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Other Heritage Entries
Cover Stories Series 2012> Living, Breathing Heritage> Other Heritage Entries
UPDATED: December 10, 2010 NO. 50 DECEMBER 16, 2010
Peking Opera Hits UNESCO Heritage List
The admission of the art form will boost protection of this national treasure

ELEGANTLY BEAUTIFUL: Well-known Peking Opera actress Wang Runjing performs in the famous playDrunken Beauty(SONG JIANHAO)

Peking Opera was recently inscribed on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The decision was made during the fifth session of UNESCO's Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage meeting on November 16 in Nairobi, Kenya.

At the session, the committee examined 47 nominations from 29 countries. In order to be added to the list, the submissions must comply with a series of criteria, including contributing to spreading the knowledge of intangible cultural heritage and promoting awareness of its importance. Nominees for the inscription must also justify protective measures taken to ensure their viability. Peking Opera qualified in these aspects.

"The successful application of Peking Opera has far-reaching significance," said Shang Changrong, Chairman of the China Theater Association and one of China's most outstanding Peking Opera performers. "It not only shows full recognition from the international world including UNESCO, of the colorful intangible cultural heritage of China, but also shows their trust and affirmation of our efforts in protecting it."

Compared to other operas, Peking Opera is relatively popular in China. Some people wonder why this popular opera still needs UNESCO's affirmation. Qian Rong, Director of the Beijing Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection Center, said the opera was presented for world intangible cultural heritage because it has been passed down for more than 200 years and the emphasis is laid on 'inheritance.'

Different from the situation of Kunqu, another kind of traditional Chinese opera, Peking Opera's admission does not mean the opera is declining. Kunqu has experienced faster and prominent development since its listing as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage in 2001. Before that, it had been dying out. Peking Opera, on the other hand, is looking forward to better development and protection.

After hearing of the listing of Peking Opera, Yang Chengwei, Chairman of Peking Opera Theater of northwest China's Gansu Province, said he was very excited. "Its successful listing is a piece of very good news for local Peking Opera troupes. More people will pay attention to it and support it and its social influence will be greatly enhanced by the inscription. I believe it will change the situation of many local Peking Opera troupes. Only by improving our ability to survive can we inherit and develop Peking Opera in a better way."

The beauty of China's Peking Opera was made known to the rest of the world partly due to world-known Peking Opera maestro Mei Lanfang's enthusiastic efforts. He toured Japan twice (1919 and 1924), the United States once (1930) and the former Soviet Union twice (1932 and 1935).

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