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Heritage Museum introduces the intangible cultural heritage of China

     Members of the public will have the opportunity to appreciate the forms and expressions of the intangible cultural heritage of China through an exhibition at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum from tomorrow (December 21) until February 16, 2009.

     Featuring more than 300 pictures, 100 items/sets of artefacts and a series of demonstrations by heritage practitioners, the “Exhibition of Intangible Cultural Heritage in China” covers almost all aspects of Chinese people’s lives, including ballads, proverbs, songs, dances, acrobatics, opera, “quyi”, folk art, folklore, rituals, handicraft, and traditional Chinese medicine.

     The exhibition is jointly presented by the Bureau of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan Cultural Affairs, Ministry of Culture, and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, and jointly organised by the Centre for Ethnic and Folk Literature and Art Development, Ministry of Culture, the Chinese National Museum of Ethnology and the Hong Kong Heritage Museum.

     The exhibition was opened today (December 20) by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr Tsang Tak-sing, the Vice-Chairman of the National Expert Commission of Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection Work, Ms Zhou Xiaopu, the Director of the Centre for Ethnic and Folk Literature and Art Development of the Ministry of Culture, Mr Li Song, the Vice-Curator of the Chinese National Museum of Ethnology, Ms Wei Ronghui, the Vice-Director of the Centre for Ethnic and Folk Literature and Art Development of the Ministry of Culture, Mr Wang Zezhou, and the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mr Thomas Chow.

     According to UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) “Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage”, the “intangible cultural heritage” means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills — as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated therewith — that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognise as part of their cultural heritage. It is manifested in various domains, covering oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage; performing arts; social practices, rituals and festive events; knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; and traditional craftsmanship.

     In 2001, 2003 and 2005, UNESCO issued three proclamations of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. China leads other member states with four masterpieces listed in the document: the Kunqu Opera, the Art of Guqin Music, the Art of Uyghur Muqam of Xinjiang, and the Mongolian traditional folk Long Song (jointly proposed with Mongolia). Currently, there are 1,028 items listed under national intangible cultural heritage in China, covering folk arts and traditional craftsmanship, traditional performing arts, language, medicine, festivals and ceremonies.

     Rooted in people’s lives and activities, Chinese folk arts and traditional craftsmanship, such as weaving and embroidery, printing and dyeing, basketry, sculpture, lacquering, carving, metallurgy, architecture and craft, display rich varieties in technique, materials, forms and functions. The skills were transmitted orally and by hand, and each generation’s craftsmen combined their wisdom and effort to perfect skills that created works reflecting their aesthetic values and joy in life. These skills are important items of intangible cultural heritage.

     Traditional Chinese performing arts, namely traditional opera (including shadow play and puppetry), “Quyi”, folk music, folk dancing and acrobatics were created by different ethnic groups in China, and reflected the emotions and aesthetic values of these people. The style of performing arts varies greatly among ethnic groups and regions. This rich, diverse and long art tradition is deeply rooted in traditional culture and reflects unique values on life, history, art and aesthetics in China. These arts are also important elements of China’s intangible cultural heritage.

     Language is an important tool for human communication. It is also one of the basic elements distinguishing different ethnic groups. China is a vast nation with 56 ethnic groups speaking some 80 dialects. Each group has created a rich oral literature with its own languages, including myths, legends, folk stories, ballads, epics, proverbs and riddles. These records of life relate living history as well as the survival experiences and wisdom of different peoples.

     During millennia of understanding the natural environment, life processes and prevention of diseases, the Chinese have developed a specific conception of healthcare which covers drug treatment, mind nurturing and physical exercises. The development of traditional Chinese medicine and sports are closely connected with the development of society, hence they are essential cultural heritages of mankind.

     Traditional Chinese festivals, so colourful and rich, reflect the rhythm of life of the Chinese people and their success in harmonising heaven, earth and man. Surveys show that there are over 1,500 traditional festivals of various scales in China, all marked by their deep cultural content, periodic appearance, ethnic character and communal identity. These festivals are integrated deeply into the daily life and the mental world of the people.

     Ceremony is a cultural phenomenon peculiar to human beings. Nations and societies divide their lives in varied ways. However, the ceremonies of a human life can generally be divided into the birth ceremony, coming-of-age ceremony, wedding and funeral. Ceremonies in life are usually influenced by faith and religions and some have strong spiritual features. The whole set of ceremonies, involving rich traditional cultural geners and a nation’s view on life and death, is of crucial importance in overcoming difficulties and understanding and sublimating life.

     To tie in with the exhibition, masters of traditional folk arts -- Tang’s dough sculpture, the Beijing gold lacquer inlay technique, the interior painting of the Ji (Hebei) School, the Beijing “Liaoqi (glassware)”, the Wuqiang new year paintings, the flower pattern decoration weaving skills on wooden loom of Nanjing cloud-pattern brocade and palm plaiting -- will be invited to give demonstrations between December 21 and 26. In addition, artists of Tangshan Show Play will be invited to perform during the Lunar New Year from January 30 to February 2, 2009. For details, please contact the Education Team of the museum on 2180 8260.

     Located at 1 Man Lam Road, Sha Tin, the Heritage Museum opens from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday, and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. On Christmas Eve and Chinese New Year’s Eve, the museum will close at 5pm. It is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays) and the first two days of Chinese New Year. Admission is $10, with a half-price concession for senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and full-time students. Admission is free on Wednesdays.

     Paid car parking is available at the Heritage Museum. Those who prefer to use public transport may take the MTR Ma On Shan Line and get off at the Che Kung Temple Station, which is within three minutes’ walk of the museum.

     For enquiries, call 2180 8188. For details of the exhibition, visit the Heritage Museum's website at

Ends/Saturday, December 20, 2008


Tibetan surgical tools of the Qing dynasty. Tibetan doctors have used such tools in surgical operations more than 2,000 years ago. It is recorded that Tibetan doctors successfully did a craniotomy several thousand years ago, reflecting Tibetans' superb mastery of surgical skills.


A Tibetan copper tea stove and teapot of the Qing dynasty. Tibetans are fond of butter tea. To keep butter tea hot, Tibetans invented a special tea stove and teapot. The fire in the stove is kept low without flames so as to keep the tea at a stable temperature. The diversified shapes, colourful patterns and skillful carvings on the tea set show their exquisite copper workmanship.


The "Watchtower of the Imperial Palace", a straw binding and chiselling article by Xu Jian. Using excellent "kaoliang" straw , the famous "Yongqing binding and chiselling" works are artifacts made by hand with tools such as calipers, scissors, awls, knives, bamboo prods and oil lamps. Ranging from the traditional grasshopper cage and straw lantern to imitation of ancient architectural models, the works are always extremely delicate and exquisite.


A "Hualiao horse" of liaoqi (glassware). Glassware is a special kind of art form developed from the traditional liuli manufacturing technique. The glass is fired in a blowlamp and depends on the experience and workmanship of the craftsman, which won it the name of "sculpture in the fire". The work in the picture reflects the artful design and refined and adept techniques of the craftsman, and the imitation of Tang tri-coloured glaze used fully presents the glory, colour and mystery of the glass.

"Hushtar", a pulled stringed musical instrument used in Uyghur Muqam of Xinjiang, which has been listed in the "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO.


An Earth-opera mask from the play, "The Three Kingdoms". Earth-opera is a folk religious drama prevailing in the midlands of Guizhou Province. The stories of Earth-opera are all war-related, eulogising the loyalty of the emperor's servants and battle-worn heroes. In essence, the stories advocate the moral standards of "faithfulness, filial piety, austerity and loyalty" and the martial spirit. The mask is the distinct feature of Earth-opera, which can be divided into four categories based on the roles: officers, Taoists, buffoons and animals. The masks are marked with bold and exaggerated use of red and green, presenting vivid and sharply contrasted hues.



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