A new crop of Chinese artists are making a name for themselves in the national arts and culture scene. (Photo : Getty Images)
A new crop of Chinese artists are making a name for themselves in the national arts and culture scene despite their storied background--they are the children and grandchildren of traditional Chinese art masters.
One such artist is Qiu Jirong, who comes from a family of Peking Opera artists. Both his dad and grandfather, Qiu Shaorong and Qiu Shengrong, were well-known Peking Opera performers.
“It’s a double-edged sword to be an artist with a family in the same business, especially when the earlier generations achieved so much success,” shared 32-year-old Qiu Jirong in an interview with China Daily.
“People have expectations of you. And what you achieve is often ignored or compared with your more famous family members.”
Qiu Jirong started his career in Peking Opera early, having enrolled at a professional Peking Opera school in Beijing at the age of 9. He went on to continue his training at the National Academy of Chinese Theater Arts and finally, Jingju Theater Company of Beijing. There, Qiu Jirong blossomed into his own person, playing many lead roles and bagging awards for his performances.
His personal successes, however, are still shadowed by his grandfather’s legacy.
Qiu Jirong is determined to be known as more than Qiu Shengrong’s grandson. “Peking Opera is a big part of my life. It shaped who I am. But I want to create by own art,” he said.
To make his own mark, Qiu Jirong incorporates contemporary dance with Peking Opera. He was inspired to try out modern dance when he was 13, after watching a DVD of Michael Jackson.
According to Qiu Jirong, it was a difficult process which led him to feel “sandwiched” between Peking Opera and modern dance. His decision also upset his family and the people he knew from the Peking Opera business.
Despite the pressure, Qiu Jirong believes that what he’s doing will entice the younger generation to go to Peking Opera shows. He has also long accepted that he won’t surpass his grandfather’s work.
“I am so proud of being the grandson of Qiu Shengrong. I respect the art. But I have to admit that I can never surpass what my grandfather achieved. No one can,” Qiu Jirong told China Daily.
“But what I want to do is not abandon what I have learned. I just want more people to appreciate the beauty of Peking Opera, especially young people.”
Qiu Jirong is currently deep in the preparation of his first stage production based on Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, where he will blend contemporary dance and Peking Opera.