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Chinese Farmer Helps Revive Local Opera

SHIJIAZHUANG, September 24 -- A farmer has injected large sums of money to revive "Weizhou Bangzi," a form of local opera that originates from Weixian County, in north China's Hebei Province.

Yang Jianwen, a native of Weixian County who has made money in the past years by running a hotel, was determined to boost the traditional local opera that is almost extinct due to insufficient training of young singers.

"Weizhou Bangzi has a history of over 300 years," said Yang. " It's an important part of the local farmers' cultural lives."

However, the government-run Weizhou Bangzi troupe, having long suffered from huge deficits, was closed in 1987, when most singers shifted to a local coal mine to earn a living.

To help the once popular opera survive, Yang founded a training center last October for local teenagers. Retired singers from the former troupe were recruited as teachers.

Yang's own house is now used to accommodate the students, where they practice basic skills, including singing, dancing and martial arts. Yang and his family, however, rent a room elsewhere.

To date, Yang has poured some 300,000 yuan (about 36,145 U.S. dollars) into the training center. "We now have 30 students, 11 of whom are from poor families and are exempted from the 1,200-yuan ( about 145 U.S. dollars) tuition," he said.

"But they are all working hard," he added. "Hopefully, they will be able to give performances in a year or two, when their incomes will cover their expenses and wages."

-- source: Xinhua News Agency

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