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Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center (CHP) is a small grassroots, legally-registered NGO working to protect cultural heritage across China.

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Heritage Trail project

China Culture and Partnership Project Product 2.1: Congjiang Archive 2009 Annual Report

The Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center (CHP) signed an agreement with the UNESCO in April 2009 known as the “Congjiang Archive Project Stage One Cooperation Agreement”. This program is part of Chinese Culture and Development, a collaboration between the United Nations and the Spanish Government Millennium Goals Fund. The first stage of the contract lasts until October 15, 2009. The following is a summary of the ten main aspects of the project at its initial phase:

I. Preparation

  • CHP began by seeking a suitable project director and ensuring her understanding of the project’s requirements and goals.
  • May 4-9, 2009, the Project Director attended the Congjiang Project Kickoff event where she met all program partners from the UN’s “China Culture and Partnership Project Product 2.1″.

II. Getting in Touch

  • CHP Project Director began establishing relationships with the United Nations and the Spanish Government Millennium Goals Fund, discussing the project’s terms of the agreement and responsibilities of both sides.
  • CHP contacted local governments and organizations in Congjiang County and Guizhou Province. Agreements were worked out with local government officials who provided full support for the project and project workers.
  • CHP sought advice from scholars and experts on proper methods for carrying out the project.
  • CHP visited local cultural workers and researchers and invited them to help put together a project outline.
  • CHP brought together several local residents who were interested in researching and protecting their own cultural heritage. With decades of personal experience with the local culture, the residents have been immensely helpful for CHP’s Congjiang Archive project.
  • CHP will focus the project on ‘transmitters,’ those who pass down the customs and practices of their unique culture. Local villagers are also essential participants in the project and CHP has been working hard to increase their involvement.

III. Investigation

  • Field research was carried out on tourism development in four villages: two villages which were already opened up – Xiaohuang and Basha; one famous but unopened village – Zhanli; and one well-developed but remote tourist destination – Jiabang.
  • Research was conducted in Dong minority regions on special rituals.
  • Research was carried out on two local festivals, Lover’s Day and Chixin Day.

IV. Selections

  • The local Project Director was chosen from a group of experienced and dedicated local Congjiang residents.
  • CHP decided that the Congjiang Project would focus on the integration of culture and development and selected the ten villages as project participants.
  • At least one ‘recorder’ was chosen from each of the ten villages, after taking local officials’ and residents’ advice into consideration.

V. The Archives

  • The Congjiang Cultural Archive’s ten villages are: Dong Minority-Gaozeng, Xiaohuang, Zengchong, Longtu; Hmong-Basha, Dangweng, Bajie; Zhuang Minority-Gandong, Xiarao; Yao Minority-Gaojiao.
  • The sites include four of the most populated, culturally unique villages in Congjiang County. The locations were also selected for their cultural diversity as many villages have their own customs.
  • CHP also planned stages of Congjiang’s future development, from a remote and inaccessible area to a famous and developed tourist destination.
  • Village-level recording and research was made the primary means of compiling the Congjiang Archive.
  • CHP also attempts to incorporate nearby villages into the project, hoping to expand out from the core villages.

VI. Training

  • July 16-23, 2009 | CHP held training for the local directors. The goal was to strengthen the workers’ understanding of the project’s goals and operational structure and raise their sense of responsibility vis-à-vis local culture.
  • September 17-19, 2009 | CHP invited Zhang Haiyang, professor at the Central Minorities’ University and director of the China Minorities Research Center, to give training sessions to the ten “village recorders” on how to carry out the Archives project.
  • September 19-21, 2009 | CHP invited documentary filmmaker Shang Jing to give the ten recorders lessons on how to properly use cameras and recording devices as well as how to accompany images with written records. Shang Jing analyzed each of the recorders’ work, and together they compiled an educational video.
  • The recorders came away from the training session with a greater sense of purpose and a better understanding of the project’s purpose and compilation methods. After the training completion, the recorders were able to properly use recording devices and operate independently according to the guidelines of the Archives project.

VII. Promotions

  • While the local directors were in Beijing, CHP gathered several media outlets and volunteers to participate in a series of lectures and forums. The discussion focused on helping the average person to participate in the protection of cultural heritage.
  • With the support of UNESCO and the Congjiang Cultural Photographs website, CHP’s promotional video “Congjiang, Spirit of Heaven” will be shown in October 2009 at UNESCO’s Global Representative Conference held in Paris.
  • CHP’s website also gives continual updates of the project’s progress and announces upcoming events.

VIII. Project implementation

  • Five of the project villages held conferences on the archives that attracted 160 residents whose ages ranged from 19 to 84.
  • After the recorders held discussions with their fellow villagers, they consulted with village elders, singers, actors, shamans, and other important groups of people on how to carry out the project. Three of the ten project villages have already submitted a progress report for their collection of photographs and records.
  • At the end of October 2009, CHP will finalize the schedule for the next project year (November 2009 to November 2010) according to which the recorders and project participants will be able to plan their future work.

IX. Alterations

  • Information concerning the structure of the project and relegation of duties will be available after the next set of materials for the Archives are turned in order to take into account the wishes of all the village participants.
  • The group of ten villages has not been finalized and as CHP continues to interact with the local residents, the number of locations could raise depending on interest and participation.
  • The local recorders are the backbone of the project. As they raise cultural awareness the scope of the project may expand and the common people will be given a chance to have their voices heard.

X. Problems & Challenges

  • Transportation problems have made it difficult to communicate with and move to and from Congjiang in order to make adjustments to the program.
  • The inability to use computers to record and transfer information makes it difficult to guarantee the quality of the final product.
  • The inability of the project’s core members to cooperate and interact with other projects has led to divergent results in the effectiveness.
  • This was the first time CHP has run a county-level “cultural archive” project that involved a large number of local participants and therefore lacked a precedent to build upon. CHP is very grateful to all those who went out their way to improve the project and give help. CHP hopes the project gave the people of Congjiang a chance to protect their culture and enrich their lives. This has been one of the primary goals CHP has pursued since it became involved in the Congjiang project.

Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center


CHP would like to thank our volunteer translator, Michele Scrimenti, for his outstanding translation of this article.

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