BEIJING, May 19 -- If you have only one night's stay in Urumqi, capital city of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, one way to savor authentic Uygur culture is to take in a performance of "Hello Nasreddin Apandim", an acrobatic and musical gala that debuted in January after four years of painstaking preparation.
Apandim - also known as Effendi - is a legendary hero whose stories have been spread in many countries in the East.
He is kind and resourceful, just and witty, and above all, full of humor.
For centuries he has been loved and admired by the Chinese, both young and old, particularly by the Uygur people in Xinjiang.
In the two-hour-long program, over 60 acrobats present a variety of breath-taking performances, including not only classic Uygur acrobatic stunts like the dawazi tightrope walking, another feat of swinging on silk ropes and remarkable dish-spinning, but also magic tricks, Uygur songs and dances, opera episodes, as well as folk and pop music.
"Apandim has long been seen as a symbol of justice and wisdom among Muslims in Xinjiang," says Anniwar Maimaiti, head of China Xinjiang Acrobatic Troupe and producer of the show.
"But when making the show, we tried to inject new elements into his widely known tales," said Maimaiti.
"The idea is to make a spectacle that combines fashion, xxxx culture, extreme sports, modern music and folk music performances."
After rewriting the script and choreography 10 times, Maimaiti and his team finally shaped such a show that wins both critical acclaim and viewers.
The Apandim show is one of the efforts to rejuvenate and protect the ethnic culture of Xinjiang. Indeed, local artists and cultural officials are racing against time to protect legacies such as Muqam, said to be perhaps the most brilliant musical art of the Uygur people.
"In so vast a region as Xinjiang, cultural resources from different ethnic groups are abundant. Preserving and more importantly passing on to future generations such cultural legacies like the Uygur Muqam art has posed a big challenge for us," noted Abulizi Abudureyimu, director of the cultural department of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
With each passing day masters of Uygur Muqam art are aging or even dying, so Abudureyimu has spearheaded an ambitious project since 2004 to rescue and revive the time-honored ethnic art.
An intangible cultural heritage preservation network has been founded covering major cities and townships in the region, he said, with 11 million yuan allocated to the campaign over the past five years.
To date, 60 items have been put on the list of intangible cultural heritage under State protection with 24 master practitioners of art forms identified.
At least 10 education centers for Uygur Muqam arts are under construction in cities including Kashgar, Hetian, Akeshu, Hami, Turpan, Yining and Urumqi.
"These centers serve as a platform for Muqam artists to deliver performances and to teach young students," says Abudureyimu, who is also president of the Institute of China Uygur Classical Literature and Muqam.
Since 1997, textbooks and courses have been offered in local colleges including Xinjiang Art Academy, Xinjiang Normal University and Xinjiang University to raise awareness of the cultural heritage.
(Source: China Daily)