents, who are spread across a vast, mountainous area.

The dozens of performers who are part of the troupe are all local, so they know the most effective way to get the government's messages across.

During its existence, the troupe has faithfully presented the Party's line, principles and policies across an area of 1,700 square kilometers in Lingchuan, and has brought vigor to the cultural life of mountain villages.

They have devised an estimated 15,000 programs, staged 120,000 performances, covered more than 400,000 km and reached an audience of 25 million.

Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, the troupe had performed online to keep residents alert to fresh resurgences and to urge them to follow COVID-19 protocols, sharing epidemic prevention and control policies and information with the public for most of the last three years.

Although they weren't performing live, the troupe's livestreamed performances gave them access to even wider audiences.

Song said that since the day the troupe was founded, it has lived hand-to-mouth, with every penny having to be split into two halves when it was spent.

"Thrift, hard work and the tradition of simplicity continue today," Song said. "We all live simple but meaningful lives. Serving the Party and the people is more meaningful than making money."

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