Protection and Promotion of China's Intangible Cultural Heritage

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I. National Cultural Heritage Day 2010

Since the designation of the second Saturday of every June as China's National Cultural Heritage Day in 2006 according to the State Council Circular on the Strengthening of Protection for Cultural Heritage, China has celebrated four Cultural Heritage Days and is about to commemorate its Fifth Cultural Heritage Day on June 12, 2010. This year the Ministry of Culture has set up the theme of the Cultural Heritage Day as "Everyone has a part to play in the protection of intangible cultural heritage." It has issued special directives to cultural departments and bureaus on all levels to support and organize public campaigns for the protection of intangible cultural heritage, so as to incorporate the efforts of all social sectors in this major endeavor. And many creative and diversified local initiatives will also be launched to heighten the increasing public awareness for intangible cultural heritage nationwide.

As part of the commemoration, the Ministry of Culture will host in Beijing the large-scale exhibition of "Consummate Skills: A Hundred Masters of Arts and Crafts in China's Intangible Cultural Heritage". This exhibition will be held between June 9th to 17th in the Beijing Exhibition Center. It will showcase about 350 exquisite works made by 100 masters of arts and crafts in intangible cultural heritage from 23 provinces (autonomous regions/municipalities directly under the central government) including Beijing, Shanxi, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Guangdong, Sichuan, Yunnan, Tibet, Gansu and Qinghai. A number of masters will present live demonstrations of their skills in the Center, among which are Regong Arts (painting, sculpture, embroidery, Tangka etc. based on Tibetan Buddhism) from Qinghai Province, Longquan Celadon Procelain-making from Zhejiang Province, Nanjing Brocade-making which were all inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and eight categories of high quality arts and crafts including jade cutting and carving, sculpture and engraving, ceramics, weaving, decoration, goldsmithing, embroidery and painting, will be exhibited to reflect the deep cultural connotation, refined taste and artistic character of traditional Chinese handicrafts.

Another campaign to be launched by the Ministry of Culture is entitled "Taking Heritage to the Future: Tour of Celebrated Guqin Masters and Music to a Hundred Schools". Starting from June 10, established masters and leading practitioners of Guqin music instrument will be joined by social organizations such as Guqin campus clubs and societies to bring Guqin music to some 20 universities and 80 secondary and primary schools in Beijing, Chongqing and Tianjin. The tour will feature some special outreach programs such as "Seeds of Interest: Getting to Know Our Heritage" and "Meeting the Masters: Dialogue between Students and Masters in the Sound of Music", in the aim that cultural legacies of China are passed down through generations.

This year's Cultural Heritage Day also coincides with the traditional Chinese festival of Duanwu (commonly known as the Dragon Boat Festival, celebrated on the Fifth day of the Fifth Month by lunar calendar, which is June 16 in 2010). This would be the first celebration of this festival after it was newly included on the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The Ministry of Culture will co-host with People's Government of Zhejiang Province the events of "Celebrating 2010 Duanwu Festival (Dragon Boat Festival)" in Jiaxing of Zhejiang from June 13th to 16th, and co-host the "2010 Duanwu Cultural Festival in Qu Yuan's Hometown" in Zigui of Hubei Province together with People's Government of Hubei Province from June 12th to 16th.

II. Protection and Promotion of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Recent Years

In the last few years, with great attention given by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, extensive support by all levels of CPC Committees and governments and continuous efforts of cultural departments and organizations across the nation, protection of intangible cultural heritage has witnessed remarkable progress, and a network of multi-faceted protective resources and measures suitable to China's contemporary situation has taken shape.

Compared to a few years ago, China has made notable achievements in its protection of intangible cultural heritage, including: (1) increasing public awareness, while ICH protection is attached with strategic importance by the CPC Central Committee, the State Council and all levels of government, for example, President Hu Jintao's remarks in the 17th CPC Congress for "strengthening the excavation and protection of cultures of all ethnic groups, giving more attention to the protection of cultural properties and intangible cultural heritage" and Premier Wen Jiabao's important instructions during his inspection of the Exhibition on Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Millennium Monument on the second Cultural Heritage Day, June 9, 2007, the public is also sharing a nationwide consensus that intangible cultural heritage should be protected. Just as the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage recognizes "the need to build greater awareness, especially among the younger generations, of the importance of the intangible cultural heritage and of its safeguarding" and calls upon all member states "to ensure the widest possible participation of communities, groups and, where appropriate, individuals that create, maintain and transmit such heritage, and to involve them actively in its management", it has been widely understood that intangible cultural heritage is often embedded in the very lifestyle and production mode of the people, therefore the engagement of the wide public, particularly the younger generation in their everyday life, will decide the future of intangible cultural heritage from its foundation. This is also the very reason why the theme of this year's Cultural Heritage Day is set upon "everyone has a part to play in the protection of intangible cultural heritage"; (2) expansion of the scope of intangible cultural heritage from folk and traditional arts including literature, music, dance, theater and fine arts, to ten categories including traditional sports, games and acrobatics, traditional skills and techniques, traditional medicine and therapy and folk custom. This is a demonstration of the deepening understanding of China for historical cultural heritage towards greater sense of history, inclusiveness and scientific approach. A society that put people first will definitely respect cultural diversity, therefore the protection of ICH has also echoed the demands of social progress; (3) the maturity of a comprehensive network of protective means and measures under the guideline of "protection first, timely rescue, rational utilization and good transmission", a total of 1.789 billion RMB have been invested by the central and provincial governments, supporting a series of priority projects and mechanisms including national general surveys, national inventories, representative transmitters, cultural ecological reserves, museums, transmission centers and human resources; (4) active international cooperation with and recognition from the international community, exemplified by China's accession to the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, the inclusion of Chinese heritage items on the UNESCO Representative Lists, the establishment of International Training Center for the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region, and others.

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