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Feng: Grant New Year's Eve Holiday Status
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CPPCC member Feng Jicai's proposal to preserve the country's intangible cultural heritage was, in essence, tangible the famous writer, painter and cultural activist suggested to move up the Spring Festival holiday by one day to include the Chinese New Year's eve.

"According to Chinese tradition, New Year's eve is part of the festival and is more important than what comes after the fifth day of the new year. We should arrange our holiday with respect to cultural customs," he said.

The official Spring Festival holiday covers the first seven days of the lunar new year, but New Year's eve is traditionally a time for family gatherings. People who work far away from their hometowns sometimes struggle to make it home in time for this key gathering. 

Born in 1942 in Tianjin, Feng is known for his depictions of intellectuals' lives and the historical portrayals of his hometown in his novels. His works have been published in over 30 countries and regions.

However, in recent years Feng has developed a reputation for his efforts to preserve China's folk culture and halt the decline of some traditional arts.

In another proposal to the CPPCC, he called for the creation of small neighborhood museums to preserve local artefacts associated with China's traditional dwellings.

He got the idea last year while visiting the ancient villages of Hongcun and Xidi in East China's Anhui Province, which are included on UNESCO's World Heritage List.

Feng said he found that though the architecture had been preserved, the houses were largely empty of the kind of artefacts that would reveal the local culture and history. Most of the traditional furniture and cultural relics had been carried off and sold.

"I suggest that we establish small museums in these places, whether State-run, private or some combination, as long as cultural items stay where they were born," said Feng.

A few years ago, Tianjin built the Old Town Museum in response to a suggestion from Feng. The author spent some of his own money to buy the first batch of cultural relics and donated them to the museum. Following his example, many citizens donated other goods relating to the old town of Tianjin.

"The aim is not just to build museums, but to call for a cultural consciousness among the people," he said.

Back in 1994, when the old town of Tianjin was undergoing reconstruction, Feng also paid out of his own pocket to have some 30,000 pictures of the old town taken. He compiled a collection of pictures into an album and sent copies to officials and policy-makers, writing on them "This is your beloved city".

As a painter, Feng has held several charity sales of his works to raise money for cultural preservation. The next one will be held in May in Nanning, capital of South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Feng said he spent about 70 percent of his time on cultural preservation projects, leaving him only enough time to write short stories and prose pieces.

"We are at a point of social transformation," he said. "More people should be aware of cultural preservation and do something to support the effort."

(China Daily March 6, 2007 )

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