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Heritage Trail project

Congjiang Archive Project Completes Its First Field Investigation

From May 4th to 8th , CHP’s Congjiang Archive Project officer traveled with officials from UNESCO, UNFAO, and the UNDP-Spain Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund to Guiyang and Congjiang County in Guizhou.  From May 9th to the 18th , the director traveled by herself to continue carrying out investigations, research, and hold discussions and visit with the local people.
The results of the investigations are as follows:

  • The Guizhou Province Private Hmong-Xiu Museum possesses important information that is valuable to the Project.
  • A high-speed railway from Guiyang to Guangzhou and an Inter-province highway from Xiamen to Chengdu will pass through Congjiang County by 2012.  The county government has high expectations for these developments, but they do not have a plan for dealing with the changes that will come to the area.
  • Basha and Xiaohuang villages are already open to tourists.  Guests normally visit to see dancing and other local cultural performances.  Basha has two exhibition halls, one under the supervision of the Tourism Department, the other run by the Culture Department.  Xiaohuang’s exhibition hall is barely 30 square meters.  The exhibits are very small, rarely open, and you have to rely on your tour guide for explanations.

  • Pan Laoxian, the singer/ director of the performance troupe, told our project officer that the Dong minority has over three hundred songs that they regularly perform strictly from memory.  The villagers like singers who not only can sing well, but can also perform many songs.  Rural photographer, Yang Tongrong, has already taken over ten thousand photographs of the Congjiang area. He has also made many recordings of local songs and customs.  As repositories of folk culture, these records will do much to preserve and help spread village customs and traditions.
  • The Congjiang Photo Web (www.cimsy.com) is run and compiled by county government officials and workers in addition to one local farmer.  They set up this webpage out of their own personal interest in minority culture and photography.  The photographers are all local Dong and Hmong, some have spent more than 20 years studying minority culture and whose sense of responsibility toward culture preservation has compelled them to visit almost every corner of Congjiang County to document local customs.  These volunteers not only are good at photography and writing, they also are well-versed in Congjiang area and know how to use modern technology like the internet to aid them in their preservation work. They are appropriate candidates of local project officers.
  • The Congjiang Cultural Office is currently working on the application to include Cong Jiang in World Intangible Heritage list of UNESCO.  The application, which is composed of photographs and articles, will be compiled until 2012. The application will focus on folk music, culture and customs.  This application materials will be very valuable to the Project.
  • Zhanlicun has been able to maintain its original environment without having to deal with tourism.  The natural scenery in the area remains pristine and every household has their own small fish pond, ducks and other livestock.  All of the space is used and organized in an orderly manner.  Over the dozen villagers interviewed so far, each came from a family of two children; one boy, one girl.  After interviewing the headmaster of the local school, it was discovered that 90% of the families at the school have one son and one daughter.  The locals also used several types of herbal medicine that seem to be unique to the area.  Their effectiveness is uncertain. The local experts and cultural administrators say it is more the effect of proper administration, villagers’ consensus and customs.
  • The investigation group also visited Qingyun, a village in the area where Dong residence was first recorded.  The group was able to watch the “Welcome Sasui Ceremony.”  Sasui is a Dong goddess of protection and heroine.  The legend has it that she sacrificed herself near Qingyun on Sasui Mountain.  All Dong villages have a temple which contains dirt taken from this sacred mountain.  The soil spreads the goddess’s blessings on the village as well as guarantee peace and good harvests.  The ceremony is only conducted when one of these Sasui temples needs to be repaired.  The county culture department recorded the ceremony for the application of World Heritage, and the local government paid part of the costs of the event, which was hosted by a local elder.  The ceremony went off without a hitch.
  • Congjiang in total has five ethnic minorities each with their own unique and vibrant culture.  The exploratory group recommends the local people work together to create a map of the important landmarks and representative villages so that it will be easier to complete cultural preservation projects like the Congjiang Archives.

After the rainy season passes, the director will return to the Congjiang area and continue her research. Her project will focus on the following areas:

  • Decide on a local director and coordinate this person’s work responsibilities with the local government;
  • Visit several different types of local minority villages and determine the basic limits of the project’s work area;
  • Locate cultural repositories and find cultural recorders who can participate in the project;
  • Continue discussing and formulating the framework of the Congjiang project with local culture researchers and village elders;
  • Invite the local project coordinate to Beijing to research and receive training.

Jiabang Terrace in Congjiang

A Dong village

An elder in Xiaohuang Village

A performer in Xiaohuang Village

Gunmen of Basha

The elders lead the Sasui-welcoming procession

CHP would like to thank our translator volunteer, Michele Scrimenti, for his outstanding translation of this article. It is his help that enables CHP to update the audience around the world with cultural heritage protection news in China.

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