Today, June 9th, 2009, an Intangible Cultural Heritage Exposition opened in the City of Chengdu in Sichuan Province in the southwestern portion of China showing cultural displays from around the country.
For those unfamiliar with the terminology, Intangible Cultural Heritage is defined by UNESCO as:
“…the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity. For the purposes of this Convention, consideration will be given solely to such intangible cultural heritage as is compatible with existing international human rights instruments, as well as with the requirements of mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals, and of sustainable development.”
Essentially, this means that intangible cultural heritage includes all those parts of a group of people’s cultural heritage and history that are not manifested in material form, but can take the form of knowledge and skills. Some of the most obvious examples of this are language, foodways, music, dance, craft-making, weaving, building, etc…, all those things that must be learned by doing.
An announcment made by Chinese media reports that of special importance in this year’s expo is Shu Embroidery, which was almost a no-show due to the scarcity of people who still know how to do it. This type of embroidery has been in existence since the Western Han Dynasty, and is unique in its style of stitch and needlework and the mixing of colored threads on satin backgounds from other types of embroidery found in other parts of the country (such as Su embroidery from Suzhou, Xiang embroidery from Hunan, and Yue embroidery from Zhejiang).For the most part, Shu embroidery depicts scenes from the Chinese landscape, and is heavy on images of nature.