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Print Edition> Lifestyle
UPDATED: June 13, 2010 NO. 24 JUNE 17, 2010
Passing on Culture
Great efforts are being made to protect customs and folk crafts


PLAYING TO THE WORLD: People from the Dong ethnic group in southwest China's Guizhou Province, present their folk music form. It was included in the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage on September 30, 2009 (LIU XU) 

China has 870,000 intangible cultural heritage items that need protection, and the Central Government has invested 1.79 billion yuan ($262 million) in a series of protection projects, said Wang Wenzhang, Chinese Vice Minister of Culture, in Beijing on June 2, 2010.

A new stage

Wang said more and more intangible cultural heritage items have been protected in recent years.

Since 2005 China has expanded the scope of intangible cultural heritage protection to 10 categories: folk literature, customs, music, dance, operas, fine arts, acrobatics, traditional crafts, sports and medicine.


KEEPING THE TRADITION: Dragon boat racing is a colorful activity during China's traditional Dragon Boat Festival, a world intangible heritage recognized by UNESCO in September 2009. This year's Dragon Boat Festival falls on June 16 (ZHUANG YINGCHANG) 

By 2008, altogether 1,028 intangible cultural heritage items had been put under the state-level protection. At the same time, China has also assessed and nominated 1,488 state-level representative inheritors of traditional arts and crafts.

The country has set up six national pilot cultural ecology reserves, aiming to protect the Minnan culture in southeast China's Fujian Province, the Qiang ethnic culture in southwest China's Sichuan Province, the Hakka culture in south China's Guangdong Province, the Huizhou culture in east China's Anhui Province, the Regong culture in northwest China's Qinghai Province and the Wuling culture in the mountainous area in central China's Hunan Province.

Meanwhile, he said China is facing difficulties in maintaining the existence of intangible cultural heritage items, especially those mainly handed down by word of mouth. Many traditional handicrafts are on the brink of extinction.

On the other hand, many local governments are attaching greater importance to intangible cultural heritage item application but making less effort to actually protect these cultural properties. In some regions, there is excessive economic exploitation of intangible cultural heritage items.

Protection should always come first, and China will strengthen the supervision of local governments' efforts to protect the listings, Wang said. Warnings and penalties will be given to local governments if they fail to effectively protect intangible cultural heritage items.

China will also speed up the legislative process of its intangible cultural heritage protection law. "There are many ways to protect intangible cultural heritage, but legislative regulation is the fundamental guarantee for the work," Wang said.

Besides, China will also include the intangible cultural heritage protection in the national education system to raise awareness among the public.

June 12 of this year is the fifth Cultural Heritage Day of China. The theme for this year's Cultural Heritage Day is "Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection, Everyone is Taking Part."

Under the theme, the Chinese Ministry of Culture will organize a series of activities, including a variety of exhibitions on intangible cultural heritage in Beijing and Dragon Boat Festival celebrations in east China's Zhejiang Province and central China's Hubei Province, to improve the awareness of protecting intangible cultural heritage among the public, especially the young.

International cooperation

Wang said China has always placed importance on cooperation with other countries and international organizations when it comes to intangible cultural heritage preservation.

At present, China has 22 items listed in the intangible cultural heritage list of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the country with the greatest number of listings in the world.

In August 2004, China joined the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. In May this year, the International Training Center for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region, supported by UNESCO, was established in Beijing.

Wang also said China would continue to cooperate with neighboring countries in applying for inclusion in the UNESCO list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity, in terms of those cultural properties with roots commonly shared by these countries.

The Long Song, a major Mongolian folk song, co-nominated by Mongolia and China, was proclaimed a UNESCO intangible heritage in 2005.

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