China urgently needs to rescue and preserve its intangible cultural heritage, the nation's top cultural official said yesterday in Beijing.
Minister of Culture Sun Jiazheng made the comments just days after China's 3,000-year-old musical instrument guqin was internationally recognized as a masterpiece.
The guqin is a seven-stringed zither, China's oldest stringed instrument dating back over 3,000 years.
The protection and study of Chinese heritage are the foundation for the country's cultural progress, Sun said.
He promised to give more support, including funding, to help intangible cultural heritage such as folklore and customs survive and develop.
"Intangible" cultural heritage is defined by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as "the practices, representations, and expressions, as well as the associated knowledge and the necessary skills, that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage."
UNESCO announced last week in Paris that the art of guqin has been added to the list of 28 Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Chinese Kunqu Opera was put on the list in 2001.
Sun suggested at a meeting yesterday that more classes be run to teach the younger generation to play guqin.
Wang Wenzhang, executive deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Arts, said that the successful listing of guqin has boosted efforts to preserve oral and intangible heritage in China, which is a cradle of civilization.
The process of applying for UNESCO listing started in 2000. Applications are accepted every two years and each country can only nominate one item each round.
Edmond Moukala, a UNESCO programme specialist for culture, said yesterday that strong government initiatives are needed to safeguard intangible heritage.
"In the responsible preservation of our heritage, it is essential that all available resources be used to turn history into a dynamic and interactive medium for future generations," he said.
Encouraged by the successful listings of the two traditional arts, Chinese authorities are applying to have more examples of Chinese oral and intangible heritage listed with UNESCO.
(China Daily November 14, 2003)