As planning for a Shanghai Disneyland surges forward, boosted by the recent go-ahead of China’s economic
planning agency, an interesting news story I came across today sheds some light on local perspectives. A televised protest by Shanghai area villagers (at New Tang Dynasty Television) shows them voicing concern over the theme park’s development, including the destruction of homes and relocation of graves. The latter seems a pretty major issue for the apparently spiritually-driven locals, who argue that disturbing the resting places of ancestors will have ‘dire consequences.’ (I assume these consequences include such things as bad luck, curses, etc.)
This argument, motivated by traditional beliefs, reminded me of a discussion that took place last month between two renowned Chinese arts figures at the Asia Society in New York. The talk brought contemporary artist Wenda Gu and composer Tan Dun together to discuss their shared passion for preserving ancient Chinese traditions and culture in our quickly evolving world. Dun recalled how his village childhood in rural China inspired his later career in music. It’s pretty amazing that the sounds of women washing laundry in his hometown were so memorable that he later transposed them into his compositions. He also noted other nostalgic influences, like the sounds of swimming and music from local ghost operas. Meanwhile, Gu is known for his artistic re-inventions of traditional Chinese forms such as ink
painting and calligraphy.
I also found it intriguing that despite his call for preservation, Dun is known for having composed the world’s first internet-based symphony — for which he worked with Google and YouTube to collaborate with musicians from the virtual world. It’s too bad then that a virtual Disneyland
just wouldn’t work. Or could it?