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China revives traditional culture via modern means

English.news.cn   2014-02-23 22:50:17

NANJING, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- In an exhibition hall of the Nanjing Municipal Museum (NMM), Wang Xiaoqi is squatting down with her cellular while scanning the barcode of a porcelain vase.

The vase is among the 40-plus miscellaneous antiques on display in NMM in Nanjing City, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province. Each antique has a quick response code that details its history when scanned by mobile phones.

"I can not only upload the information on the vase to my microblog, but store the description on my phone and study it when I get home," Wang said.

The NMM has just updated the newest description of the antiques this week, after starting to barcode the collection in mid 2013, according to Wu Tian, deputy curator of the NMM.

"Our visitors have shown great enthusiasm for the program since it began last year," Wu said.

Wu said that because young people are interested in sharing information on social networks like WeChat, a popular instant messaging application, the museum has laid more emphasis on interaction.

Such programs have changed the way people view traditional culture, making it easier for them to accept it, according to Zhou Keda, of the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences.

While the novelty might wow visitors, Zhou said that the revamp masks a wider and increasingly urgent problem that is playing out in a country awash with modern gadgets like tablets and smartphones.

"Many people have grown bored with the old ways of learning in museums, lectures and classrooms," Zhou said.

As urgency for change mounts, scores of museums in China are jumping on the bandwagon and applying technology to their exhibits.

Back in May 2013, the Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, in central Beijing launched its first iPad application, and had 150,000 downloads within the week. It was later voted excellent app of the year in China.

The Palace Museum followed that success with a public account on WeChat in January, which allows followers to enjoy ancient architecture, antiques and special exhibitions on their portable devices, giving the museum extra firepower in bringing cultural relics to the general public.

Elsewhere, a renowned history museum in the northwestern Shaanxi Province launched a smartphone application that combines pictures, text and voices in December 2013.

In addition to high-end technology, experts have come up with myriad ways to promote historical culture.

In 2013, a national dictation contest on China Central Television, China's state broadcaster, fueled a national fervor for writing Chinese characters in various localities of China.

Other television networks in China have initiated similar programs regarding classical Chinese poetry and riddles, among others.

As modern technology has crept into every facet of life, it is a smart move to create a tie-up between Chinese culture and gadgets, said Gong Liang, curator of the NMM.

"We don't have to pit tradition against modernity, instead, we should use it," Gong said.

Gong added that they are trying to let more people understand culture in simpler and more interesting ways, referring to the NMM's latest program as "innovative."

Zhang Yiwu, a professor with Peking University, said that in addition to modern ways, it is necessary for people to cultivate genuine interest in the culture for it to thrive.

"Modern means could help power the popularity of traditional culture, but what matters eventually is whether people have grasped the knowledge or not," Zhang said.

Editor: Yang Lina
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