More than 100 countries’ historical crafts exhibited at UNESCO-backed event in southwestern Sichuan province. Zhao Shijun reports
An ancient city with a history of about 2,300 years, Chengdu takes pride in its myriad historical and cultural legacies.
The city, capital of Southwest China’s Sichuan province, has also made great progress in intangible cultural heritage protection and international exchanges in this field.
The city’s efforts in this regard have been recognized globally as it is the permanent host of the China International Festival of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
This year’s festival was held from June 10 to 18, with events including a handicrafts show from countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative, a show of achievements in training China’s intangible cultural heritage successors, exhibitions, international forums and community activities. More than 400 activities were offered during the festival, with the participation of more than 300 foreign delegates from more than 100 countries, more than 5,800 domestic delegates as well as more than 3 million tourists and local residents.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova sent a letter of congratulations to the festival, praising Chengdu as the best city for hosting the event, as it is rich in intangible cultural heritage.
Francesco Bandarin, assistant director-general of UNESCO, who attended the festival, said he was impressed with the vivid exhibitions and shows of intangible cultural heritage items from China and the rest of the world.
“I’m grateful for Chengdu’s consistent efforts in protecting heritage over the past years,” said Bandarin.
The festival was the first international event in Chengdu in the field of intangible heritage with the support of UNESCO. Over the past 10 years, the event has become an important platform for promotion of the UN Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and for strengthening international cooperation.
The international handicrafts show was a highlight of this year’s event, with exhibitors from 19 countries and regions in Asia, Europe and Africa, showing crafts of wood carving, traditional garments, thangka paintings, lacquer ware and embroidery.
Chengdu had been a starting point of the ancient Southern Silk Road, through which silk products from the city had been traded to the rest of the world since the Qin (221-206 BC) and Han (202 BC-AD 220) dynasties.
Another highlight of the festival was a competition among various heritage successors in the fields of craft-making, martial arts, folk songs and dragon boat racing.
A great number of vivid shows were held in the main venue and nine sub-venues as well as in 326 communities in Chengdu, where intangible heritage successors displayed their skills and interacted with local residents.
Ding Chunmei, who is in her 30s, is a successor of the bamboo weaving technique from Daoming township, Chengdu. She answered people’s questions while making bamboo-woven items on the spot at the festival’s main venue.
“Many people think bamboo-woven items are mostly used in furniture like stools and chairs and farming utensils like baskets for containing grains,” Ding said.
“We realized that to pass down the bamboo-weaving technique we should stick to creative inheritance and make innovations according to the new requirements of the age and the market,” Ding said.
Ding and her father Ding Zhiyun, another bamboo weaving master in Daoming, opened a firm to produce products tailored to the individual needs of consumers.
To improve products’ designs, Ding Chunmei went to the China Central Academy of Fine Arts to study and seek cooperation with the school’s teachers and students.
“The study in the school has helped to broaden my vision, allowing me to get acquainted with various ideas, information and design styles,” Ding said, adding that her firm in Daoming is now a research and practice base for the school’s teachers and students.
Daoming has more than 2,000 years of history in making bamboo-woven items. The township now has more than 300 people engaged in the ancient industry.
In Chengdu, there are 134 intangible cultural heritage items on the government’s list for protection. And there are a lot of organizations and entities engaged in the protection and inheritance of these cultural legacies.
A number of traditional techniques in the fields of handicrafts, food and medicines have been revitalized in Chengdu to cater to new market demands, offering more than 60,000 jobs to locals and creating annual gross output value of more than 20 billion yuan ($2.9 billion).