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Heritage Trail project

Congjiang Archive Project: The Fifth Visit Report

Report overview

In November 2009, the Congjiang Archive Project began its second phase. This report highlights the progress of the Congjiang Project and also some key points about the project.


Importantly, there is now a new location involved: Gaoliang Shuizu Village. This brings the number to eleven recording points, including the five ethnic minorities of Dong, Miao, Yao, Zhuang, and Shui.


During this second phase, the recorders received more technical training to use the recording tools. Recorders from the same ethnic minority groups were invited to discuss and communicate based on the recording outline they have drafted. The aim was to develop a more detailed recording outline for each village.


Several concerns were brought up during this phase and from UNESCO’s visit in October, which were:

  • More women are needed as recorders
  • Experiences of the recorders differ in each village according to the recorder’s status in their village
  • Communication and transport still remain a problem to the project.


Read the full report below.


November 28 – December 23, 2009

Congjiang Archive Project

The Fifth Visit Report


On October 30, 2009, the first phase of the Congjiang Archive project reached its conclusion.  From October 14 to 18, Ms. Li Jiangping, National Program Officer for Culture at UNESCO’s Beijing office, and Dr. Heather Peters UNESCO’s Culture Program Specialist, visited Congjiang to conclude and evaluate this phase of the UN-Spanish Government Millennium Goals Funds project. The first phase of the Congjiang Archive project presided by CHP has received full recognition from UNESCO. However, after inspection and evaluation Ms. Li and Dr. Heather Peters raised a few concerns about the project:

1) Why are the recorders from each ten villages all male?

2) Are the villages under-represented by only having one  recorder per village? And how do the ten villages cooperate?

3) Importantly, are the villagers able to successfully document their spoken language into a written document for the archive?

The above notes serve as a supplement report in substitute of the full study report due for this trip, which was not delivered for personal reasons of the project manager. For more information on the previous reports, please refer to the Congjiang section of our website.


Below is the first report of the Congjiang Archive project in its second phase. It is the fifth visit to Congjiang by the project specialists.

The importance of recorders being in key roles

Recorders should be in the key roles of the project to motivate villagers to get involved, and to ensure that the recordings are conducted by the villagers themselves. Since the project is in its second phase, we would like it to feature villagers motivating themselves to record their culture.

Recorders are key to the project as they:

  • are responsible for knowing the mission of the project, structuring the recording and other relevant tasks
  • organize and motivate additional villagers to participate in the project
  • pay for the necessary expenses incurred by the project in a way that is realistic and reasonable according to the specific situations of each village.

Local recorders are the main force necessary to preserve local culture. A platform needs to be provided for the recorders to develop their capacity and reinforce their awareness. This will help ensure they are supported by the majority of the villagers, so they can continue working on preserving the local culture even after the project is over. This will be precious very important aspect of this project.

Work already conducted

The Congjiang Archive project was introduced to the residents of the ten selected villages, through both workshops and individual visits. Name, age, and identity of the 160 people who attended the workshops were recorded.

All  recorders have started to visit local villagers and photograph village activities. Eight of the villages have completed their writings.

Yang Tongrong from Gaozeng village and Meng Tianyuan from Gandong village have motivated their fellow villagers to do their recording together in addition to conducting the work by themselves.

Problems found in villagers’ participation

The situation for recorders differs with each village. People who used to be or currently are officials of the county or village have more influence in their recording work. Villagers from places that are remote and unexposed to tourism are reacting warmly to the project, but reactions from places like Xiaohuang or Basha are relatively indifferent .

A lack of women participants has been recognized.  Women are crucial resources for clothing and handcraft related skills, and women will be invited to teach such skills or make sketches to be preserved. However, it remains difficult to find women recorders.

We have reported the difficulties encountered by the recorders to the county government. Vice-Governor of the county, Mr. Li Zhengrong, has telegraphed a notice to the local governments of all the ten villages to ask for support and facilitation from local officials. For villages with special difficulties, the county government also specifically made phone calls to inform the relevant officials.

More training for the recorders

From December 14 to 19, 2009, CHP organized training and communication among the ten  recorders of the three ethnic minority groups – Dong, Miaoyao, and Zhuang. Each group received two days of training.

Firstly, the recorders from the same ethnic minority groups were invited to discuss and communicate based on the recording outline they have drafted. The aim was to develop a more detailed recording outline for each village.

Modeled on the Mengma Archive, the recorders are expected to learn about specific writing principles for recording texts, and the effective ways to motivate wider participation by the villagers.

Local coordinators have solved the data entry problem with the Congjiang Professional School. Recorders who attended the training have proofread their first drafts. Pictures and videos have been uploaded onto computers, and captions have been added to the texts and the pictures. Recorders  mostly understood specific operational requirements with the different recording tools. Technical requirements for the photos and videos were also communicated to the recorders.

Some recorders raised the issue of expenses. According to the specific conditions of each village, we have decided to pay each recorder RMB100-300 every three months to reflect operational costs.

As part of the original plan, we also plan to pay a service fee every two to three months to each village based on the output. To encourage increased work output, more funding is given to villages with higher outputs. During this training session, we carried out the above policy, and the result and influence of which will still need further examination.

Work in the next phase

We have a new recording point at Gaoliang, which is in Shuizu village, as a part of Xiajiang Town, and have selected Mr. Pan Guanwu (40-year-old, currently a village official) as the recorder. Therefore, the Congjiang Archive project has a total of eleven recording points, including the five ethnic minorities of Dong, Miao, Yao, Zhuang, and Shui.

The local coordinators’ job is to support each recording village, and their main task is to help  recorders motivate more villagers to participate, and to help organize and arrange the photography of larger events. Local coordinators will also work on getting to know the progress of each recorder and reflect on the problems and solutions during the process.

Since the beginning of each year is when most festivals are held, we have decided to reach a conclusion at the end of March and summarize the work during this period.

The telecommunication system of Congjiang is less than satisfactory. Therefore, many recorders cannot be reached via cell phone. During future training sessions, recorders that are hard to reach will be asked to provide relatives’ phone numbers as backup contacts. However, communication is still among the most difficult problems.

Inconvenient traffic forces recorders to deliver the drafts through passengers, and only two recorders are able to input the data into a computer of their own. The rest need to do input at the Congjiang Professional School. We are aware of the necessity of the author proofreading the initial draft and, therefore, the related costs, whether time or money, is to be settled in the next phase.

We are almost certain that there will be more graphs and text to be organized and put together. Local coordinators and some recorders such as Yang Tongrong should be able to initially collect, and maybe even organize these materials. The only concern is the lack of equipment (software and hardware), and some training is also necessary. Our work in the next phase should also address such issues.

Wang Xiaowang

Dec. 29, 2009

CHP would like to thank our volunteer translator, Ruoran Li, for her outstanding translation of this article.

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