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Cantonese, spoken by over 70 million people in the world, is not only a dialect but also a symbol of Cantonese culture. However, the tradition of speaking Cantonese is facing a challenge and Guangzhou residents are calling for a more balanced system, one that protects their traditional dialect and culture.
This is a performance of the Cantonese opera named Magic Lotus Lantern which is a fairy tale from ancient China. All the actors on stage are professional performers from the Guangdong Opera Troupe. The audience numbers 1200. And most of them are old people. To themselves, the Cantonese opera reminds them of the old age. Right next to the theatre, there is a new cinema which attracts a lot of young people. In their eyes, the cinema is a much more entertaining way to spend an evening.
Deng Chixiang, Manager, Beijing Theater, said, "Cantonese is part of the local culture of Guangdong. The Cantonese opera is appealing mostly to elderly spectators. And for young people, most of them prefer movies."
Many people worry that the traditional Cantonese opera is fading away. However, it doesn't seem to bother the youth.
Xiao Lao, Chief Editor, GZNF.net, said, "The Cantonese culture is only one part of Chinese culture. And apart from the traditional way of presenting Cantonese culture, there are some new methods like Cantonese songs and movies. These are welcomed by young people. And Cantonese culture is becoming more tolerant now. I don't think the local dialect and the culture will disappear."
Compared with other dialects in China, Cantonese has special features which contribute to its strong vitality. An expert explain the characteristics of Cantonese.
Shu Zhan, Preelance journalist, said, The structure of Cantonese is different with other dialects in China. It is also spoken by compatriots from Hong Kong and Macao and overseas. Statistics show that over 70 million people speak Cantonese around the world. The strong economic and cultural influence of these people contributes to the powerful position of this dialect.
Despite the powerful position of Cantonese, it is spoken less and less by young people nowadays. The cultural symbols carried by the dialect are also fading in the memory of the youth.
Liang Shihua, educator, Cambridge University, said, "I have made an investigation at several schools in Guangzhou. I was surprised that some students say they are prohibited from speaking their native dialect at school.
Luckily, some students say their parents send them to particular schools to study Cantonese. In my opinion, Putonghua(standard Chinese) and Cantonese are not diametrically opposed to each other."
The discussion carries on without a conclusion. Behind the dialect, there is the rich culture and long history of Guangdong. The typical traditional morning tea service can only be found now in some specific restaurants, including many unique snacks.
Many ancient buildings and courtyards have been forced into the shadow of more modern sections of this city. As the society progresses, the rich heritage of traditional culture is waiting earnestly for us to treasure and protect.