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Yu Dan (2)
    2007-03-01 09:18:24     CRIENGLISH.com

2007-03-01


Now Yu Dan is a household name in China for her unique interpretation of the Analects of Confucius. She made the ancient text accessible with colloquial re-wordings and vivid short stories.

In this fast-paced modern society, reading the Analects is an activity dwindling from the daily lives of many Chinese people. How could she arouse public interest in the classic?

Does she have her own specific formula?

"To energize an ancient classic in the modern age, we must explain it and comment on its contemporaneity. When I was a student, such classics were simply to be worshiped, demanding our spending a whole life in researching and absorbing their essence. But now, as we need to spread our understanding of the classic, I think we should get rid of this stance of worship. We should make it easier to understand, and apply it to ordinary life".

That's why her lectures and book raised such a response. According to the professor herself, it was all part of her media strategy. A good TV program can build a bridge between the language of the elite and the language of the masses. But why has she been so uniquely deft in bridging this gap?

Now, I have to mention that Yu Dan is a veteran media scholar at Beijing Normal University. She is the dean of the TV and Cinema Studies Department of the university's School of Media and Arts. She is better known by TV and movie professionals as an experienced media strategist and consultant for a roster of mass media groups including China Central Television and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. in China.

Since she studies the media, she knows how the audience thinks. She knows how to make a connection with them.

It is therefore hardly surprising that she has captured viewers in this way.

What IS surprising is that this devotee of Chinese history and of such classic literary works as the Book of Songs and Analects of Confucius, herself a good performer of the Kunqu Opera, is also a big fan of pop music. The songs of Jay Chow and the Nanquan Mama are always on her playlist.

And this scholar hates to seat herself in front of her desk, reading, researching. She is actively participating in a fun-seeking club at her university's School of Media and Arts. And she also manages to find time for hiking with her students despite her 'nerve-stretching schedule'.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that this media scholar has been described by friends as a mix of unmixable elements'.

No one would associate this passionate lecturer on the stage and in life with the timid and shy girl she used to be.

Yu Dan lived a lonely childhood along with her grandmother in a courtyard in Beijing when her parents and grandfather were persecuted and sent to rural areas thousands of miles from Beijing during the cultural revolution.

Her parents and grandfather were victims of political turmoil in the 1960s. Yu Dan could hardly find her friends due to her 'politically incorrect parents'. So she had to pour all of her time into reading books. At this time, her grandmother taught her Kunqu Opera and calligraphy.

Traditional Chinese culture took root in her heart from that moment.

She remained diffident until she entered middle school, where Yu Dan was encouraged by her teachers to express herself. She often joked that what she is doing now as a talkative media consultant and lecturer on TV is guided by a subconscious urge to make up for her silent and unhappy childhood.

Now that Yu Dan has helped millions understand Confucius in her own way, the media expert has just started to explain another saintly figure from Chinese history - Zhuang Zi - in her own uniquely absorbing way. Zhuang Zi is considered the second father of Taoism, after its founder Lao Zi. He lived in the Warring States Period in Chinese history more than 2,000 years ago and is esteemed for his relentless spirit and witty advancement of Taoist philosophy.

Hopefully the frenzy of Chinese traditional culture will be sustained with Yu Dan and the challenging and controversial thoughts of Zhuang Zi.  

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