This past weekend, WMCI was celebrating the 2017 annual Global Confucius Institute Day in full swing, with two unique events: the Erhu Solo Concert on Friday, September 22nd, and the lecture Civic Engagement of the Middle Class in China: Survey Findings and Implications by Beijing Normal University’s Professor Xinsong Wang on Monday, September 25th, at the Reves Center for International Studies. Both events were highly successful, and proved to be perfect examples of the mission of our Confucius Institute: educating people and spreading awareness about Chinese culture to the communities around us.
Erhu Solo Concert
There was an exhilarating energy in the air as people came in hordes to watch WMCI’s volunteer teacher and award-winning musician Xiaolu Ma, accompanied on the piano by William & Mary Sophomore Patti O’Meara, perform in Ewell Recital Hall on Friday. The Recital Hall was filled beyond capacity, with people standing in the aisles and even in the doorways to listen to Ms. Ma’s graceful performance.
The erhu is a traditional Chinese instrument with a history that can be traced back thousands of years. It has lasted through countless generations of Chinese history. Ms. Ma was somehow able to convey the beauty of all these years of Chinese culture in her performance. The concert opened with the piece “The Fire Fairy in the Colorful Dress.” This piece brought the audience to a fantasy world far beyond the walls of the Recital Hall. The following piece, Moonlight, was a lovely, contemplative piece. The sounds of Ms. Ma’s erhu filled the room with sweet melodies that drew the audience in like butterflies to a flourishing garden.
One piece that was particularly captivating was the third piece, “The Brave Spirits of the Snowy Mountain,” which was written in commemoration of those who died on the 6,000 mile Long March from Jiangxi to Gansu in 1934. The mood of the piece varied from a rising tempo reflecting the mission and hopes of those who set out on this trek across China, to drawn out, somber notes reflecting the massive losses which were experienced along the way. It was a deeply emotional reflection on this important piece of modern Chinese history.
Following the first three erhu songs, renowned Chinese Folk Singer Yali Guo was welcomed to the stage. She performed two songs, both of which were able to showcase not only the ageless charm of Chinese folk music, but also the incredible range of Ms. Guo’s voice. It is honestly no wonder that Ms. Guo has received such widespread recognition for her talent, including the title of “Favorite Singer” in the 2003 National Audience Choice Awards, as well as the gold medal for group folk music in the 2012 National Folk Vocal Competition, among numerous other awards.
Our Erhuist Xiaolu Ma is also no stranger to such recognition. Her skill with the erhu has merited numerous awards, including the 2014 Gold Award for the National Musical Instruments Ensemble in the Fifth Session of the National Youth Chinese Musical Instruments Competition, the Silver Award for the Chinese National Music Alliance’s (CNMA’s) International Chinese Music Chamber Orchestra Competition in 2013 and the 2012 Wen Hua Prize in the “Traditional Musical Instrument Ensemble Competition.”
Ms. Ma closed the concert with three very diverse pieces. “Heartstrings,” which is the score from a film of the same name; “Shadows of Candles Flickering Red,” which combines the triple meter of waltz with traditional Chinese melodies; and finally, “New Year’s Eve,” which reflects the nostalgic feelings of a Chinese composer on the night of the Chinese New Year after having moved abroad. The latter half of the concert showcased the striking versatility of the erhu as an instrument in the modern age.
The Erhu Solo Concert was nothing short of magnificent. Utterly captivating and brimming with talent, it was the perfect way to celebrate Chinese culture and Global Confucius Institute Day.
Civic Engagement of the Middle Class in China
It is the goal of Confucius Institutes around the world to facilitate better understandings of China, which of course, is an incredibly large and complex nation. As such, an important part of Global Confucius Institute Day is presenting China from numerous perspectives. The Erhu Solo Concert presented China through the lens of thousands of years of history and culture. This lecture, on the other hand, brought forth the booming, contemporary China which has emerged in recent years, through the lens of fascinating socio-economic trends.
On September 25, 2017, Xinsong Wang, an Associate Professor at Beijing Normal University’s School of Social Development and Public Policy, spoke at William and Mary about Chinese civic engagement: in what numbers do Chinese people volunteer, what causes are behind it, and what groups specifically are the ones who are volunteering?
Professor Wang defined civic engagement as “individual and collective action that contributes to the common good.” A growing trend in China is that people are increasingly drawn to social participation. The idea of volunteering in China is relatively new since it is only recently that a middle class has been created--Professor Wang believes that 20-30% of Chinese people are in this middle class--and people can concern themselves with things other than their daily bread. Increased socioeconomic conditions have led to individual motivations to be active.
Thus, we arrive at Professor Wang’s own research: he predicted the middle class will be more active in civic engagement than the lower class, the upper middle class will be even more active than the middle class as a whole, and those member of the middle class who are employed by the state will be the most active. In order to test this, he and his colleagues surveyed more than 5,000 households across China for not only information about their volunteering habits but also their income, education, and occupation. The 2011 study found that increasing education and wealth led to an increasing volunteering participation rate.
Professor Wang then focused on the Tizhinei, or those who are employed by the state. Using statistical analysis, he proved that this was the most civically active group of all, which he believed was due to better cognition of social issues and more access to voluntary activities.
Professor Wang closed with two questions. Could the Chinese government actually create State-led citizenship, just as they had created the economic growth? Also, would this social participation be a prelude to political participation? WMCI was honored to have Professor Wang give this engaging perspective on the ever-changing face of modern China.
A Window into China
It is our sincere hope here at WMCI that everyone who partook in these events not only had a great time, but also learned more about China. From the traditional culture reflected in the Erhu Solo Concert to the trends in civic engagement discussed in Professor Wang’s lecture, China is an intricately woven tapestry of ancient customs and lively modernity. We would like to thank everyone who has supported WMCI throughout the years, and hope to see everyone again for Global Confucius Institute Day 2018!
You can also see some clips from our coverage of the Erhu Solo Concert on our Twitter if you like!