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Taipei City extols winners of culture award

By Yali Chen
 
The Department of Cultural Affairs (DOCA) on December 4 held the 22nd Taipei Culture Award ceremony at the Zhongshan Hall (中山堂). There were three winners: Taishin Bank Foundation for Arts and Culture, writer/filmmaker Lei Hsiang (雷驤), and Peking opera performer Chu An-li (朱安麗).
 
They were chosen for their long-term contributions to enriching the city’s cultural landscape and for successfully integrating aesthetics into the daily lives of local residents. Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je likened them to seeds planted to help grow the garden of Taipei’s urban aesthetics.
 
First launched in 1997, the Taipei Culture Award honors individuals and groups who have made significant contributions to promoting the richness of local culture, enhancing public participation in art events, and shaping the city’s image in the areas of literature, art, dance, and historic relics.
 
Each year, a maximum of three winners are chosen. The winners each receive an award certificate and a cash prize of NT$500,000 from the Taipei City mayor.

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Photo from DOCA
Left to right: Chung Yung-feng, Commissioner of Taipei City’s Department of Cultural Affairs; Simon Cheng, Chairman of the Taishin Bank Foundation for Arts and Culture; Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je; writer and filmmaker Lei Hsiang; and Peking opera performer Chu An-li at the Taipei Culture Awards ceremony on December 4.
 
At the awards ceremony on December 4, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je congratulated and thanked them for creating a richer and more diverse cultural landscape for Taipei. “Since its inception in 1997, the Taipei Culture Award has been given to those who help to shape the city’s image through artistic efforts,” he said.
 
Over the past 22 years, a total of 61 winners have received the honors. Each winner is a role model in different cultural fields.
 
Mayor Ko said that the Taishin Arts Award, supported by the Taishin Bank Foundation for Arts and Culture, is one of the most important performance and visual art awards in Taiwan. It not only functions as a platform for Taiwan’s contemporary art community and international art circles, but also reminds us that the government should do more.
 
He praised the second winner Lei Hsiang, a documentary filmmaker, painter and writer, as an aesthetic treasure trove who has made outstanding contributions to the promotion of Taiwan’s aesthetic education.
 
“The third recipient Chu An-li plays a significant role in the promotion of Peking Opera in Taiwan and passing on this priceless tradition to younger performers,” Ko said, “and I hope that fledgling artists get inspired by these three winners who are like seeds that grow the city’s urban aesthetics.”

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Photo from DOCA
Professor Liao Yu-hui, a jury member of the 22nd Taipei Culture Award, delivers a speech.
 
Corporate social commitment to contemporary arts
 
Thomas Wu, chairman of Taishin Financial Holding Co., established the Taishin Bank Foundation for Arts and Culture in 2001 to promote creativity and artistic sense which for him were the best expressions of stability and prosperity in society. The foundation is dedicated to creating an environment for artistic development. Wu’s vision was to inspire, nurture, and spread the spirit of the times through corporate social commitment in support of the contemporary arts. According to the foundation’s mission statement, it is the arts that capture the diverse social trends and rapid evolution of the twenty-first century.
 
In 2002, the foundation initiated the Taishin Arts Award, which recognizes creative achievements in works of visual, performing and inter-disciplinary arts. Its unique selection process includes year-round nominations by professionals, release of observations and art reviews, and yearly involvement of international jurors.
 
In addition to its importance in recognizing professional creative achievements in Taiwan, the Taishin Arts Award is also dedicated to establishing a platform enabling international networking for contemporary Taiwanese artists. Taishin’s Annual Grand Prize is a NT$1.5 million monetary award and trophy; the Taishin Performing Arts Award is a NT$1 million monetary award and trophy; and the Taishin Visual Arts Award is a NT$1 million monetary award and trophy.
 
Over the past 16 years, the foundation has spared no effort to create an environment for artistic development and strengthen Taipei’s creative landscape by holding dozens of exhibitions and music concerts every year. The DOCA said that the foundation was honored for its dedication to promoting contemporary art in Taiwan and encouraging local art creation.

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Photo from DOCA
Performers from the Bulareyaung Dance Company perform LUNA (路吶),
the latest work of Taiwanese indigenous choreographer Bulareyaung Pagarlava.

 
A sincere and selfless teacher
 
Writer and filmmaker Lei Hsiang was born in Shanghai in 1939. He graduated from the Department of Arts of the National Taipei University of Education (formerly Taiwan Provincial Junior Teachers’ College). He is a writer, painter, and documentary film director.
 
In his youth, Lei Hsiang worked as art illustrator for newspaper supplements. He also wrote articles that won the admiration of readers. His later illustrations and writings full of candid honesty reflected a more mature vision of society. He eventually taught aesthetics at the community university and promoted adult education.
 
He also taught arts management at the Taipei National University of the Arts where his students found in him a sincere and selfless teacher. He taught painting to children whose schools were destroyed by the 921 earthquake and gave painting classes to the deaf. For him, anyone, at any age could discover the joy of life in painting and creativity.
 
Lei Hsiang is credited for his impressive output of award-winning books and films and his work as an arts educator, the city government said. He has published 35 books and produced around 300 documentaries, TV shows and short films. His books always focus on the life and fate, plus joys and sorrows of ordinary people in Taiwan from the 1970s to the present.

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Photo from DOCA
Singer-songwriter Summer Lei sings the song “The Light of Darkness,” dedicated
to her father Lei Hsiang and other winners.

 
Taiwan’s pillar of Peking opera
 
Peking opera performer Chu An-li was born in 1963 in Nantou County. At ten years old, she left her Taiya tribe, studied Peking opera with the Opera School of the ROC Army (陸光劇校), and took on a performer’s name – Ju Shengli (朱勝麗). After finishing opera school, Chu joined the state-backed GuoGuang Opera Company and stayed on as a Peking opera performer for 45 years. She strove to improve her work and took on the task of preserving and transmitting this traditional art. She is truly a pillar of Peking opera in Taiwan.
 
In 2007, Chu performed in a musical drama by Taiwan’s famed Ju Percussion Group. The 90-minute piece, MuLan (木蘭), tells the story of Hua Mulan (花木蘭), a legendary Chinese figure who disguised herself as a man to fight in wars in the place of her elderly father and dramatizes her return from the battlefield a decade later.
 
The drama was a collaboration between Ju Percussion Group and Lee Shiao-pin (李小平), a theater director with the GuoGuang Opera Company. Mulan’s character was played by two performers – Ju Shengli and Wu Pei-ching (吳珮菁), a xylophone player and principal percussionist at the Ju Percussion Group.
 
The DOCA said that Chu was awarded for devoting more than four decades of her life to Peking opera and invigorating the traditional art by working with contemporary forms including experimental theater and a percussion ensemble.
 
In recent years, Chu has not only committed herself to nurturing new talent for the traditional arts, but also promoted Peking opera by teaching it at colleges, communities and companies around the island.

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Photo from DOCA
The GuoGuang Opera Company’s young performers demonstrate their Peking opera acting skills
to show their gratitude to their sincere and selfless teacher Chu An-li.

 
Performances to show gratitude
 
Writer and columnist Wang Wenhua emceed the Taipei Culture Awards. The organizers arranged three short performances to pay tribute to the three winners.
 
The first show was LUNA (路吶) – the latest work of Taiwanese indigenous choreographer Bulareyaung Pagarlava (布拉瑞揚.帕格勒法), his creation for his Bulareyaung Dance Company (BDC, 布拉瑞揚舞團). It opens with a performance by the Luluna Bunun Choir (羅娜薪傳音樂團) from Luluna Village in Nantou County’s Xinyi Township. The choreographer combined dance and music to convey the spirit of Pasibutbut – the resounding eight part harmony that the Bunun sing to pray for crop harvest after the seeding festival. The ballad has been listed in the World Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
 
The BDC, a contemporary dance group founded to discover and nurture talent of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples, just received the 16th Taishin Performing Arts Award this year.
 
The second performance was given by Lei Hsiang’s daughter, Summer Lei (雷光夏). One of her best childhood memories was that her father serving as a primary school teacher often took her to stroll by the sea and listen to the sound of the sea. That’s why she wrote the song “The Light of Darkness,” dedicated to her father.
 
Lastly, young performers from the GuoGuang Opera Company appeared on stage to demonstrate the acting skills of Peking opera and express their gratitude to their sincere and selfless teacher Chu An-li.