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Intangible Cultural Heritages Festival in Full Swing in Chengdu
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The ongoing 19-day festival on intangible cultural heritage (ICH) in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, is the first international event to promote the protection of intangible cultural riches.

With the theme of "Inheritance of ethnic culture, communication of civilizations and promotion of a harmonious world," the festival is aimed at furthering China's efforts in intangible cultural heritage protection and enhancing its global influence in the field, said Ding Wei, assistant to the Minister of Culture.

During the event, the First Extraordinary Session of the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was held from May 23 and 27.

There was also a two-day Chengdu Forum, which ended on May 24 and featured talks on the protection of intangible cultural heritage. More than 40 experts, scholars and government officials from around the world signed the "Chengdu Manifesto," calling for the international community and governments in different countries to put more emphasis on protecting intangible cultural heritage, such as opera, songs, and dance.

The text of the Chengdu Manifesto will be inscribed in stone in many languages and placed inside the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Park in Chengdu. The stone will be unveiled to the public on June 10, said Chengdu Vice Mayor He Huazhang.

Heritage exposition

The Exposition of the First International Festival of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Park opened May 23 in Chengdu's Jinniu District.

Spread over 80 halls, the exposition displays 1,112 domestic and overseas intangible cultural heritage items free of charge for the duration of the festival.

"Folk artists will perform there," said Deng Gongli, deputy secretary-general of the Chengdu
municipal government.

The exposition will also feature Muqam, a traditional performance from the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Prefecture.

Muqam, which combines music, dance, singing and poetry, is on UNESCO's Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

"It will be the first time that Muqam makes its debut outside of Xinjiang," said Zhu Shuxi, chief of the Chengdu Municipal Bureau of Culture.

He disclosed that the famous Xiaoxiang Lion Dance will also be performed in the exposition. The dance, which has its origins in Xiaoxiang Village in Gongyi, in Central China's Henan Province, has a history of more than 400 years and is likely to be performed at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Nearly 70 performers will display their stunts of climbing to the tops of poles that are over 10 m high, and dancing like lions.

Cultural awareness

According to Ding, Chengdu was chosen to host the festival because of its position as one of China's most historically and culturally famous cities and its efforts to protect and develop cultural heritage.

Attaching great importance to intangible cultural heritage protection and conservation, the Chengdu municipal government has established many programs and initiatives involving surveys on intangible cultural heritage items and their protection.

The city's Dujiangyan Water Discharge Festival, Shu Brocade, Shu Embroidery and Chengdu Lacquer were the first on the list for the protection of representations of China's national intangible cultural heritage, said Chengdu Vice Mayor He Huazhang.

Last November, Chengdu announced its first list of 41 items of municipal-level intangible cultural heritage, while this February Sichuan Province also released its list of provincial-level intangible cultural heritage items.

That included 10 categories and 189 items, of which 26 are from Chengdu, the vice mayor said.

He added this year Chengdu founded an intangible cultural heritage protection center and the China Intangible Cultural Heritage Institute will be formally launched in the city on June 10.

(China Daily June 1, 2007)

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