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Safeguarding Chinese Traditional Local Opera as Intangible Cultural Heritage: A Study of Maoqiang Opera in Shandong, China

LI, CHEN (2023) Safeguarding Chinese Traditional Local Opera as Intangible Cultural Heritage: A Study of Maoqiang Opera in Shandong, China. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



There are more than 300 types of traditional local opera currently in existence in China, carrying the traditions, aesthetics, values and dialects of their localities and acting as a vibrant part of the local identity. However, they are generally not commercially viable and are dependent on government support for their survival. Maoqiang Opera, which is based in the rural area of southeast Shandong Province, is a prominent example. The opera has been in existence for over two hundred years but for the past seventy years has been primarily guided by government policies, which aim to keep the opera tradition alive while also encouraging appropriate modernisation. In 2006, Maoqiang Opera was designated as State-Level Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) by China’s Ministry of Culture. In this context, the Maoqiang community claims that they obtained more official recognition of the significance of the culture and more subsidies for the inheritance of the artform.

Drawing upon fieldwork carried out in 2020, this thesis illuminates how government policies have influenced the inheritance, preservation, dissemination and development of Maoqiang Opera in contemporary Shandong society, particularly since its elevation to ICH status. The structure of the thesis is based on the policy framework for safeguarding Chinese traditional culture as ICH laid out by the central government. This consists of four principal elements: ‘Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage’, ‘Carrying out Theatrical System Reform’, ‘Sending Opera to the Countryside’, and ‘Making Traditional Operas Represent Modern Life’. This thesis argues that almost every aspect of Maoqiang Opera is profoundly affected by government policies and actions. It is government intervention that allows the opera to maintain vitality and contribute social value in today’s China.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Traditional local opera; cultural policy; fieldwork; rural settings
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Music, Department of
Thesis Date:2023
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:10 May 2023 15:53

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