xi's moments
Home | Heritage

The race to record disappearing cultures

Following on from Yunnan pilot, the national library launches project to document traditions of small-population ethnic groups, Wang Qian reports.

By Wang Qian | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-05 08:12

The big drum dance of the Jino ethnic group, a national intangible cultural heritage, at the performance showcase.[Photo by Jiang Dong/China Daily]

When Pumi ethnic group singer Rongbaxinna visited Cao Changshou, a famous Pumi storyteller in his 90s in Yunnan province in 2018 and 2021, she knew that the clock was ticking on preserving the traditions, cultures and languages of the 28 small ethnic groups in China, each of which has a population of just under 300,000.

As the last generation fluent in the language and culture of the Pumi ethnic group, which has about 45,000 members, Cao passed away after Rongbaixinna's last visit, with only 20 ancestral tales recorded in his mother tongue.

"The loss of the elders of these ethnic groups is heartbreaking to see; they are like living museums, who store cultural treasures in their minds. We must rescue and record these treasures before they are gone," Rongbaxinna says.

The 43-year-old was taught to sing by her grandfather, whose melodies always transported her to a dreamland in her childhood imaginings. His death rang the alarm for her to rescue disappearing traditional art forms, and she set up a national database to record the cultural heritage of these small ethnic groups.

As the initiator of the archival project for the oral traditions of ethnic groups with small populations, Rongbaxinna describes the project as a race against time as many unique, centuries-old traditions, traditions of song, dance, crafts and festivals, are already under threat, and in some cases may soon disappear.

Thanks to a pilot program launched by the National Library of China, the Yunnan Provincial Publicity Department and the Yunnan Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection Center in 2018, the cultures of eight ethnic groups in Yunnan — the Jingpo, Blang, Achang, Pumi, Nu, De'ang, Derung and Jino — have been listed, and four have already been documented.

1 2 3 4 Next   >>|
Global Edition
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349