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Alliance celebrates cultural achievements as cooperation grows

By WANG RU in Qingdao, Shandong | China Daily | Updated: 2024-06-21 06:24

Li Qun (left), director of the National Cultural Heritage Administration, signs an agreement with Gloria Annarella Velez Osejo, Honduran minister of culture, arts and heritage, to enhance cooperation in cultural heritage, in Qingdao, Shandong province, on Wednesday. [Photo provided to China Daily]

More Asian countries are working together to protect cultural heritage and promote communication and mutual learning among civilizations.

Uzbekistan and the Maldives became new member states of the Alliance for Cultural Heritage in Asia during its 2nd council meeting in Qingdao, Shandong province, on Wednesday. Honduras also became an ACHA partner state and signed an agreement with China to increase cooperation in the cultural heritage field the same day.

This means the alliance now has 15 member states, four observer states and one partner state.

In 2021, during the Asian Dialogue for Cultural Heritage Conservation co-hosted by China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the National Cultural Heritage Administration, 10 Asian countries, including China, collectively launched the ACHA.

The council meeting this time brought together some 150 representatives from 23 countries and two international organizations to examine last year's achievements and propose future plans.

The meeting announced the alliance's change in status from intergovernmental cooperation mechanism to intergovernmental organization, making it the first regional IGO in the cultural heritage field initiated and led by China.

Li Qun, chairperson of the ACHA Council and director of the National Cultural Heritage Administration, says that since last year, China and other Asian countries have carried out practical collaboration in areas such as the exhibition of cultural artifacts, joint archaeological excavations, and heritage restoration within the framework of the alliance.

For example, solid progress is being made in advancing collaborative projects like the restoration of the Thatbyinnyu Temple in Myanmar, and archaeological excavations of the temple complex of Nateshwar in Bangladesh, Li says.

"We are delighted to see that over the past year, the ACHA has been growing in the right direction, with significant development and effective cooperation. The alliance's influence continues to rise, with member and observer states accounting for nearly half of Asian countries. Its influence has also reached countries and international organizations outside Asia," Li says.

During the ACHA general assembly last year, the Asian Fund for Cultural Heritage Conservation was launched and opened for applications from organizations and individuals across Asia related to restoration, joint archaeological projects, exhibitions and displays, training and academic research.

The meeting announced 15 projects to be funded by the Asian Fund for Cultural Heritage Conservation, benefiting countries such as Iran, Syria, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and the United Arab Emirates. They were carefully chosen by experts from 155 projects submitted according to strict procedures.

"Through collective effort, the ACHA has become an integral part of the global network for dialogue and cooperation among civilizations," says Kong Vireak, ACHA secretary-general.

He says his home country of Cambodia has benefited from cooperation. For example, on a project to protect and restore Chau Say Tevoda, a temple at Angkor, Chinese heritage professionals have applied their expertise to the specific characteristics and restoration needs of the site to devise suitable plans and have achieved notable results.

Phinij Jarusombat, president of Thai-Chinese Cultural and Relationship Council, says Thailand has extensive and in-depth cooperation in the field of the conservation of cultural heritage with China.

"The cultural heritage resources of Thailand, like the Historic City of Ayutthaya, the Ancient Town of Si Thep and its Associated Dvaravati Monuments, and the Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns are treasures of Asia and humanity, just like China's Great Wall and Palace Museum," he says.

He adds that joint archaeological efforts enable both sides to share research progress and deepen understanding of Asian history and culture. Collaboration in organizing exhibitions, academic seminars and cultural communication activities showcases the diversity and charm of Asia's cultures, and enhances mutual understanding and friendship among people.

He urges more practical cooperation on underwater archaeological studies, especially shipwrecks related to the ancient Maritime Silk Road, the restoration of cultural relics, and the exchange and exhibition of artifacts in the future.

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