Praise within China for the Li family Daoists came in a report following our 2012 tour of Italy, published online in the regional capital Datong. Written in bold red characters in the style of a report on a bumper harvest in the Great Leap Forward, here’s an excerpt:
What kind of response did they evince in their audience? Would it have been sullen and apathetic, by any chance?
No. It was warm and enthusiastic, Begob.
What did the performances achieve?
They consolidated the friendship between the Chinese and Italian Peoples.
Surely they did more than consolidate it?
OK, they developed it too.
And what was the art of Chinese Daoist culture able to do where?
Be magnified 弘扬 and promoted 宣传 in a foreign country.
Just in a foreign country?
Oh all right then, you win—on the soil of a foreign country.
So what did the performances receive from the Italian people?
A good assessment and high praise.
And what did the tour do for the entire group?
Um, it encouraged and stimulated their trust and determination to revive our Chinese Daoism.
So since their return, what are they now doing?
They are gradually perfecting and elevating their art.
Is that all?
[grits teeth] They are developing and strengthening it too. Do give it a rest.
The report also contains a resounding clarion call:
This is the pride of us Chinese People! The pride of the Chinese Nationality! It is the pride of us Shanxi people! The pride of Datong people! More precisely, it is the pride of our 300,000 People of Yanggao!
I’m not entirely taking the piss. A report like that, however comical and cliché-ridden it may seem, evinces genuine feelings. Even if such terms are alien to peasants like Li Manshan, some people do use them, and most can; and it’s a useful skill for us outsiders to deploy them in suitable contexts.
Also, such coverage subtly, um, Consolidates the reputation of the Li family and Daoist ritual in north Shanxi. What it doesn’t do is make local patrons and audiences value their rituals as much as pop music.
BTW, the article is quite right to observe that “More precisely, it is the pride of our 300,000 People of Yanggao”. Still, it uses the duplicitous Chinese media title for the Li band, “Hengshan Daoist Music Troupe”—which I take to the cleaners here.
While we’re about it,
What is the Venice of the East?
Suzhou, if you must. Like Balham is gateway to the south.