Name of element
Traditional design and practices for building Chinese wooden arch bridges
Hezhen Yimakan storytelling (2011)
Qiang New Year festival (2009)
Traditional design and practices for building Chinese wooden arch bridges (2009)
Traditional Li textile techniques: spinning, dyeing, weaving and embroidering (2009)
Watertight-bulkhead technology of Chinese junks (2010)
Wooden movable-type printing of China (2010)
The traditional design and practices for building Chinese wooden arch bridges combine the use of wood, traditional architectural tools, craftsmanship, the core technologies of “beam-weaving” and mortise and tenon joints, and a bearer’s understanding of different environments and the necessary structural mechanics. The practice of this technical system is directed by a woodworking master and implemented by other woodworkers with their close cooperation.
Having been a major technology for building traditional bridges of timberwork in China, the element is mainly transmitted in northeast of Fujian Province and southeast of Zhejiang Province, where local people have always regarded it as an inseparable part of their own cultural heritage and identity till now. However, with the development of society and the application of new technology, the space for applying this craftsmanship is being compressed by modern technology for bridge construction and diversified building materials. At present, although there are some wooden arch bridges existing in some regions of the 11 counties near the border between Fujian and Zhejiang where the craftsmanship can be transmitted and applied, the diminishing of it caused by globalization and urbanization cannot be neglected.
Since the element was inscribed on the List, governments at all levels and local communities have taken measures to safeguard it in accordance with local conditions. With joint efforts for 6 years, the viability and transmission of this element have been restored in local communities preliminarily: the team of bearers engaged in the practice of this craftsmanship has been expanded, with the number of woodworking masters increased from 6 to 14 and the number of practitioners to 49 (20 in Fujian Province and 29 in Zhejiang Province); 7 practice and transmission training centers with the focus on bearers have been built, where bearers of the craftsmanship trained and taught the young people, and at present there are 65 apprentices. Exhibition centers and museums for it have been built, with a total area of more than 3,000 square meters. Over 30 wooden arch bridges have been rebuilt or renovated, with more than 30 villages engaged in the practice of this craftsmanship. Activities of promoting it in communities and campuses have been carried out widely. Restoring related folk activities during the rebuilding and renovation of the bridges has encouraged local residents to participate in it, and has raised their awareness of safeguarding the bridges and concerns for the transmission of this craftsmanship. Research and practice bases have been built in cooperation with colleges and universities, where academic research on safeguarding the bridges as well as multimedia data collection, processing and database construction are carried out. With the active involvement of local communities, these measures have promoted the safeguarding and transmission of the element effectively. Although the bridges’ traffic-bearing functions are diminished nowadays, their landscape and geomancy functions are more cherished by local residents, making it possible for the viability of the element.
Center for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Taishun County, Zhejiang Province, China / Director
62 NanDajie, Luoyang Township, Taishun County, Zhejiang Province, China, 325500
Other relevant information
Considered as an important component in cultural heritage by local communities, groups and individuals, the element enjoys a well-established technical system, complete transmission pedigree, and a continuous sense of identity provided for bearers and communities. Since the topography near the border of south Zhejiang Province and north Fujian Province features high mountains and deep valleys, the wooden arch bridge has been a representative for natural and cultural landscapes of local communities with its superior skills and wonderful form. In history, the bridges built with this craftsmanship function as communication tools and venues, where passengers rest or stay overnight, sheltered from wind and rain, and local residents exchange information and goods, and they entertain and worship.
Although wooden arch bridges’ traffic-bearing functions have been diminished in recent years on account of their limited capacity to support modern transportation, their functions in traditional landscape and geomancy in history are more cherished and recognized by local residents, creating growing space for the practice and transmission of the element. Most wooden arch bridges are located at the water inlet position in geomancy, therefore they are believed to have functions of gathering fortune and dispelling evil. The bridge is critical to both the geomancy of the village and the construction of cultural space within the communities. The passageway on the bridge can shelter passengers from wind and rain, safeguard the wooden structure of the bridge and reduce the transparency of the bridge by blocking more water inlets and outlets visually, which is also a merit in geomancy. As an important public building in the village, the bridge usually houses a shrine at its center, where deities of folk religion worshipped by local residents are enshrined. Nowadays most shrines are removed in case the burning incenses cause a fire amidst the cultural relics; instead, a temple is built on the bridgehead, creating a landscape of “bridge and temple integration”. As a result, the wooden arch bridge continues to provide local residents an important place for some folk religious practices such as worshipping and praying at festivals and certain dates.
Among bearers and practitioners of the craftsmanship, those mastering bridge designs, core technologies of “beam-weaving” and on-site direction simultaneously are called “woodworking masters”, who play a leading role in the transmission of the element; other practitioners work in cooperation to implement the construction of the bridge. The craftsmanship has been transmitted through oral instruction and personal demonstration from one generation to another either by masters teaching apprentices or by fathers to sons within a family, in accordance with strict procedures—thus forms the intergenerational transmission pedigree. Since the dominant transmission mode is within a family, several prestigious families of the craftsmanship recognized by local communities gradually come into being. As the bearers of the element, woodworking masters boast superior craftsmanship in building traditional wooden architectures and bridges. The core technologies of the craftsmanship are demonstrated in the practical and beautiful bridges of timberwork adapted to different environments, which are built collectively in accordance with a whole technological process for wooden architecture combining experiences of past practitioners and predecessors as well as structural mechanics. The element not only follows certain standards and patterns, but gives full play to the creativity of different communities, groups and individuals; therefore it may display diversified forms in practice. At present, prestigious families of the craftsmanship include Huang Family in Pingnan County, Zheng Family in Shouning County, Zhang Family in Zhouning County, and Dong Family in Taishun County, among which Huang Chuncai, Zheng Duojin and Dong Zhiji are acknowledged representative bearers, playing an indispensable role in building, maintaining and safeguarding the wooden arch bridges in local communities.
At present, the element is widely distributed in the northeast of Fujian Province and the southwest of Zhejiang Province. It is centered in 11 counties and cities at the border between Zhejiang and Fujian, such as Pingnan, Shouning, Zhouning, Gutian, Fu’an, Zherong, Fuding and Xiapu of Fujian Province and Qingyuan, Taishun and Jingning of Zhejiang Province, among which Pingnan, Shouning, Qingyuan and Taishun are core areas. Based on the above-mentioned areas, the element also extends to areas under the administration of Fuzhou and Nanping Cities of Fujian Province as well as those of Wenzhou and Lishui Cities of Zhejiang Province.
Current situation of viability
(1) With the development of modern technologies, wooden arch bridges cannot meet the requirement of supporting modern transportation nowadays; however, their traffic-bearing and shelter functions for passengers and livestock still work, and their landscape and geomancy functions are more cherished than ever by local residents, since these bridges are important cultural spaces in villages and communities. Deities worshipped by local residents are usually enshrined in the shrine on the bridge or temple on the bridgehead. Deity worshipping is not limited to the certain one. Besides the chief deities (such as Avalokitesvara, Madame Waterside, Emperor Wuxian, Emperor Zhenwu, etc.), some accompanying deities are also worshipped by local residents, who believe that all of these deities can bless local communities. The bridges provide cultural space for local residents to worship and pray during festivals or memorial days for deities, among which the first and fifteenth days of each month and the first month of Chinese lunar calendar are the time when grand worship activities are intensively carried out. At that time, local residents will gather on the bridge to provide sacrificial offerings, burn incenses to pray and worship on bended knees successively. In addition, on the sixth day of the fifth lunar month, residents around Wan’an Bridge in Changqiao Village and Qiansheng Bridge in Tangkou Village of Pingnan County and Yonggui Bridge, Shuangmen Bridge and Niao Bridge of Qingyuan County still carry out the worship activity of Walking on the Bridge;in the Dragon Boat Festival on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, residents around Nanxi Bridge of Sixi Town hold a grand blessing ceremony called Bridge Worship to pray for good harvest and family happiness.
(2) In the above-mentioned areas, building, rebuilding and renovation of wooden arch bridges are still carried out in communities and villages. Over 30 such practices have been done successively from 2010 to 2015, with 14 woodworking masters, 49 practitioners and over 30 communities and villages engaged in.
(3) The building, rebuilding and renovation of wooden arch bridges in Fujian and Zhejiang continue the customary way of raising funds from local residents. During the building practice, the council composed of a headman and several members takes charge of the building, while the board, a standing civil organization composed of several or over a dozen members, is in charge of daily management, maintenance and renovation. In recent years, local government and enterprises also provide some financial and technological supports.
(4) Since the element was inscribed on the List, its viability in Fujian and Zhejiang in China has been improved, with practice frequency enhanced, with its practice scope enlarged and its number of bearers increased.
(1) The wooden arch bridge’s function has changed and the demand for building it is diminishing. Considering that the major function of bridge is traffic-bearing, the major function of the wooden arch bridge has almost diminished on account of its limited capacity to support modern transportation. At present, the building and renovation of the wooden arch bridge mainly meet the needs of passengers and livestock passing through, as well as cultural needs, particularly the needs for landscape and geomancy, leading to the diminishing of its ample traditional functions. Furthermore, building a wooden arch bridge requires a large investment, which increases the difficulty for funding since most of it is raised from local resident, therefore the demand for building it is diminishing.
(2) The current modes of transmission are still not on the right track yet. Due to the diminishing demand, the building business supporting the element shrinks and the profession of woodworking master is becoming less attractive to younger generations. In the past, building wooden arch bridge is the major source of income for bearers; nowadays, with fewer bridges newly built, they live on general carpentry or do part-time jobs. At present, all of the carpenters engaged in bridge building are aged people over 40, among whom Dong Zhiji from Taishun County is 92, Zheng Duojin from Shouning County 90, and Huang Chuncai from Pingnan 83. From 2010 to now, the number of bearers has increased; however, how to attract young people, how to provide them the means for a livelihood by building the wooden arch bridge and maintaining the sustainability of its transmission are still problems that need to be solved.
(3) Building materials are scarce. Timbers for building the wooden arch bridge usually are required to be taken from firs aged over decades or a century, especially for the part in arch support, each of which needs more than a hundred logs. In history, residents in some areas have the custom of raising funds to buy a mountain and plant trees on it as special timber reserves for building the bridge. With the reduction of timber resources in modern times, the custom, experience and management modes of the past need to be restored and developed. The current task is to encourage communities to buy mountains and to plant trees for the element, and to coordinate harmoniously the practice and transmission of the element with natural environment.
In order to fulfill the safeguarding commitments in the nomination files and to greatly improve the viability of the element, including the restoration of the modes of transmission and the revitalization of the element in a sustainable way, the following results have been attained from 2010 to 2015:
(1) Establish the bearer safeguarding mechanism to promote effectively the transmission of the element. Identification of bearers and the system of representative bears at four levels (county, city, province and state) were carried out. Government at all levels supported the bearers in practice and transmission of the element with appropriations and manpower, which has effectively improved the motivation of bearers. Training centers of practice and transmission for the element led by bearers were established, and transmission bases were evaluated and established to carry out safeguarding, transmission and promotion campaigns.
(2) Encourage and promote academic research and exchange. The academic support system for the element was established by encouraging bearers and local scholars to participate in academic research at national and international levels. Research centers for the element in cooperation with colleges, universities and research institutes were established. Efforts were also made in holding academic conferences, publishing related works and encouraging bearers to participate in craftsmanship exhibition and exchange at all levels to enhance their visibility and influence.
(3) Carry out salvage investigation, identification and documenting of the element. Investigation on wooden arch bridges and related cultural resources spread in Fujian and Zhejiang was almost completed in 2009, and digitalization of these bridges and their cultural resources were carried out step by step since 2010. Mapping of existing bridges was carried out, and the nomination of identification of 79 bridges’ cultural relic levels was completed. Core technologies, technological process, technical characteristics, folk belief customs, taboos and tools of the element were recorded and documented with the help of digital technology.
(4) Create conditions and opportunities for the practice of the element to maintain its benign viability. The transmission and development of the craftsmanship were promoted in practice through building and renovating wooden arch bridges on the basis of investigation.
(5) Introduce the element into school education to enhance cultural identity. Textbooks on wooden arch bridge culture were compiled for primary and secondary schools and related craftsmanship was taught in vocational schools to enhance the cultural identity and pride among local residents.
(6) Enhance promotion of the element to raise its visibility. The promotion function of public museums, libraries, cultural centers, memorial halls, galleries and exhibition centers for intangible cultural heritage was given full latitude to create a suitable social environment for the viability and development of the element.
Safeguarding activities and their effectiveness
To safeguard the element effectively, government at all levels of Fujian and Zhejiang, as well as related communities, have invested great manpower and resources in the transmission, education, promotion and research of it from 2010 to 2015, promoting the rebuilding and renovation of wooden arch bridges in these areas and enlarging the demand for it. In the meantime, the wooden arch bridge was brought into local development plans for social undertaking programs as a cultural symbol, creating more space for its transmission. The following achievements have been made:
(1) Identify representative bearers. At present, in Fujian Province, bearers identified above county level have increased from 3 to 5. There are 5 woodworking masters mastering core technologies of the element and around 20 bearers participating in the practice of it. In Zhejiang Province, the bearers have increased from 3 to 18. There are 9 woodworking masters mastering core technologies, 29 bearers participating in the practice regularly and two civil construction teams engaged in the building of wooden arch bridges. According to the Measures for Safeguarding Cultural Relics in Taishun County issued by county government of Taishun in 2012, bearers who train and teach young people can be subsidized with 5,000 yuan annually; one of the bearers, Zeng Jiakuai, was rated as distinguished talent and awarded with 100 thousand yuan by county government of Taishun.
(2) Establish training and practice centers. Seven training and practice centers with the focus on bearers were built, where bearers of the craftsmanship train and teach young people, and at present there are 65 enrolled apprentices. In the meantime, theses training centers produced some tourist souvenirs based on traditional craftsmanship, such as the model of a wooden arch bridge, providing the apprentices with more opportunities to practice. The development of derivative business just like cultural tourism not only increased the income of bearers and practitioners, but created almost a thousand job opportunities for local communities.
(3) Encourage and promote academic research and exchange. Since 2010, research bases for the element were established in cooperation with colleges, universities and research institutes, such as Zhejiang University, Nanjing University, Shanghai Jiaotong University and Xiamen University, laying theoretical foundations for safeguarding wooden arch bridges and traditional building craftsmanship. Both the International Symposium on China’s Covered Bridges and Forum on Safeguarding China’s Covered Bridge Culture were held for five times respectively, inviting experts and scholars from all over the world and bearers of the craftsmanship to attend; works like Traditional Craftsmanship for Building Chinese Wooden Arch Bridges and Craftsmanship for Building Wooden Arch Bridges were published. Bearers were encouraged to participate in exhibition and exchange activities at all levels, among which Huang Chuncai, a bearer at the national level, attended the Exhibition of Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritages and Traditional Arts held in Beijing and Chongqing, and Root and Soul—the Exhibition of Chinese Intangible Cultural Craftsmanship held in Taiwan.
(4) Carry out digital documentation of the element. Core technologies, technological processes, technical characteristics, folk belief, customs, taboos and tools of the element were recorded and documented with the help of digital technology. Completed works include: 243 GB digital video, 1,280 photos (4,580 MB) and 108 MB text data were collected; more than 180 pieces of tools, bridge deed, design materials, historical data were collected; 2 documentaries about the element, such as Remote Memory—Covered Bridge in Qingyuan County of China, were produced; a 3D animation demonstrating the complete technological process of the element was made by Qingyuan Covered Bridge Museum; the database of Cultural Memory of Fujian: Wooden Arch Bridges was under construction, providing a platform for sharing and applying the achievements of digital safeguarding works.
(5) Carry out mapping and renovation of wooden arch bridges. By the end of 2015, 79 surviving ancient wooden arch bridges have been evaluated as cultural heritage sites, among which 40 are at the national level, 14 at provincial level and 15 at county level. Mapping of 34 wooden arch bridges at the national level was completed, among which 12 are in Fujian Province and 22 in Zhejiang Province. Based on the mapping results, compilation of maintenance and safeguarding plans for 7 of them were completed. On basis of the above-mentioned efforts, cultural relic keepers were employed for managing and safeguarding the wooden arch bridges and some severely damaged bridges were renovated with traditional technologies, improving the practice frequency of the element.
(6) Renovate and rebuild wooden arch bridges to transmit the craftsmanship in practice. In accordance with the safeguarding plans and community demand, 26 bridges were renovated and 30 (3 in Pingnan, 2 in Shouning, 9 in Qingyuan and 16 in Taishun) were relocated and rebuilt. These efforts not only improved the cultural landscape and tourism resources, but provided practice opportunities for the transmission of the element, during which a group of experienced bearers and practitioners were cultivated.
(7) Introduce knowledge about craftsmanship for building wooden arch bridges into school education. Diversified activities were carried out to introduce the wooden arch bridge and its building craftsmanship into campuses and textbooks, including compiling school-based textbooks containing the craftsmanship, and establishing teaching bases for the transmission of covered bridges to teach knowledge about wooden arch bridge and cultivate students’ love for bridges from their childhood. To be specific, Ningde City of Fujian Province will establish architecture majors in vocational schools and will introduce the craftsmanship into the teaching; Jiangbin Primary School of Qingyuan County established a teaching base for the transmission of covered bridges equipped with interactive platform and exhibition hall, and their project, Love and Learn Covered Bridge and Construct Positions: Practice and Study of Combining Covered Bridge Culture with Morality of Young Pioneer, won grand prize at national contest for best scientific research of Young Pioneer during the Eleventh Five Year Plan; school-based textbooks, such as Textbook on Intangible Cultural Heritages in Taishun and Love and Learn Covered Bridge, won prizes in evaluation of excellent school-based textbooks on intangible cultural heritages.
(8) Carry out exhibition of traditional craftsmanship for building wooden arch bridges to enhance its influence. Three exhibition centers and museums were established to display picture materials, physical models, traditional tools and technological process of the element free to the public. Since 2010, two transmission and practice training centers in Pingnan have produced 36 models of wooden arch bridges, which are collected and displayed by 14 colleges, universities, research institutions, museums and exhibition centers, including Chinese National Academy of Arts, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Nanjing University, Fujian Exhibition Center of Intangible Cultural Heritages, Ningde Museum, etc., and sent to Beijing, Chongqing, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Ningde and Taiwan for display and demonstration, enhancing the influence of the element.
(9) Carry out promotion through media to enhance its visibility. Since 2010, over 120 pieces of news and 12 TV documentaries have been published via newspapers, magazines, broadcast, television and Internet. Media agencies including China Central Television, Xinhuanet, Fujian Television, Zhejiang Television and television stations of Ningde, Wenzhou and Lishui, reported the wooden arch bridges comprehensively, providing support of public opinions for safeguarding the craftsmanship and enhancing the influence and visibility of the element.
(1) Scarce practice opportunities undermine the transmission of the element. In the past, it requires a long time for bearers to train and teach apprentices through practice in building new bridges for the purpose of transmission; however, due to the reduction of newly-built bridges, practice opportunities for young people are scarce, leading to their incompetence in building technologies.
(2) Incomplete safeguarding plans undermine further safeguarding activities. Local governments have issued regulations on safeguarding the element, including Measures for Safeguarding Covered Bridges in Qingyuan County (On Trial) (2010), Measures for Nominating, Evaluating and Safeguarding Representative Bearers and Units of Intangible Cultural Heritages in Taishun County (On Trial) (2011) and Measures for Safeguarding Cultural Heritages in Taishun County (2012), to provide financial and manpower supports for bearers’ transmission activities. For example, the local government in Taishun stipulates that bearers over 65 years old at all levels can be subsidized. Although these measures have raised the motivation of bearers to some extent, it is still difficult to stimulate young apprentices’ enthusiasm in the profession and the transmission force is weak. Local governments also encourage bearers to train and teach apprentices through practice in building new bridges. According to Measures for Safeguarding Cultural Heritages in Taishun County, county government would subsidize 30% of the cost for villages that build new bridges with traditional craftsmanship, but the subsidy for one covered bridge is limited to no more than 300 thousand yuan, making it still difficult to raise enough funds for building wooden arch bridges.
(3) Building materials are scarce. The scarcity of the timber for building the wooden arch bridge makes it difficult for the practice and transmission of the element to continue. Efforts shall be made to restore communities’ custom of planting and safeguarding trees and mountains, achieving balance between communities’ demand for building wooden arch bridges and the safeguarding of natural resources and environment.
Communities and groups have taken the following measures to effectively participate in the transmission and safeguarding of the element:
(1) Take bearers as the subject of the practice. Bearers were directly engaged in the transmission and productivity-oriented safeguarding efforts of the element. In the over 30 practices of building craftsmanship since 2010, 14 bearers (woodworking masters) and 49 practitioners have actively participated.
(2) Take the training and practice centers as bases. Under the guidance of supporting representative bearers to establish training and practice centers, 7 centers have been built (the training and practice center established by Huang Family in Changqiao Town of Pingnan County, the training and practice center established by Wei Family in Zhongyang Town of Pingnan County, the craftsmanship studio established by Huang Chuncai, the training and practicing center established by Zheng Family in Shouning County, the transmission base of covered bridge in Hongjing Town of Qingyuan County, studios of traditional craftsmanship for building wooden arch bridges established by Dong Zhiji and Zeng Jiakuai separately in Taishun County). During the practice of building and renovating bridges, these training centers with the focus on bearers carry out the craftsmanship transmission and cultivate young craftsmen.
(3) Take the participation of communities or local residents as support. It is a custom for local communities to build bridges through donation, and the commencement and completion ceremonies of the bridges are grand events for the communities. In Fujian and Zhejiang, building bridges are usually initiated by local residents and completed through voluntary donation and work, which inevitably involves mass participation. Local residents also participate in the safeguarding work by cooperating with bearers and investigators during investigation and providing clues and data for them. Warmhearted people are selected to patrol the bridge regularly, with the government providing appropriate subsidy. Every time when renovating or building a bridge, local residents in Qingyuan County and Taishun County establish a council composed of a dozen or dozens of members, who work as proprietors of the bridge and take charge of site selection, fund raising, material preparation and building. Although these members do not directly participate in the transmission of the craftsmanship, they provide support for the practice and transmission of it. There is another standing civil organization—the board, or called “bridge board”. Composed of several or over a dozen members, the board is in charge of daily management, maintenance and renovation after the bridge is built. Board members are chosen either from the headmen and members of the council, or elected, or chosen from the public, who are usually lineage leaders or prestigious and warmhearted persons.
(4) Give play to the coordination function of centers for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritages and cultural centers. Responsibilities of Center for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritages in Qingyuan County, Center for the Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritages in Taishun County as well as Cultural Center in Pingnan County and Cultural Center in Shouning County include: coordinating related communities in Fujian Province and Zhejiang Province, urging the implementation of safeguarding measures, supporting bearers and transmission and supporting training and practice centers to carry out safeguarding activities, providing professional guidance, keeping related data and organizing demonstrated training activities.
Based on the scheduled four-year plan (2009-2012) for safeguarding the element, proper adjustments and expansions were made to the plan and several new measures were taken according to the safeguarding practice from 2013 to 2015. Safeguarding activities can be divided into two categories: the first one is carried out regularly in an organized way while the second one is carried out irregularly in accordance with the practical situation and safeguarding demands of that year.
Regular safeguarding activities
(1) Establish training and practice centers to carry out transmission and safeguarding activities. The government has subsidized 280 thousand yuan for such efforts from 2009 to 2015, with towns and villages providing transmission venues and bearers providing tools and materials.
(2) Build, rebuild, relocate and renovate wooden arch bridges to transmit the craftsmanship in practice. From 2009 to 2015, over 30 bridges were relocated and rebuilt, the investment amounts of which are as follows: in Fujian Province, 1,500,000 RMB for Shijin Bridge, 650,000 RMB for Zhuoyang Bridge, 1.36 million RMB for Dengyun Bridge, 1.55 million RMB for Baixiang Bridge, 360,000 RMB for Feiluan Bridge in Jiaocheng District, 650,000 RMB for Jinxian Bridge in Xiekeng Village of Lingxia Town, 1.3 million RMB for the covered wooden arch bridge in Shuiwei Village of Daixi Town and 650,000 RMB for Yipin Bridge in Bei Village of Shuangxi Town, all of which are from government allocations, public donations and enterprise contributions; in Zhejiang Province, 1.2 million RMB for Yingxiu Bridge in Taishun County, 850,000 RMB for Yangwang Bridge, 650,000 RMB for Yinyuan Bridge in Lianyun Village, 760,000 RMB for Jiangjun Bridge in Xinpu Village, 1.3 million RMB for Xiyang Bridge, 900,000 RMB for Lingxia Bridge of Lingxia Village, 750,000 RMB for Zhuping Bridge in Qingyuan County, 800,000 RMB for Mengyu Bridge, 1.1 million RMB for Daji Bridge and 950,000 RMB for Qingzhu Bridge, of which are mainly from public donations, supplemented with government subsidy.
(3) Safeguard wooden arch bridges through nomination and announcement of their cultural relic levels, preserving of related cultural relics, identification of the scopes, marks and responsible authorities, establishment of documentation system, etc. from 2009 to 2015. The government subsidized 3.2 million RMB for these efforts, with relevant towns and villages employing keepers, providing safeguarding venues and purchasing required equipment.
(4) Carry out mapping of wooden arch bridges. From 2009 to 2015, the mapping of 34 bridges was completed, on the basis of which related works were compiled and published. The government subsidized 720,000 RMB for these efforts.
(5) Carry out digitalization activities. From 2009 to 2015, Pingnan County carried out safeguarding activities with the help of digital technology, for which the government subsidized 260,000 RMB.
(6) Develop models and toy blocks of covered bridges. This effort not only provided materials for exhibition, but cultivated young craftsmen through practice. From 2009 to 2015, the government subsidized 210,000 RMB for it while the communities provided raw materials.
(7) Carry out educational and transmission programs in schools and communities. From 2009 to 2015, the government subsidized 750,000 RMB for these efforts, with schools and communities providing venues and manpower and bearers participating in these activities.
(8) Compile textbooks on covered bridge culture for primary and secondary schools. The government subsidized 550,000 RMB for it from 2011 to 2015.
(9) Produce documentaries and publicity materials for the craftsmanship. From 2009 to 2015, the government subsidized 550,000 RMB for these efforts, with communities and bearers providing venues and manpower.
Irregular safeguarding activities
In 2009, an exhibition center of traditional craftsmanship for building wooden arch bridges was established in Pingnan County with an investment of 120,000 RMB, among which 100,000 RMB are from the governmental source and 20,000 RMB from in-kind inputs of bearers and groups. The Third International Symposium on China’s Covered Bridge was held, with funding sources from government subsidy (600,000 RMB) and community donation (260,000 RMB), totaling 860,000 RMB. Bearers also provided models and tools for the symposium.
In 2011, a 3D animation demonstrating the complete technological process of the craftsmanship was made by Qingyuan County with government subsidy of 100,000 RMB. Two books, Traditional Craftsmanship for Building Chinese Wooden Arch Bridges and Qingyuan Covered Bridge were compiled and published with government subsidies of 180,000 RMB and 150,000 RMB separately.
In 2012, the Collection of Papers from the Third International Symposium on China’s Covered Bridge was compiled and published with government input of 120,000 RMB.
In 2013, the Third Forum on Safeguarding China’s Covered Bridge Culture was held in Taishun with government subsidy of 250,000 RMB.
In 2014, an exhibition center of traditional craftsmanship for building wooden arch bridges covering an area of over 400 square meters was built in Changqiao Village of Pingnan County together with a training and practice studio. With an investment of over 2 million RMB from governmental sources, the exhibition center is equipped with art archives and databases of intangible cultural heritages. The Chinese-English bilingual book, Sublimation from Dragon to Rainbow—Introduction to Covered Bridge in Taishun was compiled and published with government subsidy of 150,000 RMB.
In 2015, the Fourth Forum on Safeguarding China’s Covered Bridge Culture was held in Taishun with government subsidy of 350,000 RMB. 4 wooden arch bridges were equipped with digital remote monitoring system, with the government subsidizing 1.32 million RMB for it.
Overall effectiveness of the safeguarding activities
All of the safeguarding activities during the reporting period were carried out in a scientific, reasonable, systematic and comprehensive way. With bearers and practitioners served as subject of these activities, community members also actively participated in them. Efforts were also made to combine documentation with transmission and practice, safeguarding of intangible cultural heritages with that of tangible ones, salvage safeguarding of core technologies with landscape functions in communities, and academic research with public promotion. These efforts ensured the effective safeguarding and transmission of the element, enhanced its viability and made a profound social influence.
(1) Remarkable results of safeguarding practice have been achieved. Evaluation and identification of representative bearers established and improved the mode of transmission while the establishment of spiritual and material rewards specified bearers’ honor, duty and responsibilities and improved their motivations for cultivating young apprentices. Safeguarding activities were carried out in accordance with bridges’ functions in local people's life to benefit related communities and groups in activities of raising safeguarding awareness, thus promoting the development of transmission and safeguarding. Digital safeguarding activities were carried out for future reference. Mapping of wooden arch bridges and identification of their cultural relics levels achieved the balance between intangible and tangible cultural relics safeguarding activities. Holding international symposiums not only promoted academic research and exchange on the element, but enhanced the social influence of safeguarding activities. Furthermore, a large amount of wooden arch bridges were built, rebuilt and renovated in Qingyuan, Pingnan, Taishun and Shouning in recent years, providing an excellent platform for representative bearers to practice their craftsmanship. During on-site building, they trained and taught their apprentices, thereby promoting the transmission of the element effectively. In the meantime, maintaining folk customs in bridge building and safeguarding and the bridges’ geomancy function also improved the effectiveness of community and individual participations in safeguarding activities of the element.
(2) Funds raised for safeguarding activities have been used in an effective way. The funding of safeguarding activities was mostly from governmental sources, with enterprises, communities and individuals also playing an important role, forming a beneficial funding system with multiple channels. Information about funding sources and use is open to the public, ensuring the effective use of the funds.
Experiences and lessons drawn from safeguarding practice
The following experiences are drawn from the transmission and safeguarding practice of six years:
(1) Remarkable results of transmission through practice have been achieved. It is considered as a priority to encourage transmission and safeguarding of the element through practice. Wooden arch bridges are built, rebuilt and renovated by communities and bearers at the frequency of at least one for each year, during which bearers transmit the craftsmanship to young apprentices while community members enhance their knowledge and identification with the element through participation. Based on the custom of raising funds from public donation, the funding channels for safeguarding activities are diversified. Since each new bridge is under the management and supervision of the council composed of villagers and bearers, the funds are used in an economic and effective way. In addition, developing models of wooden arch bridges increase more opportunities for practice, achieving good results.
(2) Promotion and distribution activities enhance the visibility of the element. Although the investment in publicity and promotion activities through multiple channels, including compiling textbooks, publishing related works, producing videos and documentaries, is limited compared to others, it achieves good social effects, especially for the introduction of the craftsmanship into communities and schools, which needs to be further focused in future safeguarding practice.
The following lessons are also drawn from the safeguarding practice:
(1) Although the salvage documenting and digital safeguarding activities have achieved certain results, the technologies applied need to be improved. A large amount of text, photo, recording and video data, core techniques, technological processes, characteristics, folk belief, customs, taboos and tools of the element were collected, providing original materials for recovering the craftsmanship where necessary. Funds invested in these efforts were used effectively while the quality of recorded data at the early stage is below standard due to a lack of technology force and equipment and need to be improved further. In addition, the establishment of databases is still under way and the problem of insufficient human resources also emerges in the safeguarding practice.
(2) Although the number of bearers has increased, the mode of transmission needs to be improved. Transmission and practice training centers were established in order to transmit the craftsmanship in practice, while representative bearers were subsidized by the government. However, for the reason that the problem of young people’s lack of motivation and initiative on the profession is not solved fundamentally, limited investment in these efforts leads to lower-than-expected results. Therefore, more material and human resources need to be invested in these efforts so as to attract more people to participate in the transmission undertaking of the element. In this way, the mode of transmission would be improved.
(1) Bearers take charge of the transmission and promotion of core techniques. Bearers established 7 training and practice centers to carry out safeguarding activities through the practice of building, maintaining and renovating wooden arch bridges. For example, Zeng Jiakuai, a representative bearer at provincial level, trains and teaches apprentices through his studio of traditional craftsmanship for building wooden arch bridges in Taishun County. At present, the studio has cultivated 6 apprentices who have a good command of the craftsmanship.
(2) Since 2010, 33 practice activities of building wooden arch bridges have been carried out in the area where the element is distributed (7 in Shouning County, 3 in Pingnan County, 18 in Taishun County and 5 in Qingyuan County), with 14 bearers (woodworking masters) directing the practice and 49 practitioners and 33 villages participating in these activities. Due to the custom of raising funds from communities, the villages preparing to build or rebuild bridges would establish a council composed of bearers and villagers to raise funds, manage the building process and organize commencement and completion ceremonies. For example, villagers in Guihu Community of Taishun County also spontaneously established an association of covered bridge culture safeguarding, through which 2.3 million RMB were raised. They also carried out practice of transmission through building a wooden arch bridge with 41 meters span. Building and renovation activities in the past six years have greatly enhanced community members’ understanding and knowledge about the craftsmanship as well as their pride and cultural identity.
(3) As the competent bodies responsible for the safeguarding of the element, cultural centers in Pingnan and Shouning as well as centers for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage in Qingyuan and Taishun are in charge of the nomination, collection and management of safeguarding funds, implementation of feasibility research and organization of education, promotion, distribution, demonstration, exchange and digital safeguarding of the element.
After six years of safeguarding practice, the viability of the element has been greatly improved. Local authorities have promised to keep encouraging and supporting bearers to train and teach apprentices and carry out transmission and practice activities through building or renovating bridges, which would enlarge the number of bearers in proper age structure. Related communities, groups and individuals have promised to explore and establish a more effective mode of transmission and achieve the sustainable development of the element in cultural environment of communities.
a. the competent bodies involved in its management and/or safeguarding:
Bureau of Culture, Sports, Press and Publication in Pingnan County of Fujian Province
Bureau of Culture, Sports, Press and Publication in Shouning County of Fujian Province
Bureau of Culture, Radio, Film, Television, Press and Publication (Sports Bureau) in Qingyuan County of Zhejiang Province
Bureau of Culture, Radio, Film, Television, Press and Publication in Taishun County of Zhejiang Province
b. the organizations of the community or group related to the element and its safeguarding:
Huang Family’s Training and Practice Center of Traditional Craftsmanship for Building Wooden Arch Bridge in Changqiao Town, Pingnan County, Fujian Province
Association of Traditional Craftsmanship for Building Wooden Arch Bridge in Shouning County, Fujian Province
Steering Group for the Construction of Covered Bridge in Qingyuan County of Zhejiang Province
Civil Council of Bridge Building in Qingyuan County of Zhejiang Province
Dong Zhiji’s Traditional Craftsmanship Studio for Building Wooden Arch Bridges in Taishun County of Zhejiang Province
Zeng Jiakuai’s Traditional Craftsmanship Studio for Building Wooden Arch Bridges in Taishun County of Zhejiang Province
Association for the Safeguarding of Covered Bridge Culture in Taishun County of Zhejiang Province
Association for the Safeguarding of Covered Bridge Culture in Guihu Village, Taishun County, Zhejiang Province
Society of Covered Bridge Culture in Wenzhou City of Zhejiang Province
Cultural Center in Pingnan County of Fujian Province
Cultural Center in Shouning County of Fujian Province
Center for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Qingyuan County of Zhejiang Province
Center for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Taishun County of Zhejiang Province
(1) The government organized the preparation of this report with the participation of experts. The government established a working group for the report on the status of the element composed of community representatives, bearer representatives, experts, scholars and delegates from centers of intangible cultural heritage, cultural centers and relevant responsible authorities. The working group allocated the appropriate funds for organizing the experts in carrying out research and data collecting. In the symposium held in Fuxia Village of Yayang Town in Taishun County in November 2013, experts in the field concerned discussed the content of the report. To assist the preparation of the report, Society of Covered Bridge Culture in Wenzhou City compiled the Chronicle of Covered Bridge Safeguarding in Taishun over the Past 30 Years.
(2) Bearers provided first-hand data for the report. Based on the bottom-up mechanism, the report was prepared with comprehensive involvement of bearers, therefore reflecting bearers’ opinions and suggestions to the full. For example, 7 bearers including the bearer at the national level Huang Chuncai and the bearer at provincial level Huang Minping participated in the writing and research of the report. In November 2015, the bear at the national level Dong Zhiji provided the report with text, photo and video data related to the transmission practice and safeguarding carried out by his training and practice center in Lingbei Village of Taishun County, Zhejiang Province.
(3) Communities participated actively. Community members, especially those from villages and families engaged in the transmission of the craftsmanship, actively cooperated in the preparation of the report. In December 2015, community members in Jushui Town of Qingyuan County closely cooperated with the bearer Hu Miao and other investigators by providing clues and information. The precious digital, photo and video data provided by community members laid a good foundation for the completeness and comprehensiveness of the report.
Director General, Bureau for External Cultural Relations, Ministry of Culture, People's Republic of China