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Shen Tiemei Honored as 'Person of the Year' in China's Intangible Cultural Heritage

By SHIHAN YANG|May 16,2023

Shen Tiemei, Vice Chairman of the China Theatre Association, President of the Chongqing Sichuan Opera Theater, and a Plum Blossom Award recipient, was honored as Person of the Year of China's Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2022, together with other nine recipients

As a national representative inheritor of Sichuan opera's national intangible cultural heritage, Shen has played a significant role in the preservation and evolution of this traditional art form.

Sichuan opera Sister Jiang won the 17th Wenhua Grand Award. (Photo/ Chongqing Sichuan Opera)

Shen said, "Upholding fundamental principles and breaking new ground is the foundation of intangible cultural heritage inheritance. As Sichuan opera rejuvenates and becomes more fashionable, more young people have been attracted to the theater, and the opera celebrates a promising future."

"Learning from and surpassing predecessors is essentially the way to uphold fundamental principles and break new ground in the inheritance of intangible cultural heritage." Shen believed that "upholding fundamental principles" is to preserve the essence of Sichuan opera and excellent traditional programs while "breaking new ground" is to make use of excellent, advanced culture and art in the process of inheritance, to activate the internal vitality of and then revitalize Sichuan opera with a history of 300 years.

Shen said that she would bring Sichuan opera, the treasure of China's opera art, to world-class stages since she became the Chongqing Sichuan Opera Theater president in 2001. To date, the theater has performed in more than 40 countries and regions.

Sichuan opera Li Yaxian performed by Shen Tiemei, head of Chongqing Sichuan Opera Theater and three-time Plum Blossom Award winner. (Photo/ Chongqing Sichuan Opera) 

According to Shen, international performing agencies have shown interest in collaborations whenever programs such as Feng Yi Ting, Gold, and Li Yaxian were performed abroad. This reception has bolstered her confidence in Chinese opera art. "Sichuan opera has given many Westerners a deeper understanding of the richness and charm of traditional Chinese opera during cultural exchanges between China and Western countries. The value of Sichuan opera has been accentuated in this process," she stated.

When asked, "What will you do to make young people fall in love with Sichuan opera?" Shen expressed confidence. "To inherit and develop Sichuan opera, we have actively and stylishly promoted our traditional culture in primary schools, universities, and colleges. We are delighted to see an increasing number of young people, along with their families and friends, in the theater. This trend makes us optimistic about the future."

Shen believes that the venerable Sichuan opera needs rejuvenation to revitalize the intangible cultural heritage. She shared that the Chongqing Sichuan Opera Theater has tirelessly worked to attract young people to traditional culture for almost two decades. "We now see a growing number of young people becoming fans of Sichuan opera."

"Inheriting intangible cultural heritage entails preserving and exploring its artistic value. We excel at stage performance, but the development and promotion of traditional cultural values require the efforts of young people who understand marketing. Only by reaching more people through marketing can an intangible cultural heritage truly be revitalized," Shen said. She further expressed her anticipation for more governmental support for marketing institutions focused on intangible cultural heritage.


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