Clubs uphold China's cultural heritage
Every night on Jinan University’s campus in Guangzhou, a group of students plays diabolo as a crowd watches on in amazement.
Chen Zhelun, 25, a Malaysian-Chinese majoring in animation, founded the diabolo club, which aims to restore the popularity of this traditional Chinese game. He is one of many students expressing their interest in the country’s cultural heritage by starting clubs.
Originally from China, the diabolo is popular among Chinese living in Malaysia.
“We played diabolo from primary school onward. I thought I could find someone to play with on campus in China, but when I arrived I found that only a few students knew about it. So I launched a club to promote it, ” says Chen.
To Chen’s surprise, the old game has attracted a huge crowd —more than 1, 000 students have joined the club and they are invited to perform at many campus activities. The group has already prepared more than 30 routines.
“It strengthens your body, improves blood circulation and it’s fun, ” says Chen.
But some prefer quieter pastimes. Every weekend, one classroom on Shenzhen University’s campus is always packed, but it’s unusually silent. That’s because the members of the Lanting calligraphy club are writing Chinese characters with traditional brushes.
Fan Dongling, 21, a junior majoring in Chinese literature at Shenzhen University, says it’s a shame that young people no longer appreciate the beauty of Chinese characters due to typing on computers.
So Fan often arranges for students to attend calligraphy shows in local communities and encourages them to sign up for competitions.
“We also dropped the requirement for students to write traditional characters rather than simplified ones, ” says Fan.
Although her club is quiet, Fan says it keeps members healthy, both mentally and physically.
“Using brushes to write Chinese characters requires a lot of muscle strength and control, which can help you control yourself and find inner peace, ” says Fan.
As special as they are, some clubs promoting traditional Chinese culture struggle to recruit new members.
“Some students think traditional things are outdated. They like celebrating Western festivals like Christmas or Valentine’s Day, but they seldom pay attention to traditional ones, ” says Kong Yanquan, 21, a junior majoring in civil engineering at Guangxi University.
As head of the traditional Chinese local operas club, Kong tried hard to attract freshmen, but his efforts didn’t payoff.
“We invited a Peking Opera troupe to perform on campus and share some tips with us, ” says Kong. “But only a few students showed any interest. Most of them prefer watching costume TV dramas.”
Wang Feng, 22, a senior majoring in accounting at Qingdao University of Science &Technology takes a different approach. He sees the key to promoting traditional culture among his peers is to integrate trendy and modern elements into it.
“We used to offer only weiqi and Chinese chess in our club, ” says Wang. “But since we added other board games, like Five-in-a-Row and Three Kingdoms Kill (sanguosha), more members have joined.”
Kong plans to try new measures to attract students to his club, too.
“I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to preserve and promote China’s traditional culture among young people, ” he says.