Late last year, at a meeting of UNESCO's
Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible
Cultural Heritage in Bali, Indonesia, China's traditional shadow
puppetry was included in the Representative List of the Intangible
Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
This is good news, not only because this
long-standing and beautiful art form has now been recognized by the
global community, but also because it symbolizes China's broader
contribution to enriching the world's culture.
Intangible culture forms an integral part of a
country's heritage. Having its origins largely in the daily or
spiritual lives of people, intangible culture, like its tangible
counterpart, often reflects the values, as well as the creative and
imaginative capacity of a nation. It should therefore be duly
protected so that a nation's distinct cultural identity will be
maintained and carried on into the future.
As a country with more than 5,000 years of
history, China boasts numerous intangible cultural treasures,
ranging from folk art and handicrafts to traditional medicine and
social rituals and customs. Over the years, the Chinese Government
has spared no effort to protect the country's intangible as well as
tangible heritage. Authorities have passed legislation, introduced
regulations and allocated special funding in order to keep
invaluable traditions alive.
Despite these efforts, many intangible
cultural items still face a number of difficulties. A shortage of
capital, lack of determined and qualified successors, ineffective
protection measures, a lack of awareness and sheer neglect mean
that many treasures have either fallen into oblivion or are on the
verge of extinction.
Far more effort needs to be made to preserve
and protect China's intangible cultural traditions. Apart from the
conventional approaches of increased government funding and more
effective enforcement of protective measures, one of the top
priorities should be the launch of comprehensive education
campaigns. Society as a whole needs to be made aware of the
importance of preserving traditional art forms, skills and
School children, in particular, should be
taught to cherish these cultural treasures. As far as possible,
children and young people should be given the opportunity to learn
and participate in the crafts, art forms, performances and rituals
that comprise the nation's intangible heritage.
Only the active involvement of young people
and the broad awareness of society as a whole will keep China's
heritage alive, and allow Chinese society and the world to benefit
from these unique cultural forms for generations to come.