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Meshrep, the most important cultural carrier of Uygur traditions

TNAIROBI, Nov. 16 -- An official from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said on Tuesday that the three Chinese elements that had been nominated for inscription are viable and need to be safeguarded.

Speaking in an interview with Xinhua at the ongoing Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Nairobi, Program Specialist in Charge of Heritage Section David Stehl of UNESO said the Chinese nominations of Meshrep, wooden movable-type printing of China and the watertight bulkhead technology of Chinese junks all satisfied the criteria for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.

"For a nominee to be inscribed, the element must have a viability that it is not well insured and needed to be safeguarded. All the three nominations expressed the commitment of China that they needed to be taken care of," said Stehl.

The watertight bulkhead technology of Chinese junks is recognized by coastal Chinese communities as a core traditional skill and is transmitted orally through the generations from master to apprentice.

Despite the historical importance of this ship building technology, its continuity and viability are today at a great risk because wooden ships are replaced by steel-hulled vessels, while the timber for their construction is in increasingly short supply.

The wooden movable-type printing is used in compiling and printing clan genealogies by the community in Ruian County of Zhejiang Province.

Meshrep constitutes the most important cultural carrier of Uygur traditions in China's Xinjiang Region. A complete Meshrep event includes a rich collection of traditions and performance arts such as music, dance, drama, oral literature and games. "UNESCO has been active in safeguarding heritage, but the area of intangible heritage is a new phenomenon," he said.

Stehl said bigger commitment was necessary to safeguard intangible heritage and an equal amount of motivation is also needed in presenting intangible heritage to address certain threats.

The program analyst said the few inscriptions in the list from Africa do not mean the continent is not rich in culture. "Absence from the list does not mean full absence. The process of inscribing an element is a very elaborate and complicated one that requires the participation of the whole community and it takes a lot of time. People must be trained and structures must be in place."

He said UNESCO helps in the process by developing such capacities by building support.

Stehl outlined that different inscriptions come with different benefits and gave the example of music that has more benefits that say, a ritual or a social practice with specific functions for specific communities.

Stehl, however, cautioned that the commercial component of Intangible Heritage could also be disastrous. "There must be a balanced approach towards the inscription of an element. The needs of the community must be taken into consideration and that is why the process must be community-based otherwise it must have dire consequences especially if the community did not want to open up an aspect of its culture to the outside world."

He said developing countries, with their more developed capacities, institutions and know-how are better endowed that the developing world to put in place factors for safeguarding measures.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNCESO) conference kicked off in Nairobi on Monday with delegates calling for more efforts to safeguard the intangible heritage.

(SOURCES:People's Daily)

(Tianshannet) Updated: 18th, November 2010 11:12:10

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