Name of element
Hezhen Yimakan storytelling
January 2012 - December 2015
Yimakan storytelling is an oral art in the form of singing and speaking that has been transmitted from generation to generation by the Hezhen people living in northeast China. It is narrated by performers known, in the Hezhen language, as "yimakanqi mafa." Showing distinctive regional features and the culture of fishing and hunting, the themes of Yimakan storytelling cover heroic deeds, shamanic beliefs, fishing and hunting life, folk customs, and romance, and more. As the Hezhen have no writing system, the element has become an "oral encyclopedia" for preserving their history, culture, folklore, beliefs, customs, mother tongue, and other essential information. It not only carries the memory and life of the Hezhen but also sustains the sense of their cultural identity, and supports the historical continuity of the local people.
However, the process of modernization has caused major changes to the traditional lifestyle and social structure of the Hezhen ethnic minority. Threatened by a tiny population and national integration, their mother tongue is seriously endangered and the Yimakan storytelling is on the brink of extinction. The crisis has been aggravated by the deaths of an increasing number of veteran storytellers and the exodus of the younger generation to larger cities in search of further education and employment. After the inscription of the element on the List, the Hezhen people have shown unprecedented enthusiasm over the promotion of their cultural tradition and the consolidation of the recognition of their cultural value. Relevant communities, groups, and individuals have voluntarily taken active steps to implement different safeguarding measures and transmission activities and practice activities. Meanwhile, Governments at all levels and culture department have taken multiple measures regarding such key aspects as community capacity building, policy-making, and financial aid to support communities in the organization of local people to participate in safeguarding activities. Therefore, the viability of the element has been greatly improved.
During the reporting period, the following safeguarding measures have been implemented: (1) The system to recommend and identify representative bearers has been improved to enhance policy support, consolidate the family transmission mode, expand community transmission channels, and strengthen the intergenerational transmission mechanism; (2) Transmission and practice centers of Yimakan storytelling have been improved and expanded to increase the frequency and range of the practice and build a larger team of bearers and practitioners with regular transmission and practice activities; (3) The teaching of their mother tongue has been carried out during the transmission of Yimakan storytelling through the activities to bring intangible cultural heritage to campus and group discussions on Wechat, which to a certain extent alleviated the endangered situation of the Hezhen language; (4) With the continuous organization of field research and case studies, the thematic database for Yimakan storytelling has been established and a series of academic achievements like A Collection of Yimakan Storytelling, and Oral History of Yimakan Storytelling by Representative Bearers, have been published; (5) Local cultural infrastructure has been improved with the planning and establishment of "Cultural Ecology Reserve of the Hezhen" to preserve the traditional lifestyle, living space, and oral culture resources of the Hezhen during the safeguarding of the ecological environment; (6) Yimakan storytelling art troupes have been founded and shadow puppet plays of Yimakan storytelling have been created in order to spread the element from classrooms to people's daily life and from the communities gathered by the Hezhen people to the general public in towns and cities through performance, demonstration, and road shows, which further underscored the great significance of safeguarding the oral tradition for the transmission of the Hezhen culture.
Head of Research Division
Center for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Heilongjiang Province
Other relevant information
As the oral narrative art transmitted from generation to generation, Yimakan storytelling upholds heroes and promotes justice, courage, kindness, and the pursuit of freedom and ideals. Reflecting the keynote of harmony between human and nature, it is not only the collective memory and cultural symbol of the Hezhen but is also considered by the ethnic group as their "textbook of history". On one hand, Yimakan storytelling records the fishing and hunting life, etiquette, sacrifice, wedding and funeral customs of the Hezhen to show their social conditions, folk customs, as well as moral standards, and on the other hand, it is the major way for the transmission of the Hezhen language because it completely preserves the expressions in their mother tongue. Therefore, the element is playing an irreplaceable role in the transmission of the language and culture of the Hezhen and the enhancement of their ethnic identity and community cohesion. Up to today, it still has profound influence on their outlook on value and the world.
At present, Yimakan storytelling, as the collective culture practice of the Hezhen people, is playing multiple social and cultural functions including collective memory, traditional education, and arts and entertainment in such festivals and celebrations as Urgun Festival and River Festival and their life etiquette. Meanwhile, Yimakan storytelling has become a window for the outside society to understand the Hezhen through the road show of Yimakan storytelling art troupes and through demonstration and promotion activities. More importantly, the synchronous organization of Yimakan storytelling transmission and practice activities and the Hezhen language teaching activities focusing on communities has gradually recovered the vitality of the once "seriously endangered" Hezhen language. At the same time, groups of young people of the Hezhen have been attracted to use their mother tongue again under the influence of traditional knowledge and folk art in formal education and non-formal education.
In the Hezhen language, the performers of Yimakan storytelling are referred to as "yimakanqi mafa" which means "the talent with great wisdom". Much respected by the Hezhen people, they shoulder special responsibility for the element. Yimakan storytelling is divided into two types, namely "sagdi jarimku" and "uskuli jarimku". "Sagdi jarimku", mostly in the form of narration, deals primarily with "mergen" (heroic) stories and long legends of the creation of the Hezhen people, while "uskuli jarimku", mostly in the form of singing, pays much attention to short stories depicting fishing and hunting lifestyles, folk customs, and romance. The element shows the collective memory, education, and entertainment in seasonal labor and festivals of the Hezhen, so it could hardly be separated from their production and life. In addition, the universal participation of the Hezhen people in the element constitutes diversified practitioners.
In the past four years, most yimakanqi mafa have been identified by governments at different levels through the recommendation of communities. Mastering part of the "sagdi jarimku" and "uskuli jarimku", they have transmitted Yimakan storytelling after the work, demonstrated it during celebrations and festivals, taught it in transmission and practice centers regularly, performed it in art troupes, and guided the innovation and safeguarding of relevant shadow puppet plays. Under their leadership, more and more Hezhen people have committed themselves to the transmission of Yimakan storytelling in local communities and as a result the number of people eager to learn and appreciate the Yimakan storytelling has significantly increased. Some amateurs have been encouraged for getting the chance to show their oral talents through practicing Yimakan storytelling. Some migrant workers have even returned home to participate in the transmission and practice activities during holidays and festivals. Even some Han people have participated in the activities. In the competition and interaction among the large number of practitioners, they can draw from the strength of other performers and supporters to offset their own weakness. The diversified forms of participation developed in the favorable atmosphere for transmission and practice have enhanced the intergenerational transmission and the dialogue among different ethnic groups.
The Hezhen people have long inhabited the reaches of three rivers including Amur River, Sungari River, and Ussuri River in northeast China. With a population of 5,354, accounting for merely 0.0004% of the total population of China (according to the Sixth National Population Census of China in 2010), it is one of the smallest ethnic minorities in China. The element is primarily distributed in the Hezhen communities of Jiamusi City and Shuangyashan City in Heilongjiang Province. The locations where it is centered include the Jiejinkou Hezhen Ethnic Township and Bacha Hezhen Ethnic Township in Tongjiang of Jiamusi City, Hezhen Ethnic Village of Aoqi Township in Jiamusi City, and Sipai Hezhen Ethnic Township in Raohe County of Shuangyashan City (Hereinafter referred to as "four major communities").
Since the inscription on the List, the vitality of the element has been distinctly enhanced. Firstly, the traditional system of oral transmission within clans and families has been maintained and consolidated. Especially for the third generation of bearers, the increase of female bearers has far surpassed that of male ones. Most of these female bearers have grown up in the family of yimakanqi mafa under the influence of the older generations who have taught them in person since their childhood; secondly, representative bearers have abandoned their sectarian bias and have taken apprentices extensively to train successors in the transmission and practice centers of relevant communities. The practitioners have been further diversified with the establishment of social transmission mechanism. There were merely five representative bearers in 2011 when the element was inscribed on the List. At present, the number has reached 14 (one of them had died), an increase of nearly 3 times, and ten of them are female.
In the past four years, the transmission and practice activities and the safeguarding practice of Yimakan storytelling have spread from bearers to the audiences and from family transmission to social transmission. All these have guided the voluntary safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage in Hezhen communities. At present, the element is returning to the folk practice and is transmitted in daily life: Yimakan storytelling is always performed during wedding ceremonies, sacrificial rites, and family gatherings. It is considered a very high honor to be a bearer of Yimakan storytelling who is favored and respected by the Hezhen people wherever they go. At present, the frequency and extent of its practice in transmission and practice centers at different places have been further increased. On average, the annual frequency of relevant activities is reported as follows: 42 times in urban area of Tongjiang City, 8 times in Bacha Hezhen Ethnic Township, 50 times in Jiejinkou Hezhen Ethnic Township, 25 times in Raohe County, 30 times in Hezhen Ethnic Village of Aoqi Township, and 20 times in the urban area of Jiamusi City. Nearly 200 amateurs have participated in learning Yimakan storytelling, accounting for 3.73% of the total Hezhen population. The average age of them is about 40. Most of them have mastered the daily expressions of the Hezhen and can perform a short episode of Yimakan storytelling, certain verses in sagdi jarimku, and even a complete episode of sagdi jarimku, independently. The audiences have also further spread from the local residents of the gathering communities of the Hezhen to Hezhen people living in different towns and cities.
It has become a common practice in the people's daily life to learn Yimakan storytelling and to speak the Hezhen language. The Hezhen people have established 4 Learning and Discussion Groups on Wechat via we-media on internet and persisted in presenting 4 periods every week since 2015. At present, it has attracted 420 volunteers, including 295 female students and teachers. Accounting for 70% of all members, these females are very active in the learning. However, the participation rate of teenagers in the learning of their mother tongue is still very low in terms of the age structure.
However, there are still threats to the continued transmission and enactment: First, with the accelerating urbanization and changes to lifestyle in recent years, drastic changes have taken place in the traditional pattern of human-land relationship and the basis for social organization. Some rural residents of the Hezhen have moved to cities and been gradually separated from the previous living environment for fishing and hunting. Therefore, the traditional narrative context (hunting ground, river shoal, boat, and kang, a kind of heatable brick bed) for Yimakan storytelling and its cultural space have been compressed to a significant extent. Moreover, it is still difficult to keep the balance between improving one’s livelihood and maintaining the cultural ecology of the tradition of Yimakan storytelling. Secondly, the situation of the "seriously endangered" Hezhen language, as the media for the transmission of Yimakan storytelling, could not be fully improved in the next several years. The harsh reality has become the major obstacle to the continued transmission and practice of the element. There were merely 10 people, approximately, who can skillfully use the Hezhen language in the recent past. Although the transmission and practice of Yimakan storytelling have promoted the teaching of the Hezhen language and while some people have acquired the basics of it or grasped its daily expressions, the vitality of the mother tongue should be improved and the phonetic writing program and teaching methods should be strengthened. Thirdly, the intergenerational transmission is greatly challenged by the population migration. Young people of the Hezhen yearn for a modern lifestyle, and so they choose to leave their hometown to study and work in the city. "Most young people in our village choose to work in cities, so only old people, women and children stay at home. Apart from a small number of professional fishermen, most of them engage in farming and handicraft industry", said Ge Baohua, head of the village committee of the Hezhen Ethnic Village of Aoqi Township. Some practitioners have also terminated their studies halfway in order to earn a living in other places.
According to the four-year action plan (2012-2015) proposed in the nomination file, relevant parties have carried out community-based capacity building activities, implemented all safeguarding measures in practice, and further extended the efforts, the viability of the element has been substantially enhanced during the reporting period. Concrete results attained in the period are as follows:
(1) Representative bearers have been supported and encouraged to take apprentices. The procedure for recommendation and identification of bearers has been simplified and improved while financial aid has been provided for representative bearers. Compared with the original action plan, the number of representative bearers who are supported has increased from 10 to 14 (one of them died in 2013) and the amount of financial aid from the government has grown from 80,000 yuan to 210,000 yuan. These efforts have effectively resolved the worries of representative bearers, enhanced their capability of storytelling, and raised their enthusiasm for taking apprentices.
(2) The mother tongue of the Hezhen has been saved to safeguard the media for the transmission of Yimakan storytelling. Pilot programs have been implemented in the central schools in Jiejinkou Hezhen Ethnic Township and Bacha Hezhen Ethnic Township of Tongjiang City through compiling textbooks of Yimakan storytelling and the Hezhen language and organizing Chinese-Hezhen bilingual teaching programs to promote the safeguarding of Yimakan storytelling and the teaching of the Hezhen language in formal education and to create conditions for teenagers to receive traditional education on the history, culture, and folk customs of the Hezhen.
(3) Yimakan storytelling transmission and practice centers have been established and expanded to improve the community transmission mechanism. The number of transmission and practice centers for Yimakan storytelling has been further increased with the investment of governments at different levels on the basis of the two existing ones (in the urban area of Tongjiang City and Hezhen Ethnic Village of Aoqi Township in the suburb of Jiamusi City). Three new transmission and practice centers have been established in Jiejinkou Hezhen Ethnic Township and Bacha Hezhen Ethnic Township of Tongjiang City and Sipai Hezhen Ethnic Township in Raohe County of Shuangyashan City. Representative bearers have organized teaching and training activities in these centers regularly and selected talents with potential to establish the community transmission mechanism in non-formal education. At present, the five transmision and practice centers have become major venues for community activities. There are nearly one hundred regular trainees. 64% of them have persisted in the practice for over three years and about 53% of them are capable of performing more than three episodes. More than ten of them have the potential to be trained as the successors of the element.
(4) The digital documentation and construction of thematic databases of the element has been promoted in a systematic way. Cultural departments at different locales have carried out general surveys and conducted field research on the element, collected relevant materials by digital means, and established the thematic archives of Yimakan storytelling in accordance with the principle of territorial management. The Center for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Heilongjiang Province has completed the database construction for Yimakan storytelling of the Hezhen. The materials entered the database include: 309 texts, 1600 pictures, 213 audio files, and 290 video files. Video archives of six bearers including Wu Mingxin, Wu Baochen, You Wenfeng, You Wenlan, You Xiuyun, and GeYuxia have been filmed and four of them are female bearers.
(5) Academic organizations, research institutions, scholars and experts have been supported in continued field research and case studies, monographs on the academic research of Yimakan storytelling have been published, and a series of important achievements like A Collection of Yimakan Storytelling, Oral History of Yimakan Storytelling by Representative Bearers, have been released. A Collection of Yimakan Storytelling has three volumes with in total 2.3 million words, covering 67 episodes (14 long ones, 34 short ones, and 19 stories), 53 music scores, and over 300 pictures, as well as carefully selected version of the Yimakan storytelling with phonetic notation, oral history of bearers, and thematic investigation report, and so on. Providing a panoramic view of the element in a comprehensive and systematic way, it could be considered an encyclopedia of the Yimakan storytelling.
(6) Cultural infrastructure has been improved to increase the frequency of the practice. Provincial level "Cultural Ecology Reserve of the Hezhen" has been planned and established in Jiamusi City so as to optimize the social and cultural environment for the survival of the element and implement integrated safeguarding efforts; Hezhen culture centers and exhibition areas of Yimakan storytelling have been set up in the Museum of the Hezhen in Tongjiang, Museum of the Hezhen in Jiamusi, and the Historical Museum of the Hezhen in Raohe for representative bearers to organize teaching activities regularly; Tongjiang Yimakan Storytelling Art Troupe, Jiamusi Suburb Yimakan Storytelling Art Troupe, and Raohe Yimakan Storytelling Art Troupe have been founded one after another. With the continued organization of transmission and practice trainings, demonstrations and road shows, publicity and promotion activities, and community communication activities, and so on, the frequency and extent of its practice have been increased.
(7) Innovation and safeguarding activities aimed at teenagers have been developed. In order to enhance the intergenerational dialogue and to adapt to the psychology of teenagers, the Center for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Heilongjiang Province has created a shadow puppet play related to Yimakan storytelling called Siwen Mergen in combination with the local performing art Wangkui Shadow Puppet Play. The play has been performed 35 times in the communities of the Hezhen, universities, middle schools, primary schools, academic summit forums, military camps, and the community square in Heilongjiang Province. The number of audiences has reached over 60,000. It is very popular among the children and well-received by the whole society.
- Key activities that were carried out during this reporting period in order to achieve these expected results:
(1) The procedure for taking apprentices has been further simplified and the support for representative bearers has been enhanced through providing venues for transmission and practice, equipment, and financial aid, and similar, to create favorable conditions for intergenerational transmission. For example, the two sisters, You Wenfeng and You Wenlan have been identified as provincial level representative bearers to receive the financial aids from the government. In 2015, Heilongjiang Province set up "Longjiang Transmission Award" to recognize and reward outstanding bearers of ICH for their outstanding contributions. Two bearers of Yimakan storytelling have won the award. In addition, attention has been paid to the situation of taking apprentices by bearers and to their daily life through regular visits, holding seminars, free medical examinations, and the like.
(2) Teaching of the mother tongue of the Hezhen has been integrated into formal education so as to guide teenagers to appreciate and transmit Yimakan storytelling. Apart from the pilot program on Chinese-Hezhen bilingual teaching implemented in the central schools in Jiejinkou Hezhen Ethnic Township and Bacha Hezhen Ethnic Township of Tongjiang City, activities to bring the Yimakan storytelling and the teaching of the Hezhen language into schools have been actively promoted. Professionals have been invited to compile textbooks for courses of the Hezhen language. Training classes on the Hezhen language have been organized. Such yimakanqi mafa as Wu Mingxin, Wu Baochen, and Ge Yuxia have been invited to give classes in schools. All these have inspired and improved the interest of children in the transmission of the element. Preferential policies have been provided for students of the Hezhen choosing to major in intangible cultural heritage by Fine Arts College in Harbin Normal University. Two relatives of national level representative storytellers have been enrolled. Hu Yi, one of the excellent graduates, has found a job in the Center for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Suburb of Jiamusi to be a teacher in the transmission and practice center of Yimakan storytelling.
(3) The community-based transmission practice has been promoted by the establishment of Yimakan storytelling transmission and practice centers. Five Yimakan storytelling transmission and practice centers have been established in the four major communities of the Hezhen and have become the major venues for community activities. Representative bearers have organized transmission and practice activities regularly. According to the annual arrangement of the teaching activities, the trainees are assessed yearly or every half year. Yimakan storytelling activities have been organized at such traditional festivals of the Hezhen as Urgun Festival and Culture Heritage Day and the competition on Yimakan storytelling has been organized every year. Excellent trainees standing out in the annual assessment and competitions have been rewarded and selected as candidates for potential successors. Through expanding the channels of transmission, more young people have been attracted to commit themselves to the transmission and safeguarding of the Yimakan storytelling. For example, Jiamusi City has identified such excellent trainees as Wu Mingrong, Hu Yi, ans Zhang Wenzhong, as prefecture level representative bearers.
(4) The all-round digital documentation and construction of thematic databases of the element has been fully promoted. Culturally competent departments at different levels and safeguarding organizations have organized experts, scholars, and relevant professionals to fully implement the work on the collection of texts, pictures, audio and video materials, and physical assets and the systematic investigation and filing of the viability and the status quo of representative bearers of the element. Meanwhile, transmission practices have been carried out in local transmission and practice centers for Yimakan storytelling and all classes have been recorded during the filing. Thematic archives have been established in different locations and the thematic database of Yimakan storytelling has been created in the Center for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Heilongjiang Province. At present, the center is constructing an integrated platform of digital resources relevant to Yimakan storytelling to further integrate the digital archives of Yimakan storytelling in county and prefecture level safeguarding organizations of intangible cultural heritage and promote the sharing of information between safeguarding organizations in different places and within communities.
(5) Academic communities, experts, and scholars have been supported to publish their research achievements. Since 2013, six symposiums and seminars on Yimakan storytelling at provincial and national levels have been organized, over 20 essays of high quality have been published, the Safeguarding and Transmission of the Hezhen Yimakan Storytelling has been inscribed on the list of key provincial level research project, and a series of academic achievements including A Collection of Yimakan Storytelling, Oral History of Yimakan Storytelling by Representative Bearers, Field Research on Yimakan Storytelling and the Hezhen People, and Collection of Essays on Yimakan Storytelling, have been released.
(6) Continuous promotion activities have been implemented via mass media and public cultural facilities. Heilongjiang TV has produced the three-episode documentary Forever Yimakan and broadcast it on the TV and radio repeatedly. Tongjiang TV has launched a channel on the Hezhen culture with such programs as Forever Yimakan, Lecture on the Hezhen Language, and so on. These programs have played an important role in the transmission of the element in terms of the ethnic group, folk customs, ecology and bearers from the native perspective with the documentary style stories of people. Five Yimakan storytelling transmission and practice centers and three Yimakan storytelling art troupes have actively organized demonstrations, road shows, and training activities by making full use of the local Hezhen folklore gardens, the Hezhen folk culture villages, and the Hezhen museums. Well-received by the Hezhen people, these activities have become important channels for attracting community members to learn the element in transmission and training centers.
(7) Plays focusing on the element have been created to improve the understanding of the element and the recognition of its importance by teenagers and the public. Aiming at different target groups, the shadow puppet play related to Yimakan storytelling called Siwen Mergen has been created on the basis of the heroic stories in the tradition of Yimakan storytelling and in combination with the local performing art of Wangkui Shadow Puppet Play in Heilongjiang Province. Such bearers as Wu Mingxin, Fu Zhanxiang, and Ge Yuxia have provided advices for the creation, recorded the speaking and singing for the play in person, and come to the rehearsal site to teach Hezhen customs and to guide the performance to actively support the innovative way of safeguarding. As a pilot project for innovative safeguarding, the play has been warmly welcomed by the children and highly recognized in the communities, creating remarkable social impact among the public. The modern way of practice not only meets the expectation of the community members but also is easy for children to accept. It has improved the visibility of the element and has promoted the dialogue between intergenerational transmission and the transmission among different ethnic groups.
- Problems encountered during the implementation
(1) The teaching of the Hezhen language is limited by the absence of a robust language environment, while the transmission and practice of Yimakan storytelling is restrained by the command of the phonetic language. Since 2013, relevant communities have chosen the sagdi jarimku of Site Mergen as the unified textbook for transmission and practice under the support of the Center for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Heilongjiang Province. Tutorial materials and CDs have been handed out in the five transmission and practice centers of the Yimakan storytelling. This measure has had some success.. Nevertheless, although the version marked with phonetic symbols is closer to the mother tongue, ordinary trainees are weak in their mother tongue with limited capacity in the acquisition of the language. They could only try to learn it by rote without further understanding.
(2) The government has provided financial support for young Hezhen people who delayed work for learning Yimakan storytelling. The amount is between 20 yuan to 50 yuan for each class and trainees should be assessed quarterly. For those standing out in all participants of the long term transmission and practice of Yimakan storytelling, bonuses between 100 to 500 yuan are given to encourage them to continue the study of Yimakan storytelling. However, the system of financial aid could easily divert students from the original purpose of carrying forward the culture of the ethnic group, since some young people may participate in the learning with the sole purpose of receiving financial aid.
In the past four years, various parties have participated in the safeguarding measures with the representative bearers as the major force for promoting community practice in transmission and practice centers and gradually formed the resultant force in the safeguarding activities of the element.
(1) The Hezhen people have actively participated in the preservation and transmission of Yimakan storytelling. The village committees and hundreds of representatives of villagers in the four major communities have actively committed themselves to safeguarding measures and have persisted in the participation in the activities organized in five transmission and practice centers. In this way, the transmission in communities has been consolidated and the frequency of practice has been greatly improved. Currently, Yimakan storytelling has become an essential part of the cultural activities in different communities. It is performed during such traditional festivals and celebrations as Urgun Festival, River Festival and Floating Lantern Festival with the participation of all members of the Hezhen, regardless of gender or age.
(2) Representative bearers have actively fulfilled their responsibilities and obligations for the transmission of the element and have played a key role in the safeguarding practice. 14 representative bearers have improved their capacity in performance to a significant extent and have continuously enriched their traditional music library of "sagdi jarimku" and "uskuli jarimku". Apart from continuing the traditional system of transmission within their own clans and families, they have organized relevant activities and training exchanges at five transmission and practice centers regularly for one to two times a week. The complementary relationship between traditional family transmission and the community transmission has consolidated the intergenerational transmission mechanism in the whole community. For example, Ge Yuxia was identified as a provincial level representative bearer in 2012. After that, she actively accepted apprentices with the help of the Center for Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in the county. In the past four years, she has given 160 classes on the transmission and practice of the element and trained 560 apprentices. Among all these apprentices, she has discovered such excellent ones like Ge Yanqiu, Lu Yanhua, Fu Nina, who show great passion to Yimakan storytelling and who are able to complete several episodes of Site Mergen sagdi jarimku independently.
(3) Relying on trainees of transmission and practice centers of Yimakan storytelling at different places, Tongjiang Yimakan Storytelling Art Troupe, Jiamusi Suburb Yimakan Storytelling Art Troupe, and Raohe Yimakan Storytelling Art Troupe have actively created and performed programs of Yimakan storytelling. With the increasing number of their performances, the frequency of the practice has been continuously improved. Apart from taking the major celebrations and festivals like the local Cultural Heritage Day and Urgun Festival as the carriers, they have also actively participated in the performance organized by TV and radio stations, demonstrations, and exhibitions at different places. Their performances have been warmly welcomed by audiences during the Beijing Ethnic Culture Week, the First Heilongjiang Intangible Cultural Heritage Exposition, and the Summer of Harbin, which has improved the visibility of the element.
(4) The local people have voluntarily organized activities focusing on the teaching of their mother tongue and the learning of Yimakan storytelling. Currently, the Hezhen people have voluntarily established four learning and discussion groups on Wechat via the we-media on the internet, including Bacha Hezhen Language Learning Group (105 members, including 66 females; the youngest member is 11 years old, and the oldest member is 66 years old), Tongjiang Hezhen Language Yimakan Storytelling Transmission and Practice Center (111 members, including 72 females; the youngest member is 11 years old, and the oldest member is 66 years old), Hezhen People (179 members, including 138 females; the youngest member is 11 years old, and the oldest member is 70 years old), and Pioneers of International Phonetic Alphabet Learning (25 members, including 19 females; the youngest member is 30 years old, and the oldest member is 78 years old), to organize the teaching of their mother tongue and the exchange of ideas on Yimakan storytelling on a regular basis. In addition, representative bearers have also been invited to give classes in these groups regularly. At present, there are in total 420 participants from child of 11 years old to old people of 78 years old. They have interacted online regardless of their ages and created an excellent environment for language acquisition and a participatory mode of practice.
(5) Local organizations and science and research institutions have provided intelligence support and professional consultation. More than ten local academic groups directly or indirectly participate in the transmission and safeguarding of Yimakan storytelling in Heilongjiang Province and over 200 people engage in the scientific research, training and practice, and other supportive work relevant to the transmission of the element. Among all these groups, the Branch of Studies on the Hezhen under the Society of Ethno-national Studies in Heilongjiang Province has organized relevant experts to compile and publish monographs and research papers on Yimakan storytelling, which have laid a solid theoretical foundation for the transmission and development of the element; Tongjiang Hezhen Language Research Association has organized the compilation of textbook on the language used by Yimakan storytelling for the classroom teaching in the central schools in Jiejinkou Hezhen Ethnic Township and Bacha Hezhen Ethnic Township; and such local academic societies focusing on the study of the Hezhen as Tongjiang Hezhen Research Society, Raohe Hezhen Research Society, and so on, have supported the safeguarding practice in local transmission and practice centers all the year round to provide professional advice for community transmission and enhance the research on safeguarding measures for Yimakan storytelling.
(6) The Center for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Heilongjiang Province, as the organization responsible for safeguarding the element, has organized specific work on the exploration, preservation, safeguarding, and transmission of the Yimakan storytelling, undertaken the planning for the safeguarding efforts and the corresponding implementation step by step, provided guidance for the activities in transmission and practice centers of Yimakan storytelling and relevant management work, supervised and inspected the implementation of the safeguarding measures, and shouldered the responsibility of data filing and thematic database construction. Under the unified organization and coordination of the Center, over 1500 people have been organized by the Center for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Tongjiang City, the suburb of Jiamusi City, and Raohe County, and other safeguarding units, for implementing different safeguarding measures and innovating the ways of safeguarding.
- Support bearers in the transmission and practice of Yimakan storytelling
2012-2015: financial aid for representative bearers (210,000 RMB);
2012-2014: organization of trainings on successors of the element in different transmission and practice centers (1,246,000 RMB);
In 2013: implementation of the pilot project for keeping salvage records of representative bearers (400,000 RMB);
In 2014: keeping records of bearers of Yimakan storytelling and their transmission and practice activities (400,000 RMB);
2012-2015: renting venues for the organization of transmission and practice activities (590,000 RMB).
- Support relevant communities in the implementation of safeguarding measures for Yimakan storytelling
In 2012: organizing road shows of Yimakan Storytelling Art Troupe of different places (1,350,000 RMB);
2012-2015: organizing Yimakan storytelling competitions, exhibitions, and demonstrations in campuses, on community squares, and during Cultural Heritage Day (1,544,000 RMB);
In 2014: creating the shadow puppet play related to Yimakan storytelling called Siwen Mergen (120,000 RMB);
In 2015: organizing promotion and academic exchange activities in the National Library of China and Central Conservatory of Music (60,000 RMB);
2012-2015: organizing field research, academic seminars, community forums, and demonstration and discussion meetings for the achievements (507,000 RMB).
- Publication of a series of research achievements on Yimakan storytelling
2012-2013: compilation and publication of A Collection of Yimakan Storytelling (960,000 RMB);
2012-2013: compilation and printing of textbook for transmission and practice of Site Mergen and of promotion materials ( 240,000 RMB);
In 2014: collection of information and investigation for Image Records of Yimakan Storytelling Bearers（32,000 RMB);
2014-2015: editing and publishing Field Investigation on Yimakan Storytelling and the Hezhen People, Oral History of Yimakan Storytelling by Representative Bearers, and Collection of Essays for Academic Seminar of Yimakan Storytelling (281,000 RMB).
- Collection of field research information for completing digital archives
In 2012: purchasing the equipment and supplies required for transmission and practice activities (1,200,000 RMB);
In 2012: shooting the three-episode TV documentary Forever Yimakan (500,000 RMB)
2013-2014: organizing field research and collecting information (140,000 RMB);
2013-2014: construction of thematic database of Yimakan storytelling in combination with the pilot project on National Intangible Cultural Heritage Digital Management System (in total 1,000,000 RMB).
The above mentioned funds are all from government sources. The in-kind community inputs mainly include: the venues for transmission and practice, instruments, tools, and costumes for performance provided by the cultural centers and village committees of the four major communities for free, as well as the necessary financial support (specific amounts are not available); the audio and video recordings of the performance of older generations of bearers provided by representative bearers for digital filing for free, the audio recordings of their performance provided for trainees in transmission and practice centers of different places, and the copies of music score and scripts; on-site guidance in transmission and practice centers at different places provided by several elderly people and bearers who are proficient in the Hezhen language at their own expense, the online teaching in the group discussion on Wechat, and the specific suggestions and personal recordings for the compilation and revision of textbooks for the transmission and practice of Yimakan storytelling.
During the reporting period, the activities for safeguarding the element have been smoothly implemented. In the exploration of new safeguarding measures, the visibility and viability of the element have been enhanced. The overall results attained are as follows: the capability of representative bearers in performance has been constantly improved and traditional episodes in their personal repertoire have been enriched; the team of successors for both "sagdi jarimku" and "uskuli jarimku" has been expanded; the complementary relationship between family transmission and social transmission has further expanded the extent of practice and improved its frequency annually; the vitality of the mother tongue of the Hezhen has been recovered to a certain extent in the transmission and practice of Yimakan storytelling; and the awareness of the importance of safeguarding the language and intangible culture heritage of their own ethnic group has been significantly enhanced among the Hezhen people and spread to the general public in relevant communities.
The investment of the central and local governments for the implementation of safeguarding activities has been properly and efficiently used. Corresponding results have been achieved through the following activities and the overall results are better than the expected target proposed in the nomination file:
(1) Under the unified planning and organization of the Department of Culture in Heilongjiang Province, the Center for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Heilongjiang Province has taken and improved institutional safeguarding measures through formulating the Rules for the Safeguarding of the Hezhen Yimakan Storytelling, Regulations for Management of Transmission and Practice Centers of the Hezhen Yimakan Storytelling, and Regulations for Management of the Transmission by the Hezhen Yimakan Storytelling Storytellers to promote the scientific, standardized, and systematic implementation of safeguarding measures for the element.
(2) The Department of Culture of Heilongjiang Province has organized experts and scholars in the academic field both inside and outside the province to compile A Collection of Yimakan Storytelling. It has taken them three years to complete the book which was published in 2014. The book of three volumes has carried out systematic exploration, collation, and publication of the element. In particular, the traditional repertoire of Yimakan storytelling has been carefully collated for the first time, covering almost all existing materials of Yimakan storytelling, oral history of bearers, and important research results. The text and musical score with phonetic notation in the book have become the guide and basis for the teaching and practice of the Hezhen mother tongue and the promotion of Yimakan storytelling in the continued safeguarding efforts.
(3) In line with the principle of territorial management, governments at all levels have included the safeguarding work in the government’s cultural development project. Bureaus of culture, radio, TV, film, press and publication at county and prefecture levels, as the local cultural authority, are in charge of the comprehensive guidance and planning of the safeguarding work and the arrangement of relevant personnel and funds. Centers for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage in different places have organized training events to support the transmission and practice, promoted field research, promoted full recorded and collected different materials, established thematic digital archives, arranged the demonstration teaching and road shows to bring the element into schools, communities, and public squares, and released innovative plays combining Yimakan storytelling of the Hezhen and the local intangible cultural heritage Wangkui Shadow Puppet Play to raise the enthusiasm of teenagers to participate in the transmission and practice of the element and arouse the awareness of the importance of the safeguarding efforts among the general public.
(4) The central government has provided special funds to ensure the support for bearers and the implementation of general safeguarding measures. Local governments have raised funds from different sources to improve infrastructure construction. For example, provincial level "Cultural Ecology Reserve of the Hezhen" has been planned and established in Jiamusi City, Cultural Center for the Hezhen has been founded in Tongjiang City, Hezhen Folklore Gardens and Villages have been built in Jiejinkou Hezhen Ethnic Township and Sipai Hezhen Ethnic Township, and the Historical Museum of the Hezhen has been launched in Raohe County. All these have provided specialized classrooms, rehearsal halls, and demonstration areas for the transmission and practice of Yimakan storytelling, which has been warmly welcomed among the community members and well-received by the social public.
(5) Culturally competent departments of the governments at different levels have ensured the use of funds for the specified purpose only, increased the efficiency of the use of funds, and provided all-round support for relevant communities, groups, and bearers in the implementation of safeguarding measures. Facing a shortage of personnel in organizations for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage, they have actively included representative bearers and the elderly proficient in the Hezhen language into the management of the element based on cultural centers and village committees in the four major communities to create favorable conditions for organizing the safeguarding practice by the five transmission and practice centers, the interaction among counties and prefectures, and the annual Yimakan Storytelling Competition.
Therefore, the Hezhen people have widely participated in the safeguarding activities organized by the local culturally competent departments. The village committees of communities, bearers, and younger generation members have become the key participants in these activities. The new-type safeguarding mechanism characterized by the complementary relationship between family transmission and community transmission has been established, which provides satisfactory answers for major concerns in the decision of the committee (DECISION 6.COM 8.6).
In order to change the endangered situation of the element and to revive it, communities, groups of practitioners and representative bearers as well as relevant non-governmental organizations in the gathering areas of the Hezhen have all collaborated closely to form the resultant force in the safeguarding activities of the element.
(1) Connections have been established among bearers of the younger generation, middle aged generation, and older generation. Yimakanqi mafa used to be primarily male in the transmission of the element within clans and families. Due to the changes in social structure, males have participated more frequently in community service and social activities, so that older women have gradually become the major force for the transmission and practice of Yimakan storytelling. In the past four years, 14 representative bearers (including 10 females) have devoted themselves to the safeguarding practice of the element with great enthusiasm and strong sense of mission. They have actively promoted the transmission within their clans and families. Meanwhile, they have supported the community transmission without any reservation. Female bearers have played a more prominent role in the process. Wu Mingxin, one of the representative bearers, has persisted in teaching young people and has received hundreds of apprentices in the past decade, including his two granddaughters. He said bearers should "keep on learning and teaching" to make sure that the oral art is not lost. The performance of the famous Yimakan storytelling master Ge Desheng recorded in 1983 has been collated by his daughter Ge Yuxia (a provincial level representative bearer) and published. According to You Wenfeng, one of the bearers, the transmission of Yimakan storytelling "should not stop for any second". At present, she has over 20 apprentices of the Hezhen and her goal is to let them reach her level as soon as possible. The third generation of bearers represented by Wu Mingxin, Wu Baochen, You Wenfeng, You Wenlan, You Xiuyun, Ge Yuxia, and Hu Yi has promised to continue their efforts in follow-up safeguarding activities and to train more excellent successors.
(2) The safeguarding practice based in communities has been diversified. Under the leadership of the bearers, people in the four major communities of the Hezhen have actively participated in the implementation of the safeguarding measures and benefited from it. They have voluntarily participated in the safeguarding and transmission practice in their communities through local cultural centers, transmission and practice centers of Yimakan storytelling, joining the Yimakan storytelling art troupes, or joining the Wechat teaching and discussion groups (see section B.3c). So far, more than 4,800 people have participated in a diversity of transmission and practice activities in relevant communities. The "uskuli jarimku" and "sagdi jarimku" of Yimakan storytelling have been effectively recovered, the number of practitioners has gradually increased, the social coverage has expanded, and the endangered level of the Hezhen language has been alleviated to a certain extent. Some trainees have mastered over 300 words, more than 300 basic expressions, and three to four episodes of "uskuli jarimku" or "sagdi jarimku". All such activities have promoted wider recognition of the element and nurtured the cultural consciousness of mutual respect and encouragement in the relevant communities. The Hezhen people believe that the preservation of Yimakan storytelling will contribute to the preservation of the Hezhen language and culture and they all have expressed the willingness to do their part in continued learning, transmission, and preservation of the significant cultural treasure of their ethnic group and to try their best for the revival of the Yimakan storytelling and have promised to continue to participate in follow-up action plans.
(3) Non-governmental organizations like local societies and associations of the Hezhen, scholars, and experts have provided long-term intellectual support for the safeguarding efforts. Non-governmental organizations including the Branch of Studies on the Hezhen under the Society of Ethno-national Studies in Heilongjiang Province, Tongjiang Hezhen Research Society, Tongjiang Hezhen Language Research Association, and Raohe Hezhen Research Society, and experts and scholars from Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, Heilongjiang University, and Harbin Normal University have communicated and cooperated with cultural departments in the investigation and academic research on the transmission of Yimakan storytelling and published a series of research achievements and essays. For example, researcher Huang Renyuan has taken the Yimakan storytelling of the Hezhen as his lifelong pursuit in his academic career and made several policy suggestions like Suggestions on Preservation of Yimakan Storytelling Cultural Heritage to relevant departments, which have attracted the attention of governments at different levels. Professional societies represented by Tongjiang Hezhen Research Society and experts of Yimakan storytelling study represented by Huang Renyuan, Chen Shu, and so on, have promised to devote themselves to investigating, and making policy suggestions related to the element and make contributions to the further improvement of its viability.
(4) The Center for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Heilongjiang Province has organized experts, scholars, and community workers to enter relevant communities three times to carry out on-site investigations to track the teaching activities in transmission and practice centers, the capacity building of safeguarding organizations in different places, the status quo of representative bearers and apprenticeships, and the cultural and ecological environment of the Hezhen (July 2012, March 2014, and July 2015). At the same time, it has sought the suggestions of representatives from relevant communities and bearers on safeguarding measures and implementation. In addition, the center has organized a "Conference on the Safeguarding of the Hezhen Yimakan Storytelling" participated in by representative bearers and excellent trainees in transmission and practice centers so as to extensively consult different parties. The center has promised to continue to organize safeguarding organizations at different levels to carry on their investigations into the element and keep track of and evaluate its viability.
a. the competent body(ies) involved in its management and/or safeguarding:
Department of Culture of Heilongjiang Province
Bureau of Culture, Radio, TV, Film, Press and Publication, Tongjiang City, Heilongjiang Province
Bureau of Culture, Radio, TV, Film, Press and Publication, Raohe County, Shuangyashan City, Heilongjiang Province
Bureau of Culture, Radio, TV, Film, Press and Publication, Jiamusi City, Heilongjiang Province
Bureau of Culture, Radio, TV, Film, Press and Publication, Suburb of Jiamusi City, Heilongjiang Province
b. the organization(s) of the community or group concerned with the element and its safeguarding:
Cultural Center of Jiejinkou Hezhen Ethnic Township, Tongjiang City, Heilongjiang Province
Cultural Center of Bacha Hezhen Ethnic Township, Tongjiang City, Heilongjiang Province
Village Committee of Hezhen Ethnic Village of Aoqi Township in the suburb of Jiamusi City, Heilongjiang Province
Cultural Center of Sipai Hezhen Ethnic Township, Raohe County, Shuangyashan City, Heilongjiang Province
Yimakan Storytelling Transmission and Practice Center of Jiejinkou Hezhen Ethnic Township
Yimakan Storytelling Transmission and Practice Center of Bacha Hezhen Ethnic Township
Yimakan Storytelling Transmission and Practice Center of the Urban Area of Tongjiang City
Yimakan Storytelling Transmission and Practice Center of Hezhen Ethnic Village of Aoqi Township
Yimakan Storytelling Transmission and Practice Center of Sipai Hezhen Ethnic Township
Tongjiang Hezhen Yimakan Storytelling Art Troupe
Jiamusi Suburb Yimakan Storytelling Art Troupe
Raohe Hezhen Yimakan Storytelling Art Troupe
Branch of Studies on the Hezhen under the Society of Ethnology of Heilongjiang Province
Tongjiang Hezhen Research Society
Tongjiang Hezhen Language Research Association
Raohe Hezhen Research Society
Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences
Harbin Normal University
Center for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Heilongjiang Province
Center for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, Tongjiang City, Heilongjiang Province
Center for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Suburb of Jiamusi City, Heilongjiang Province
Center for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Raohe County, Heilongjiang Province
A conference on the report on the status of Yimakan storytelling of the Hezhen in Heilongjiang Province and training course for drafting the report were organized in Harbin on January 26 and 27 in 2016. More than 20 people including relevant leaders and workers of the Culture, Radio, TV, Film, Press and Publication Bureaus and Centers for the Safeguarding of ICH in Jiamusi City, Tongjiang City, Suburb Jiamusi, and Raohe County, and community representatives attended the conference. During the conference, the Department of Culture of Heilongjiang Province and Center for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Heilongjiang Province founded the steering group for reporting on the status of the element and made explanations on the requirements for completing the form ICH-11-2016. After that, the centers for the safeguarding of ICH in the four major communities have organized representatives of the communities to participate in the preparation of the report and carried out investigations on different aspects of the implementation of safeguarding measures. In middle and late February, investigation reports have been handed in to the leading team. The contents of these reports cover the achievements attained, experience, problems, and feedback from different communities in the past years.
During the drafting of the report, cultural centers of Hezhen Ethnic Township in the four major communities, five transmission and practice centers of Yimakan storytelling, Branch of Studies on the Hezhen under the Society of Ethno-national Studies in Heilongjiang Province, Tongjiang Hezhen Research Society and its website www.hezhezu.com have actively participated in relevant efforts. Attention has been paid to the suggestions of representative bearers and trainees. The Hezhen people have actively provided feedback. Especially when the report was finally to be completed, data on the self-learning of the Hezhen language and Yimakan storytelling was collected via questionnaires handed out to the members of the four Wechat groups. A retired female teacher of the central school in Bacha Hezhen Ethnic Township has been recommended as the representative of Wechat groups to provide relevant information for the drafting of the report.
In the process, the leading group has organized experts to discuss and to analyze the achievements in the implementation of safeguarding measures and the existing problems. Detailed opinions and suggestions put forward by scholars from Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, Heilongjiang University, and Harbin Normal University have been included into the report.
In late February 2016, the village committees of the four major communities have organized representative bearers and villagers to provide written suggestions with their signatures to show their prior and informed consent for the preparation of the report and its contents.
Director General, Bureau for External Cultural Relations, Ministry of Culture, People's Republic of China