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China to Hold First International Festival on Intangible Cultural Heritage
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China will hold its first international conference on intangible cultural heritage (ICH) protection this May, the Chinese Ministry of Culture (CMC) announced on Wednesday.

The first China intangible cultural heritage festival will be held from May 23 to June 10 in Chengdu, the capital of southwest China's Sichuan province, which has a significant ICH and where the local government has taken effective measures to protect it, said Ding Wei, assistant to China's Minister of Culture.

During the festival, a special meeting of the inter-governmental committee of the United Nations' Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will take place in Chengdu from May 23 to 27, Ding said at a press conference.

"This will be an important meeting. Criteria will be defined for the world's ICH list," Ding said, adding that "a list of ICH in dire need of protection will also be made."

Representatives from 24 inter-governmental committees and 50 observers and non-governmental representatives are expected to attend the meeting, Ding said.

Besides the UNESCO meeting, a forum and an exhibition about ICH protection will be held and performances staged. A park specially designed for ICH protection will be opened to the public during the festival, said He Huazhang, vice-mayor of Chengdu, at the press conference.

According to UNESCO, "intangible cultural heritage" refers to practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, and skills that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage.

As a member of UNESCO's inter-governmental committee to safeguard ICH, China has been strengthening efforts in ICH protection over the past few years. Some of China's intangible cultural heritages are on the verge of extinction.

Since 2001, Kun Qu, one of the oldest forms of opera in the country, the Chinese zither or Guqin, a solo musical instrument dating back 3,000 years, Xinjiang Uygur Muqam, a blend of song, dance, folk and classical music, and Long Song, a type of Mongolian lyrical chant, have been proclaimed by UNESCO as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

(Xinhua News Agency April 5, 2007)

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