Renewing the epics of preserving ethnic culture_Xinhua
Actors perform at the Xinjiang Museum in Urumqi, northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, May 16, 2022. (Xinhua/Zhou Ye)
BEIJING, July 20 (Xinhua) — On July 13, epic performer Jangnur Turganbay and his young apprentice performed the Kyrgyz ethnic epic “Manas” at the Museum of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, welcoming special guest President Chinese Xi Jinping.
Xi, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, witnessed their performance during an inspection tour in Xinjiang.
The main plot of “Manas” revolves around the heroic deeds of the eponymous protagonist and his descendants. Consisting of myths, folk tales, customs and idioms of the Kyrgyz ethnic group, the vast epic is considered an “encyclopedia” of Kyrgyz ethnic culture. It has been transmitted orally since the 16th century.
Due to its rich content, running the epic can take a lot of time. Impressed by Jangnur Turganbay’s performance, Xi asked, “How long can you play the epic?”
“For a whole day and night,” said Jangnur Turganbay proudly. Now in his 50s, he has 30 years of experience performing “Manas.”
“I can only play 60 minutes,” said Jangnur Turganbay’s apprentice Yvmvtale Etekul modestly. Now a schoolboy, he has been learning the epic since the age of three.
“It’s already impressive!” said Xi, encouraging the 14-year-old.
“Manas” isn’t the first traditional ethnic epic the Chinese president has dabbled in. In 2019, during his visit to north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Xi enjoyed a performance of “the epic of King Gesar”.
Hailed as “the Homeric epics of the Orient”, the historical epic recounts the deeds of the legendary 11th-century hero, King Gesar, who fought evil and helped the weak.
When talking with the artists, Xi stressed that great attention should be paid to preserving and inheriting the cultures of ethnic minority groups.
Also in 2019, when addressing a gathering to honor national role models of ethnic unity and progress, Xi specifically mentioned “Manas,” “Epic of King Gesar,” and “Jangar,” a heroic epic of the Mongolian ethnic group. The three epics, all designated as national intangible cultural heritage, are considered equally important cultural works of ethnic minority groups.
Xi said inclusiveness is the reason for the brilliance, expansiveness and depth of Chinese culture. The cultures of all ethnic groups have illuminated and inspired each other, and Chinese culture has remained fresh and vibrant over the years. These are the source of our strong cultural confidence today, Xi said.
Over the years, the Chinese president’s attention to ethnic culture has repeatedly manifested itself in his inspections. Besides epics, Xi also learned traditional Miao embroidery and sustainable Tibetan carpet weaving techniques. Many of these ethnic cultural achievements have been designated as national intangible cultural heritage, which facilitates their inheritance and preservation.
During his trip to Xinjiang, Xi again stressed that Chinese civilization is vast and deep, has a long history dating back to ancient times, and is composed of outstanding cultures from all its ethnic groups.
When Xi asked Jangnur Turganbay about his expectations, the performer said, “I want to introduce the epic to the whole world.”
“It should be,” Xi acknowledged, noting that epics are not only the possessions of ethnic minority groups, but also valuable treasures in the vault of Chinese culture.
Efforts should be made to better preserve and transmit intangible cultural heritage and keep alive the excellent traditional cultures of all ethnic groups, Xi said. ■