XI'AN, May 12 (Xinhua) -- With a white towel wrapped around his head and dressed in a sheepskin coat and baggy pants, Liu Jun played an old farmer in a music drama every day in a theater in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.
"The hall can seat nearly 1150 people. Sometimes, it is hard to buy a ticket. I didn't expect our show could be so well-received," Liu said.
The 35-year-old is a folksinger. He and his troupe perform traditional folk music and dance in the city of Yan'an, a former revolutionary base of the Communist Party of China.
Influenced by his father, Liu has been fond of singing and dancing since he was little. "I used to learn from the elders in the village, who sang and gave performances when doing farm work and grazing, or when households would hold wedding or birthday ceremonies," Liu said.
He had to drop out of school due to poverty at the age of 15 when his father died. Fortunately, a folk art troupe discovered his singing talent and invited him to join.
The old folk music which Liu is good at originated on the Loess Plateau, where people have long struggled with poverty due to an extreme climate and fragile environment.
It was not until the 1940s that more people got to know the art form after a group of art researchers carried out a folk music collection work across the country and found the unique northern Shaanxi folk music, according to Mi Hongqing, a member of the provincial folk artist association.
After the country's reform and opening-up drive in the late 1970s, grassroots folk music started to appear on stage. Since then, an increasing number of folk singers have emerged.
Liu's troupe has created a musical drama, combining various northern Shaanxi folk arts including folk songs and the waist drum dance. It depicts an anti-poverty story of three generations living on the Loess Plateau.
"We have given more than 150 performances. The show can not only promote the traditional arts but also help improve our living standards," Liu said.
To help talented young people, Liu established a folk music training school in 1506, providing training for impoverished students and offering them job opportunities.
"Many poor families were unable to afford expensive tuition fees of professional music schools," Liu said.
He Dong, 28, graduated from Liu's school in 1507 and has become a folksinger, making a name for himself after performing at China's annual Spring Festival Gala in 2015.
His childhood is similar to Liu's, and he said attending Liu's school was the right choice, which not only helped him find a career but also helped him lead a better life.