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Folk Artists Key to Preserving Cultural Heritage

The Chinese Academy of Arts yesterday invited 30 folk artists to act as researchers, a move by the government seen as a big step towards the preservation of the country's "intangible cultural heritage".

The 30 are experts in Chinese folk arts such as paper-cutting, clay moulding, kite making and Tibetan tongka making (silk or satin scroll painting).

These folk arts are part of the country's intangible cultural heritage, according to Minister of Culture Sun Jiazheng.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines "intangible cultural heritage" as "the practices, representations, expressions, as well as the knowledge and skills, that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage."

Sun said that folk artists are important components of a country's intangible cultural heritage because they play an important role in ensuring its survival.

Wang Wenzhang, president of the academy, promised yesterday to take further measures to promote the works of these artists, such as holding exhibitions and setting up workshops for them.

He said the academy plans to invite 70 additional folk artists within five years to become researchers.

Yu Xianglian, one of the 30 folk artists appointed, said she wanted more people to pay attention to the country's diverse heritage.

"If no practical effort is made, the skills will be lost with the passing away of folk artists," said Yu, an expert on clay moulding.

According to a source with those attended the national meeting on Kunqu Opera last week, China's central government has decided to spend 10 million yuan (about US$1.2 million) per year from 2005 to 2009 to revitalize the art form. The investment will be used to collect traditional librettos, create new plays, support public performances, promote the operatic art form, and train and reward professionals.

On April 28, Zhou Heping, deputy Culture Minister, told a press conference that China would set up a database and a detailed list of intangible cultural heritage at the country, province, city and county levels.

(China Daily May 25, 2005)

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