I am in the midst of personal histories of Chinese artists [dancer, singer] born in the '60s who have made good. Last night I saw the new movie about Li Cinciou [I may be spelling that wrong] who was randomly selected out of a poor village school to go to Beijing to learn to be a ballet dancer. He became good enough to be chosen by visiting artistic director of the Houston Ballet Company to study with them for six months. The cultural shock was great but at the end he decided to marry a girl he'd fallen in love with and to defect. There is a fine dramatic scene in the Chinese embassy when he is held against his will and the Houstonians refuse to leave, the lawyer pulls strings and gets the press involved and the Chinese are forced to free him. Of course things change in China and although he isn't allowed to go back, finally his parents are brought to see him dance [it's The Rite of Spring -- talk about culture shock!]. Dancing is beautiful, especially a Don Quixote. The story was as expected-- for me the movie is about the dancing.
A few days ago I picked up a book that's been on my to-read shelf for a couple years, Leaving Mother Lake, the story of an illiterate girl of the Moso tribe in the Eastern Himalayan region in Yunnan who became a popular singer in China. The small tribe is matriarchal and very poor but live a peaceful and ordered existence although some of the other tribes in the region are more traditional and warlike. Of course the revolution comes but mostly they are so poor there are no "class enemies" for the soldiers to arrest or humiliate.
Christine Matthieu obviously did the writing and tells the story dramatically in Erche's voice with considerable skill. I was first drawn to this book because I visited that area and visited a Miaou tribal village and the home of Joseph Root, the American botanist and ethnographer employed by National Geographic who lived in the area about 30 years and is talked on in this book. Very often when I read I am either very glad I have visited that part of the world, or wish all the time I'm reading I could go there.
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