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.