Some 5,000 members of national and regional folk artist associations will be participating in a ten-year "Project to Save Chinese Folk Cultural Heritages" that will record in words, graphics and videotapes different ethnic heritages for books and television series.
Chinese folk cultures -- which in the broadest sense includes folk art, folk literature, folk culture and folk custom -- are in a perilous condition, according to Bai Gengsheng, chairman of the China Folk Artist Association which is organizing the project. It is sponsored by the Publicity Department of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, the State Ethnic Affairs Commission and Ministry of Culture.
Included on the endangered heritage list: Traditional operas in all their aspects; ethnic and folk dances as performed at festivals, sacrificial rites and other ceremonies; ethnic and folk music and their instruments; and folk fine arts and traditional handicrafts like cloth weaving and dying, embroidery, engraving, pottery, and paper cutting.
Traditional Chinese culture will be open in all directions, especially since China has joined the World Trade Organization. With the rapid speed of globalization and modernization, Chinese folk culture will be impacted on all sides by western culture. Meanwhile, traditional Chinese culture as found in the vast countryside is moving to the cities along with the farmers who are swarming into towns to become part of the urban population. The appreciation of traditional Chinese culture is becoming inundated by high-speed tastes.
Bai Gengsheng sees a danger of gaps being created for traditional Chinese culture. For example, much valuable architecture like historical towns and streets are vanishing. They can never come back once they are torn down, since culture can not be reclaimed.
Experts and scholars participated in the project said the salvage project includes many aspects such as folk culture rescue, protection, inheritance and development, with culture rescue as the most important. Moreover, the government should give more aid and support and intellectuals should actively involve in the project. As for the heritages themselves, people directly involved must try to reinvent themselves into a cultural industry by making full use of current technology. Bai Gengsheng cited Naxi ancient music as an example. With the efforts of Doctor Xun Ke, Naxi ancient music has been heard worldwide and has been promoted as a Yunnan Province tourist attraction.
The work to preserve Chinese folk cultural heritages is urgent, Bai emphasized. Meanwhile, relevant laws also need to be devised to better protect cultural heritage.
(china.org.cn by Chen Peng on January 30, 2002, translated by Unisumoon)