Blend of bikinis and Chinese opera stirs debate

BEIJING (AP) — A stage performance by bikini-clad women wearing headpieces styled after traditional Peking Opera has sparked debate in China after photos were made public this week, highlighting divided views on how to preserve the country's traditions.

Organizers of the Miss Bikini International Committee — which was responsible for the show staged in April to promote an upcoming bikini competition — defend the use of Chinese opera elements as a bold artistic attempt.

"We are only adding small elements of the opera to fit the Eastern style, and we are just adding Chinese traditional cultural elements on the stage in order to attract audience," said Li Jinkun, general manager of Beijing Beauty Cultural Development Co. Ltd., which organizes the bikini contests. "Our goal was to let the audience have a fresh and new feeling," Li said Thursday.

Supporters say such experiments should be tolerated in commercial endeavors, but opponents say the sexiness of bikinis insults the traditional art form, which typically appeals to older people.

The debate over the use of opera elements in the bikini show began on China's active social media, but state media soon chimed in with equally split opinions.

"To rejuvenate traditional arts is a serious matter. Any innovation must respect the art in the first place but not distort it or change it beyond recognition," the state-owned China Youth Daily said Wednesday.

But a microblogging site of the online version of the official People's Daily backed the changes, saying that traditional opera also can be sexy, while a commentator on the Weibo site said traditional operas cannot live in a vacuum.

"Bikini-style Peking Opera is an innovation. Whether it will last or not, only time can tell," commentator Wu Hongmin wrote.