Protection and continuation of China's many ancient crafts a key aim of event

BEIJING, Oct. 11, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The 8th International Festival of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, Chengdu, China, an international platform for boosting high-level dialogue and exchanges, will be held in the capital of Sichuan province from Oct 12 to 16.

A display of the Yi ethnic group’s costume.
A display of the Yi ethnic group’s costume.

Established in 2007, the biennial festival is the first large-scale cultural event in the world with ICH as its theme and the promotion of ICH protection as its purpose. In 2009, it was granted permanent residency in Chengdu with the approval of the then Ministry of Culture.

Themed "Share Contract Fulfillment and Practice, Deepen Mutual Learning among Civilizations", this year’s event, mainly organized by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Sichuan provincial government, will highlight the 20th anniversary of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage adopted by UNESCO. It is to feature four main sections: World ICH, China ICH, Sichuan ICH and Cloud-based ICH.

Representatives from countries and regions such as the United States, Pakistan and Thailand will share their ideas on ICH protection and the implementation of the international ICH convention over the past 20 years.

More than 900 ICH projects and about 5,000 guests and inheritors from 68 countries and regions around the world have also been invited to enjoy the cultural feast.

Shi Zeyi, deputy director of the international exchange and cooperation bureau at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, said that since its establishment, the International Festival of the Intangible Cultural Heritage has held more than 2,000 activities, introduced more than 9,000 ICH projects and attracted around 60,000 representatives from over 130 countries and regions and nongovernmental organizations as well as about 20 million local residents and tourists. It has become an internationally renowned event among both domestic and international communities.

Shi said that the event reflects the determination and attention paid by the Chinese government, as a contracting party to the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and a practitioner of ICH protection, to shoulder the mission. It is a global event for exchanging experiences, showcasing the fascinating excellent culture of the Chinese nation and promoting international cooperation.

Renowned as a land of abundance, Sichuan boasts a long history, picturesque landscapes and a variety of cultures. Its 14 ethnic groups have jointly created rich and colorful ICH items with diligence and wisdom.

In recent years, Sichuan has made remarkable efforts in achieving the systematic protection of ICH by implementing key projects on inheriting and developing ICH, advancing the transformation and innovative development of ICH and integrating ICH into modern life.

Currently, Sichuan has eight items on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO: Shu brocade, Gesar epic tradition, Tibetan Opera, Qiang New Year Festival, Dege woodblock printing technique, Tibetan medicine bathing ritual, Sichuan shadow puppetry, and the Nanlubian tea-making technique and Mengshan tea production technique.

The province also has 153 national-level representative items of ICH; 1,132 provincial-level items; 105 national-level inheritors; and 1,062 provincial-level representative inheritors.

Yang Huazhen, born in Xiaojin county of Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture, Sichuan, is a member of the Tibetan ethnic group who grew up in the mountains. Yang learned traditional Tibetan weaving and embroidery from her mother.

After working as a photojournalist, Yang witnessed the magnitude 8.0 Wenchuan earthquake on May 12, 2008. She rushed to the disaster area to document the aftermath. The collapsed homes and the despair of the people left her in agony. She wanted to help her fellow countrymen rebuild their homes and lives.

After much consideration, she resigned from her job and organized a group of 18 skilled embroiderers from the local area to start a project which aimed to boost incomes and rebuild homes. This led to the establishment of the Aba Tibetan Traditional Weaving and Embroidery Association.

The embroiderers, who are from both the Tibetan and Qiang ethic groups, brought together different embroidery techniques and styles. They then created Tibetan-Qiang Weaving and Embroidery, a new form combining the Qiang embroidery and Tibetan weaving and embroidery, both of which are national ICH in their own right. Yang believes that traditional craftsmanship can enter people’s lives through production and be combined with fashion. It can add artistic value to clothing and enhance aesthetic tastes and cultural connotations.

On the other hand, fashion can raise awareness of traditional crafts, opening up broader living spaces, she added. In recent years, Yang has collaborated with international brands such as Shu Uemura, Starbucks, Universal Pictures and Hermes for intellectual property licensing, bringing attention to traditional crafts that were once obscure.

Located in Daoming town, Chongzhou city, Chengdu, Zhuyi village is named after the national ICH, bamboo weaving, or Daoming bamboo weaving.

Over the years, the village has adhered to the concept of "using culture to sustain the future and art to illuminate the countryside"; integrated leisure businesses, consumer scenes and experiential spaces into the traditional Chengdu-style Linpan landscape; and transformed bamboo weaving into a means for the development of cultural tourism.

This has not only improved the living environment, but created a platform that is accessible, participatory and experiential for visitors, providing employment opportunities for villagers.

The village now boasts rural landscapes and art, especially the bamboo culture exhibition spaces such as the Bamboo Weaving Museum, Bamboo Art Square and Wugen Mountain Bamboo Art Park, which constitute the local characteristics of "international style, Chengdu flavor and bamboo weaving charm".

Source: Protection and continuation of China's many ancient crafts a key aim of event