Yunnan Intangible Cultural Heritages

An intangible cultural heritage (ICH) is a practice, representation, expression, knowledge, or skill, as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts, and cultural spaces that are considered by UNESCO to be part of a place’s cultural heritage. Intangible cultural heritage is considered by Member States of UNESCO in relation to the tangible World Heritage focusing on intangible aspects of culture. In 2001, UNESCO made a survey[2] among States and NGOs to try to agree on a definition, and the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage[3] was drafted in 2003 for its protection and promotion.

Yunnan Province in southwest China is racing against time to digitalize intangible cultural heritage on the verge of extinction.

The first group of 13 intangible cultural heritage that have owned digital identities included Meige, a kind of Yi ethnic tune, and Achimugua or goat dance, traditional folk songs with dances mastered by Lisu ethnic group, said Yin Jiayu, head of the provincial center for intangible cultural heritage protection.

The digitalization involves the recording of words, pictures, audio and videos, Yin said.

Researchers have digitalized cultural practices since 2014, and 13 programs have been uploaded to the database, according to Yin.

Successors, those who carry on the practice, are “living dictionaries” of intangible cultural heritage, Yin said, adding that Yunnan currently has more than 1,000 successors.