Thriving digital technologies bring increasingly rich online cultural experiences

By Wang Jue, Yao Xueqing, People’s Daily

As digital culture continuously gains momentum, various cultural activities and new consumption scenarios empowered by digital technologies are enriching the cultural experiences of Chinese people.

Activities such as watching performances and concerts online, visiting virtual exhibitions, and enjoying traditional Chinese opera performances through smartphone apps, are springing up with the rapid development of digital culture.

China’s National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Beijing rolls out online performances every Saturday evening, with the shows including Peking Opera work “Suo Lin Nang” (The Jewelry Purse), masterpiece of modern drama “A Doll’s House”, and well-known opera “The Marriage of Figaro”.

Since the NCPA launched the first online performance on April 11, 2020, it has staged more than 120 online shows covering various types of performing arts, such as concert, opera, dance, modern drama, and traditional Chinese opera. These online shows have been viewed more than 3.4 billion times in total.

On August 8, 2020, the NCPA livestreamed world’s first online concert with 8K resolution and 5G network-related technologies for global audiences. The audience could even see clearly the strands of hair and drops of sweat on the faces of performers during the livestreaming concert presented at 8K ultra-high-definition (UHD) resolution.

The classical music channel of the NCPA has continuously upgraded its audio and visual technologies and added the options of “immersive headset” and “immersive sound box” to create virtual panoramic sound effects of fantastic audio and visual experience for the audience.

Yangzhou China Grand Canal Museum, located in the city of east China’s Jiangsu province, has been posting videos on its account on WeChat Channels, WeChat’s video sharing portal, to show netizens its collections and exhibitions. Thanks to these short videos, museum enthusiasts can “visit” the museum whenever and wherever they want through their mobile phones.

Zhou Fang, a citizen who works in Jiangsu’s Nanjing, the city next to Yangzhou, is one of the followers of the account. She has been watching short videos of a special exhibition featuring the ancient capital of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) Luoyang city, now in central China’s Henan province, held by the museum.

A curator displays via livestreaming works of art exhibited at the Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art in Zhejiang Art Museum in Hangzhou city, capital of east China’s Zhejiang province, March 14, 2020. (Photo by Long Wei/People’s Daily Online)

“Each episode of this short video series is only several minutes long. Focusing on the theme, they tell stories about cultural relics in Luoyang, and show viewers how they were unearthed, transported to Yangzhou, packaged and arranged for exhibition. There are also vlogs about offline tours of the exhibition,” said Zhou.

Statistics showed that the museum has posted nearly 20 episodes of the exhibition on platforms including WeChat Channels, Chinese social media platform Weibo, and the country’s popular short-video sharing platform Douyin since March. More than eight million people have “visited” the exhibition via these videos.

Online exhibitions are supplements and re-creations of the offline visit, said Zheng Jing, curator of the museum.

In order to launch good online exhibitions, the museum needs to carefully design online tour routes and provide knowledge about culture and history, according to Zheng, who added that the museum also adopts digital means to tell stories about cultural relics vividly and deepen the interactions between people and exhibits.

The emergence of more and more innovative forms of cultural consumption, which is no longer confined to offline scenes, has enabled people to shake off the limitations of time, space and cost in enjoying culture.

A mobile app launched by a Zhejiang-based culture company has brought traditional Chinese operas closer to Internet users. The app signed contracts with traditional Chinese opera troupes to make their representative performances available online.

The works posted online include “The Legend of the White Snake” performed by Wu Opera masters who have won the Chinese Drama Plum Blossom Award, the highest theatrical award in the country, “Three Drops of Blood”, a well-known Qin Opera work that has a history of more than 100 years, and “Oedipus”, a Pu Opera art adapted from classical ancient Greek tragedy “Oedipus Rex”.

Without leaving their homes, users of the app can watch a video recording of an opera performance with 6.6 yuan (about $0.99), or enjoy a livestreaming show of traditional Chinese operas with 9.9 yuan (about $1.48). Some operas well-received online are also staged offline.

As digital infrastructure increasingly improves, the booming digital culture will facilitate the inheritance and promotion of excellent traditional Chinese culture, according to Wei Pengju, head of the cultural economics research institute of Central University of Finance and Economics.

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