IV. Protecting and Carrying Forward Cultural Heritage

Xinjiang is a region rich in cultural heritage. The central government and the local government of Xinjiang have made a continuous effort to strengthen the legal system for the protection of the region’s cultural heritage. The Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Cultural Relics and the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Intangible Cultural Heritage provide important legal protection for the diverse cultural heritage of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang.

Protection of cultural heritage yields results.Xinjiang has formed a cultural heritage protection network comprising 189 institutions at all levels. The region has completed three surveys on fixed national cultural relics and one on movable national cultural relics, forming a comprehensive database. By the end of 2017 Xinjiang had 9,542 cultural heritage sites, of which six were World Heritage sites, 113 were key national sites, and 558 were at the autonomous-region level. Xinjiang’s cultural heritage system contains 93 public museums, including two national first-grade museums – the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Museum and the Turpan Museum, with a collection of 450,000 items.

Xinjiang has made great headway in protecting its historical and cultural cities, towns, villages and localities. The region now has five cities, three towns, four villages, and two localities that have been recognized as state-level historical and cultural divisions, as well as 17 traditional Chinese villages and 22 ethnic-minority villages with cultural significance. Over the years, the Chinese government has supported the repair and conservation of many cultural heritage sites, such as the Gaochang Ancient City Ruins, Beiting Ancient City Ruins, and new and old Huiyuan Ancient City, while rescuing and restoring more than 3,000 rare cultural relics.

Archeological findings attract wide attention. By the end of 2017 eight archeological programs, including the Niya Ruins in Minfeng County, Yingpan Cemetery in Yuli County, Xiaohe Cemetery in Ruoqiang County, 3rd-4th century brick graves in Kucha County, Dongheigou Ruins in Barkol County, and the Tongtiandong Cave in Jeminay County, had been listed among the National Top 10 Archeological Discoveries of the Year. The arm protector with the inscriptions of “Five stars appear in the East, sign of Chinese victory over the Qiang” and the silk quilt with inscriptions of “Marriages between princes and dukes bring prosperity to their posterity” unearthed from the Niya Ruins are national treasures.

Protection of ancient books has been strengthened. Xinjiang has set up a leading group and office in charge of the classification and publishing of the autonomous region’s ancient books, an ancient books preservation center, an ancient books restoration center, and a repository for ancient books and special collections of ethnic minorities. In 2011 the region’s Ancient Books Preservation Center started its first survey of ancient books, registering important and rare volumes and recording their content, physical condition, and preservation requirements. This was the first of several such surveys. By the end the 2017 the center had examined 14,980 books. Ancient books in its collection are written in 19 languages and 28 scripts, and fall into three language families: the Chinese language family (Chinese, Tangut, and Khitan scripts), the Aramaic family (more than 10 scripts, including the Kharosthi, Pahlavi, Manichaean, and Huihu scripts), and the Brahmi family (Sanskrit, Tocharian, Khotanese, and Tubo scripts). These books cover a wide range of subjects, including politics, the economy, society, religions, astronomy, mathematics, medicine, and the arts. Digitalization of ancient books and related work are further strengthened.

The Chinese government has supported the translation, editing and publishing into Chinese and Uygur languages of Kutadgu Bilig (Wisdom of Fortune and Joy) and A Comprehensive Turki Dictionary, two works of the Karahan Kingdom period in the 11th century. The government has also organized experts in ancient books to carry out research and provide expertise in this field, and helped to arrange exchanges between Chinese and foreign professionals, researchers, and administrators engaged in the preservation of ancient books. In 2011 the Ministry of Culture and the local government of Xinjiang co-hosted an exhibition, titled “Recovered Treasures from the Western Regions: Progress in Preserving Xinjiang’s Historical Literature and Ancient Books”. More than half of the ancient books displayed at the exhibition were the only copies extant. This achievement was acclaimed by the widest range of interested parties.

Intangible cultural heritage is effectively protected. Under the guiding principle of giving priority to both preservation and restoration, and pursuing sound utilization and development, the policy and legislation for protecting intangible cultural heritage have been strengthened. In 2008 the Regulations of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage were enacted. In 2010 the Regulations of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on the Protection of Uygur Muqam Arts were promulgated and put into force. In addition, Xinjiang has introduced a number of rules for protecting its intangible cultural heritage, which provide institutional guarantees for rescuing and preserving this heritage in a coordinated and systematic manner.

In 1951 and 1954 the central government made recordings of the music of the Twelve Muqams to rescue the Muqam arts. Since the 1960s, firm funding and manpower support from the government has enabled the publication of works of folk literature, including the Kirgiz epic Manas and Mongolian epic Jangar. The Collection of Chinese Ethnic and Folk Dances (Xinjiang Volume), Collection of Chinese Folk Songs (Xinjiang Volume), and Collection of Chinese Folk Tales (Xinjiang Volume) have been compiled and published to introduce the folk music, dances, drama and other arts of the region.

The program for protecting and preserving Xinjiang’s intangible cultural heritage as part of the initiative to promote Chinese cultural traditions is well under way. By the end of 2017, to rescue and preserve its intangible cultural heritage, Xinjiang had completed the recording of intangible cultural items presented by 23 state-level representative trustees in the form of written texts, images, audios and videos. Furthermore, the region had established three state-level demonstration bases that produce Uygur musical instruments, carpets and Etles silk for the preservation of these intangible cultural items. In addition, the region had set up 91 autonomous-region level bases for preserving and handing down its intangible cultural heritage.

Uygur Muqam of Xinjiang and the Kirgiz epic Manas were registered on the “UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”, and Uygur Meshrep on the “List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding”. Xinjiang has 83 items on the national representative list of intangible cultural heritage and 294 items on the autonomous-region list, as well as 112 state-level representative trustees and 403 autonomous-region representative trustees of its intangible cultural heritage.

Folk cultures are respected and preserved. Xinjiang embraces cultural diversity and inclusiveness, and upholds mutual learning among cultures. The region fully respects and protects folk cultures, thus realizing the harmonious coexistence of different cultures and enabling the effective protection and preservation of the best traditions of all ethnic groups. All people in Xinjiang have the right to observe their own statutory festivals such as the Spring Festival, Qingming Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, Ramadan, and Corban. They celebrate the festivals in many forms, such as playing music, dancing, and holding traditional sports events. Among popular folk festivals are the Han people’s Lantern Festival, the Uygur’s Meshrep, the Kazak’s Aytes, the Kirgiz’s Kobuz Ballad Singing Fair, the Mongolian Nadam Fair, and the Hui people’s Hua’er Folk Song Festival. The local government promotes mutual respect for folkways among all ethnic groups while encouraging appropriate and healthy lifestyles, wedding and funeral practices, and customs and rituals.