China has started an emergency plan to save the cultural heritage of the Qiang ethnic minority damaged in the devastating May 12 earthquake.
The State Ethnic Affairs Commission (SEAC) said here on Friday it had entrusted the China Nationality Museum to carry out the plan. The Beijing -based museum would send experts to the quake-hit areas to evaluate damage on cultural heritage sites. It would also list and record endangered intangible cultural heritages.
The habitats of the Qiang ethnic minority, with a population of about 306,000, were in the areas worst hit by the quake. They include Miaoxian, Lixian, Beichuan, Heishui and the epicenter Wenchuan County, all in Sichuan Province.
A large number of heritage sites were severely damaged while people who were heirs to some intangible heritages, such as dance, handicraft and religion, died, said Wei Ronghui, the museum deputy curator.
The Qiang, who live mainly in the northwestern part of Sichuan, are a very old ethnic group in the country. The earliest historical documents mentioning them were on inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells made by people in the Shang Dynasty (16th -- 11th century B.C) in central China about 3,000 years ago.
They have an unique language, housing and dress style as well as customs, arts and religions. They are well known for their stone-made three or four-floor castle dwellings.
According to the plan, experts will work out proposals on how to rebuild their houses, towns and villages based on the evaluations. Museums, art troupes and training programs on traditional arts will be founded while a series of books about their ethnic culture will be published.
"We have realized that it is quite urgent to protect the ethnic culture of the Qiang," said Dainzhub Ongboin, the SEAC vice director, "We are not only building houses but also homes for people's hearts through rehabilitation."
(Xinhua News Agency May 30, 2008)