One weekend last month, Beijing resident Liu Xitong sat down with her teenage daughter and listened to a new performance by renowned Japanese composer and music producer Ryuichi Sakamoto.
The mesmerizing melodies of the musician seemed all the more soothing for the two because they were cooped up at home for weeks as part of measures to stem the spread of novel coronavirus pneumonia, or COVID-19.
"We've always liked his music," said Liu, 39, who works in the catering industry. "It was surreal, to be able to enjoy it so close, right in our home during these trying times."
Sakamoto's performance was part of an online music festival from Feb 14 to 29 involving the Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation. The festival brought together more than 70 luminaries from the arts, entertainment, literary and other fields to help support family ties and cohesion, fuel cultural and social exchanges, and relieve psychological pressures amid the COVID-19 outbreak, according to event organizers.
Sakamoto, whose accolades include an Academy Award for his score in the 1987 movie The Last Emperor, drew about 23 million hits and more than 6 million responses for his festival piano piece.
In a message to children, the Japanese composer said: "It must be hard not to be able to go out and play, but… use that time to read a lot of books and listen to a lot of music. Painting, writing poetry, playing musical instruments and watching movies aren't bad either.
"And don't forget to exercise at home. Let's do our best to get over these difficult times!"
The festival was the latest in a string of events and efforts in the country's arts, cultural and educational fields to promote and maintain social activities and interaction amid the COVID-19 threat. From museums offering more virtual reality exhibitions and viewings, to tutorials for distance-learning courses and social apps providing ways for people to express creativity with home videos showing unique aspects of their daily life, the digital sphere has been abuzz with novel ways to cope with the public health situation.
Other music festival performers and participants pitched in with messages of encouragement and best wishes for families affected by the temporary suspension of classes and social activities.
"The home forms some of our earliest memories. It is also a source of our taste of life," said writer Liang Hong. "We may be physically closed in during this difficult time, but this can also be the wellspring of countless memories."
Sculptor Wu Shangcong said: "Children, the epidemic is a formidable test for us. … It affects our very lives and fuels the fear in our hearts. But if our hearts stay clear…the fear will be kept at bay."
Dance artist Gong Xingxing said that, under the current circumstances, "let us … continue to interact, to better understand each other, build bridges with love, and guard our homes well together".