A Small City in Jiangxi is Becoming an International Theater Hub

Passing through China on their world tour, Sardinia Theatre’s only stop in the mainland was Huichang, highlighting the potential for cultural exchange outside of major cities

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6:19 PM HKT, Wed June 19, 2024 1 mins read

Back in early June, Huichang, a city with a population of less than half a milllion in southern Jiangxi province, hosted a two-day run of Macbettu, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth by Sardinia Theatre, a renowned Italian troupe currently on a world tour. The performance in Huichang was the group’s only appearance in the Chinese mainland, highlighting the city’s unlikely transformation into a cultural hub.


Previously little known outside of Jiangxi, Huichang has recently attracted both national and international attention, hosting more than 500 cultural events and attracting 3.6 million tourists this year alone. The arrival of Sardinia Theatre is the latest addition to this bustling theater scene.


Macbettu

Macbettu. Image via Firenze Made in Tuscany.


Historically, Huichang has been a place where different cultural heritages have met one another. The area is known for its “Gànnán kèjiā wénhuà” (赣南客家文化), which translates to “Southern Jiangxi Hakka culture,” and represents a fusion between the culture of Hakkas (a Han Chinese subgroup) and local ethnic minorities like the Yao and She. Over the past few years, with an increase in financial support from the local government, the city began to use its heritage to its advantage by developing cultural events, especially in the fields of theater and art. The city now has a district solely dedicated to performing arts.


The success of Huichang demonstrates that cross-cultural exchanges do not necessarily have to take place in major metropolises. Smaller cities increasingly possess the capacity to host large-scale arts festivals, and even when they lack the local audience for such events, they can often make up the difference by attracting domestic tourists. Furthermore, Huichang has shown how the unique cultural characteristics of underdeveloped areas can be an asset. All in all, Huichang’s emergence as a theater destination challenges conventional narratives on China which primarily focus on major cities and leave inadequate space for the rest of the country.


Banner image via Banyuetan.


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