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UPDATED: 15:29, June 22, 2004
Worries concerning Dragon Boat Festival
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It is another 5th day of the 5th lunar month and another Dragon Boat Festival (Duan Wu).

Photo:People in Taipei celebrate Dragon Boat Festival
People in Taipei celebrate Dragon Boat Festival
However, this year's Dragon Boat Festival is accompanied by a secret worry - a few years from now will Dragon Boat Festival still be China's holiday? This is not at all a baseless worry. In April a piece of new broke out - a neighboring country planned to apply for recognition of Dragon Boat Festival as its world heritage. The Chinese were astounded: How come our two-thousand-year long Dragon Boat Festival becomes cultural heritage of other country! Although it was later confirmed that the "Jiang Ling Duan Wu Memorial Rites" the country was applying for is a kind of sacrificial activity, which is different from China's Duan Wu (Dragon Boat Festival). But one thing is certain that it indeed evolved from China's Duan Wu. If the said country successfully applies for it China can no longer apply for world heritage in the name of "Duan Wu".

From this new worries can give rise. It's not only Duan Wu, other traditional Chinese festivals such as the Spring Festival, Lantern Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival and Double Ninth Festival etc. have already blended into the cultures of our neighbors and acquired their respective features. Is it possible that one day another neighbor wants to apply for them as world heritages? This may sounds overanxious but is not at all unwarranted. It was learned that apart from traditional holidays there have been precedents that China's traditional folk cultures have been applied for as world heritages by other countries. For example, some other countries have applied in advance for the traditional Shadow Play and the Mongolian Horse Head Instrument (a bowed stringed instrument with a scroll carved like a horse's head).

On the other hand the fact that Duan Wu was applied for in advance by other country serves as a warning, that is, first we should have a crisis awareness and discard the thinking that things belonging to our ancestors can not be taken away. Since we are going global we should act in line with international practice. Things needing protection must be protected and things that need applying for must be applied for in case others should preempt us. Second, we should enhance our consciousness in immaterial heritage protection. Over the years the Chinese people have reinforced their awareness in protecting tangible heritages. Up to now China has had 29 cultural and natural heritages signed in on the World Heritage List, following Spain and Italy as the third largest world heritage country. By comparison the Chinese people are much less conscious in protecting immaterial heritage.

Photo:People in Taipei celebrate Dragon Boat Festival
People in Taipei celebrate Dragon Boat Festival
It is still not too late to mend the fold after a sheep is lost. It was learned that relevant departments are pressing on with the work and organizing experts to have all traditional holidays including the Spring Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn and Double Ninth Festival "packaged" in order to collectively report these as "Masterpieces of The Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" set up by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

In this year's Duan Wu the Chinese people seem to be more cherishing. They make Zongzi (pyramid-shaped dumpling made of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves), wear perfume bag, hold Dragon Boat competition and drink realgar wine etc. Some long-disappeared traditions and folk-customs reappeared in many places. Perhaps it is because faced with the danger of loss the thing in question becomes more valuable.

By People's Daily Online

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