China’s Intangible Heritage

China is ranked number 1 in a rating of nations with the best UNESCO intangible cultural heritage. UNESCO has 42 items of intangible cultural heritage on its list at present. France is ranked second with intangible heritage items. Japan is ranked third. There are 22 cultural heritage components in Japan. With 21 intangible heritage items, South Korea is ranked fourth.


The central government authorized the fifth representative list of State-level intangible cultural heritage items (185 in total) and an expanded representative list of State-level intangible cultural heritage items, according to a circular published by the General Office of the State Council on June 10 (140 in total). Both lists were submitted by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

The nine categories on the representative list include: folk literature; traditional music; traditional dance; traditional drama; quyi (a general term for Chinese folk vocal art forms such as ballad singing, storytelling, comic dialogue, clapper talk, and cross-talk); traditional sports; entertainment and acrobatics; traditional fine arts; traditional craftsmanship; and folk customs. The enlarged list now includes traditional medicine, increasing the total to 10.


Furthermore, traditional tea processing techniques and associated social practices in China are being treated for the 2022 cycle, which will be examined by the Committee at its 17th session in November/December 2021, as China’s intangible heritage candidate to be inscribed by UNESCO at the next global session.


Based on natural circumstances and local customs, tea producers have produced six types of green, yellow, dark, white, oolong, and black teas, as well as reprocessed teas such as flower-scented teas, resulting in over 2,000 tea products. Tea is entrenched in the daily life of the Chinese people. Tea is served steeped or boiled in homes, companies, tea rooms, restaurants, temples, and other public places, and it is utilized as a method of communication in social events and rituals such as marriages, apprentice taking, and sacrifices. It represents the Chinese people's principles of humility, harmony, comity, and respect, and has a major influence on moral and psychological development. It also fosters cross-cultural contacts and reciprocal learning through the Silk Roads, resulting in long-term societal growth.


Since China passed the Intangible Cultural Heritage Law in 2011, 26 provinces and regions have issued guidelines for the protection of their intangible cultural heritage. More than 1 billion yuan ($ 140.91 million) is invested in the country's intangible cultural heritage every year.


Chinese authorities have announced plans to establish 20 national-level intangible cultural heritage museums during the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025).

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