"Full of Chinese cultural facts, Beijing Opera presents the audience with an encyclopaedia of Chinese culture, as well as unfolding stories, beautiful paintings, exquisite costumes, graceful gestures and martial arts" (Chinese Ministry of Culture, 2003, p. 1). The arias of Beijing Opera derived from Kunqu, Qinqiang, Xipi, Erhuang and other local operas. Kunqu has a more than 600 year’s history and has been listed as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2001 (UNESCO, 2003). The opera’s acrobatic fighting originated from Chinese martial art that is considered as an indispensable part of Chinese traditional culture, and its facial make-ups can be traced back to sacrifices and ceremonies of primitive tribes in ancient China. Moreover, Beijing Opera contains Confucius’ LiYue theory (Politeness and Happiness), Chinese philosophy of Zhonghe (Harmony), national consciousness of history worship and ancestor respect, and aesthetic habit (Chen, 1995). However, few people, especially the youth, would like to enjoy the art of the Beijing Opera. It would seem that Beijing Opera will die a slow death like many traditional cultural practices around the world.
This project investigates how the intangible cultural heritage of Beijing Opera can be sustained into the future. It is argued that the popular appeal of electronic games can be exploited to seed future interest in Beijing Opera. This research project proposes a design concept for an electronic game based on Beijing Opera. Measures taken by selected countries on safeguarding the intangible cultural heritage are discussed, and the tri-relationships among intangible cultural transmission, children and electronic games are explored to prove that electronic games can be utilized as an efficient tool to transmit and safeguard traditional intangible cultural heritages. Surveys conducted as part of this research showed positive results. Chapter 1 introduces the project. Chapter two discusses what intangible cultural heritage is and what various nation states are doing to preserve such culture. Chapter three considers why an educational but entertaining game based on Beijing Opera is feasible to preserve traditional cultural heritage. Chapter four argues why older children are the optimum target group for such a game. Chapter five considers the positive and negative effects of game playing. Chapter six argues the design concept while Chapter seven concludes the project by way of summary of findings. As many countries encounter the same problem of how to preserve their traditional cultural heritage, this research addresses a global issue of immediate significance.