At the national level, the competent body for implementing the 2003 Convention is the Ministry of Culture, within which the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has direct responsibility. Work in intangible cultural heritage is carried out under the supervision of an interministerial joint conference including the Ministry of Culture, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, the Ministry of Commerce, the National Tourism Administration, the State Administration of Religious Affairs, the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Local governments have special divisions concerned with intangible cultural heritage in their cultural administrative departments. As of June 2010, Offices of Intangible Cultural Heritage have been established in the Departments of Culture for Beijing, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Anhui, Henan, Guangdong, Guizhou, Yunnan, Shaanxi, Xinjiang and other provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) with an increase in staff. In other provinces, with the approval of local governments, the relevant functions are allocated to the Office of Social Cultures under their Departments of Culture. Macao Special Administrative Region (Macao SARG) and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSARG) have competence for the implementation of the Convention within their territories; in the former, this is the responsibility of the Cultural Affairs Bureau of Macao SAR (ICM, Instituto Cultural, Macau), while in the latter the Home Affairs Bureau (HAB) of the HKSARG is responsible for the policy on safeguarding the local intangible cultural heritage and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) is the implementation agency.
China Intangible Cultural Heritage Safeguarding Center is the professional institution for the safeguarding, researching, and training of intangible cultural heritage of China, undertaking important functions in providing training in intangible cultural heritage management at the national scale. It was established in September, 2006. By June, 2010, intangible cultural heritage safeguarding centres had been established in 30 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities).
The Chinese Academy of Arts is the documentation institution for intangible cultural heritage in China, undertaking the management, preservation, research and utilization of relevant documents kept in its library, as well as the construction of a database of intangible cultural heritage. Documentation is also an important responsibility of the 30 provincial intangible cultural heritage safeguarding centres. In June 2005, the Ministry of Culture began the first national intangible cultural heritage survey, which was finished by the end of 2009. The work involved 500,000 person-days, 1.15 million visits to folk artists, the collection of 290,000 valuable artefacts and documents, 2 billion words in written record, 230,000 hours of sound recordings, 4.77 million pictures taken and 140,000 volumes of compiled documents. This survey produced a preliminary result of 870,000 elements of intangible cultural heritage in China.
The Ministry of Culture oversees a national inventory of intangible cultural heritage. Provinces, autonomous regions (such as Inner Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang Uyghur), and special administrative regions (Honk Kong and Macau) are also conducting inventories at the local level. The elements included should be important forms of traditional folk culture or cultural spaces, or be representative of intangible cultural heritage, or hold important value in the aspects of history, arts, ethnology, folklore, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, literature or related fields. They must satisfy the following criteria: (1) The element should hold outstanding value for presenting the creativity of Chinese civilization; (2) The element should be rooted in the cultural tradition of a particular community and transmitted from generation to generation, presenting distinct local characteristics; (3) As a significant bond in cultural exchanges, the element should help promote Chinese national cultural identification, strengthen social cohesion, and enhance national solidarity and social stability; (4) The element should demonstrate a remarkable level of traditional craftsmanship and skills; (5) The element should display the unique value of showcasing living Chinese national cultural traditions; (6) The element should show the significance of the transmission of Chinese national culture, while facing grave threats of disappearance due to social transformation or a lack of safeguarding measures.
An element to be included on the National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage should first be recognized by the communities, groups or individuals concerned. The nomination should be submitted by social institutions or the bearers of the heritage to local cultural administrative departments. The Ministry of Culture organizes experts to evaluate nominations, report them to the Evaluating Committee, and present them for public scrutiny before preparing an initial draft of the National List. The draft list is then examined by the Inter-Ministerial Joint Conference for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage and submitted to the State Council of the People’s Republic of China for its approval and proclamation. Alongside experts holding government posts, the Evaluating Committee also includes representatives of non-governmental organizations such as the China Folklore Society, China Museums Association, Chinese Martial Arts Association, Kunju and Guqin Research Society of China, Chinese Arts and Crafts Society, and Chinese Ceramics Industrial Society. The national list is updated every two years, so far in 2006 and 2008. Inventorying is undertaken independently within Hong Kong, with the South China Research Centre of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology contracted to implement the initial survey. Similarly, within Macao the ICM operates its own intangible cultural heritage inventory. Both regions may also nominate intangible cultural heritage for inclusion on the National List.
In terms of planning and regulatory measures, the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage has been integrated into the Development Programme of Culture that figures in each national Five-Year Plan. The Law on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the People’s Republic of China was to come into force on 1 June 2011, after a series of interim measures had been issued by the Ministry of Culture since 2006. Relevant measures have been taken jointly by the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Commerce to safeguard traditional techniques and skills. At the local level, eight provinces have adopted legislation for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage.
Awareness-raising, promotion and information programmes aimed at the general public, in particular young people, are wide-ranging. They include a yearly ‘China Cultural Heritage Day’ where a variety of activities promoting intangible cultural heritage are organized at the local and national levels, such as exhibitions, performances, forums, lectures, broadcasting and reporting; and the first and second International Festival of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Chengdu. Public cultural institutions including libraries, cultural centres, museums, and science and technology centres at different levels have actively initiated activities in relation to the dissemination, display and publicity of intangible cultural heritage.
With regard to education, intangible cultural heritage has been promoted on campuses, in the classroom, in textbooks and through the exploration of a new educational mode for cultural transmission. Instances involve Hua’er from Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Nanyin from Quanzhou, Fujian Province, and the Grand Song of the Dong Ethnic Group from Guizhou Province which have been performed on campuses. In other places, after coordination with the educational departments, Peking Opera, folk songs and music, ‘paper-cut’, New Year pictures and traditional craftsmanship techniques have been included in the art courses of primary schools and high schools. In Hong Kong, substantial efforts are being dedicated to teaching Cantonese opera in primary and secondary schools as part of the music curriculum. Outside of schools, intangible cultural heritage safeguarding centres at all levels have created various educational and training programmes, along with a series of educational and training activities within the communities and groups concerned. Safeguarding efforts have focussed on specific elements and also typically include non-formal education and training in order to foster the continued transmission of the elements within their communities.
China is very active with regard to bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation. China has engaged in bi-lateral cooperation, communication, academic activities, exhibitions and performances in relation to the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage with Japan, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Mongolia, France, etc. As far as regional cooperation is concerned, in 2010 the Chinese government and UNESCO signed the Agreement between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and UNESCO Regarding the Establishment in Beijing of an International Training Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia–Pacific Region under the Auspices of UNESCO. International cooperation typically takes the form of cultural exchanges, with Chinese intangible cultural heritage bearers travelling abroad or international intangible cultural heritage bearers traveling to China, often in the context of festivals or tours.
China reports here on 26 elements on the Representative List, including four that were incorporated in 2008 after having previously been proclaimed as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and 22 that were inscribed in 2009 (see the website and original report for the list). For all performing art elements, China has spared no efforts in ensuring the safeguarding or revitalization of the practices, generating a broader appeal to audiences and new generations of performers, and financially sustainable activities (commercial performances). Professional troupes have been supported and created, as have performing spaces. Documentation and publication efforts have been undertaken with the participation of communities and practitioners. One of the consequences of inscription on the Representative List is an increase in the commercial value of the performing art. The report notes on several occasions that this trend may result in the loss of artistic standards and the neglect of artistic quality. Measures to safeguard traditional craftsmanship include: the participation of artisans in national and international demonstrations and exhibitions; laws and regulations at the national and provincial levels; documentation, particularly by the National Academy of Arts but also at the local level; the establishment of specialized schools and transmission centres by provincial governments, districts and municipalities; support for apprenticeship systems; the creation of special funds to sponsor representative bearers who have difficulty carrying out transmitting activities; and extensive dissemination and popularization work, in particular through traditional and new media.