About China Cultural and Natural Heritage Day
The second Saturday of June each year is celebrated across China as its Cultural and Natural Heritage Day, highlighting the essential roles that heritages play and the importance of their protection and conservation. This day was officially designated by China’s State Council in 2005 and has been celebrated nationwide through campaigns and activities ever since. In 2011, the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Intangible Cultural Protection was issued and came into force, bringing China’s efforts in this regard to a higher level.
This year’s Cultural and Natural Heritage Day in China is themed as “Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection by the People & for the People”. From June to July, a portfolio of online and offline activities will take place to get visitors engaged in and interacted with Chinese traditional fine arts and crafts, legends and customs, music and dance, to name just a few. China’s profound history and mass of land have nurtured a vast variety of intangible cultural heritages, gems of wisdom and craftsmanship. They are greatly appealing with their unique ethnicities and intriguing aesthetic beauty, and yet are so vulnerable and would easily die out without consistent and proper conservation and inheritance.
Selection of China's Intangible Cultural Heritages
Thanks to those who’ve been devoted to keeping and caring for the heritages, we are fortunate to access a broad range of them. Below is a selection of China’s intangible cultural heritages.
No.1 Peking Opera
Peking Opera beats its over 360 counterparts and is crowned as China’s national opera with an around 200-year history. Although it is called Peking Opera, it didn’t originate in Beijing but in Anhui (East China) and Hubei (South-central China) provinces.
Back in 1790, a widely-recognized opera troupe from Anhui debuted in Beijing in celebration of the then Emperor Qianlong’s 80th birthday. Its performance was a big hit so the company stayed in the nation’s capital, where thirty years later, it met its destined partner Hubei Opera Troupe.
Performers of the two renowned troupes learned from each other and included into their joint repertoires elements of other Chinese operas including Kun Qu, Qin Qiang and Bang Zi as well as Beijing’s local dialect and folk customs. Gradually, they created a new form of opera, which officially claimed to be the Beijing Opera after 1840 and flourished under the reign of the mighty patron Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908).
Today’s Peking Opera harmoniously integrates music, singing, dance, costume art, makeup, acting and acrobatics. On the stage, different facial make-up colors suggest different personalities of the characters. And costumes, mainly made of satin, crepe and silk and delicately embroidered, could tell the roles’ gender, status, occupation, etc.
Some interesting facts about colors in Peking Opera :
Red — brave, faithful and wise men, with utter devotion
Purple — wise, brave and steadfast men
Black – upright, outspoken, and never stooping to flattery
Blue — brave, upright and outspoken men, but obstinate and unruly
Green — hero of the bush, chivalrous but with a testy temper
Yellow — valiant but ferocious military men or crafty civil officers
White – insidious and treacherous
Gold & silver — mysterious monsters or gods
No.2 Shaolin Kungfu
Shaolin Kungfu (aka Shaolin Martial Art) is named after its origin-the Shaolin Temple, which was founded in 495AD on Mt.Songshan, Dengfeng County, Henan Province in central China. The temple’s monks started to practice martial arts as early as the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-581) and developed their skills and techniques throughout the Sui and Tang dynasties (581-907).
Today’s Shaolin Kungfu combines the external and internal, featuring “hard” and “soft” exercises, including meditation, zen, qi, fighting techniques, barehanded boxing and weaponry combat.
No. 3 Su Embroidery
Born on the Land of Milk and Honey, the Su embroidery sits atop China’s brand embroidery list. Its craftworks are so vivid and lifelike that could even beat fine paintings.
Popular patterns include natural landscape, gardens, animals and plants, etc.
No. 4 Kite-Making
Kites were invented in China over 2000 years ago. Weifang, Hometown of Kites, sits middle on the Shandong Peninsula, boasting an ideal position to test and fly kites with perfect winds frequented from the East China Sea.
A kite’s artistic style and crafting are presented through its material, patterns, and of course, flight. Birds, animals, flowers, sea creatures, insects, legends and fairy tales are the usual subjects painted. Whistles could also to attached to kites to create symphony high up in the sky.
Competitions of kite flying and kite festivals take place across China in spring, the best time of the year to fly kites. Winners exceed others with the control of their kites up and down and losers often end up with threads cut off. In some places, like Tibet, people would apply a layer of mixed smashed glass, rice, sugar and water onto the kite threads for enhanced strength and resilience.