This short New York Times documentary follows the story of Lei Peng, 27, who struggles to keep alive the traditional music deeply rooted in the culture of his home village after it was torn down as part of a housing project and residents and musicians were forced to scatter. Lei’s story echoes that of thousands of people across China whose cultural traditions are under threat in the wake of the country’s rapid urbanization.
“I want to keep this going,” Lei said. “When we play our music, I think of my grandfather. When we play, he lives.”
Urbanization projects sweeping through villages like Lei’s has led to the wiping out of rural villages at an incredible rate. In 2000, there were 3.7 million villages in China, according to research by Tianjin University, but by 2010, only 2.6 million were accounted for. That means a loss of about 300 villages a day.
“Chinese culture has traditionally been rural-based,” Feng Jicai, a popular author and scholar told the Times. “Once the villages are gone, the culture is gone.”
Previously on Shanghaiist: Shanghaiist Sunday Show:The Fastest Changing Place on Earth