Taipei, Renowned percussionist Ju Tzong-ching (朱宗慶) and master of traditional glove puppetry Chen Hsi-huang (陳錫煌) received this year’s National Cultural Award on Thursday at a ceremony that highlighted the pair’s contributions to Taiwan.
The award, which is in its 39th edition, was presented by Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌).
Ju, who is credited with popularizing percussion in Taiwan with his ensemble group and music school, said in his acceptance speech that he would donate his prize money to National University of the Arts, where he once served as principal.
The NT$1 million (US$33,600) prize will be used to fund percussion-related teaching efforts, which will allow students interested in the field to better connect with the world, Ju said.
In his speech, Ju also thanked his parents for believing in him 50 years ago, a belief he said that enabled him to continue exploring percussion.
Ju was born in 1954 in Taichung, and studied percussion at the Vienna Academy of Music. He has received numerous national and international honors throughout his career, including being inducted into the U.S. Percussive Arts Society’s Hall of Fame in 2016, the first Taiwanese to receive the honor.
“He is the founder father and leader of percussion in Taiwan,” composer Lai Deh-ho (賴德和) said at the ceremony.
The other recipient of this year’s award, Chen, thanked fans of traditional glove puppetry in his acceptance speech, saying that even though the art form is not as popular as it once was, many still appreciate it and enjoy it.
“If no one comes to watch, traditional things disappear,” he said.
Taiwanese director Yang Li-chou (楊力州), who spent over 10 years making a documentary about Chen titled “Red Box,” praised Chen for his dedication to teaching puppetry even in his old age.
“By teaching one student after another and putting on one performance after another, he passes on his legacy one step at a time,” Yang said at the ceremony.
Born in Taipei in 1931, Chen began learning glove puppetry at a young age, as his father Li Tien-lu (李天祿) was also a master of the art form.
The two have different surnames because Li married into a celebrated theater family, and in deference to their social standing, agreed to let his firstborn son take his wife’s surname.
Even after decades in the business, Chen still thinks of ways to innovate his performances, and tries to make the puppets’ actions more pleasing and flowing, a current apprentice of Chen’s, Chen Kuan-lin (陳冠霖), told CNA in an interview.
“He tells us (his students), if people come to see a performance, our job is to make it good,” Chen Kuan-lin said.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel