China has not yet decided whether it will nominate Duanwu Festival (Dragon Boat Festival) to be included in UNESCO's intangible culture list, but if it does, the presence on the list of a similar Korean festival that occurs at the same time will not be an obstacle, a senior cultural official said yesterday.
Zhou Xiaopu, an official in charge of heritage applications at the Ministry of Culture, made these comments in response to reports that China's food industry association had proposed making the festival an applicant for inclusion in UNESCO's Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity list.
Zhou added that her ministry had not received any formal application concerning the festival yet.
"The festival has to be included on China's preparatory list first before it can be recommended to UNESCO as a candidate for the oral and intangible heritage masterpiece list," she said.
To be included on the preparatory list, the food industry association will have to submit documents supporting the application, which will be examined and approved by a team of cultural experts, she said.
Falling on the fifth day of the fifth month in the lunar calendar, Duanwu Festival, is usually celebrated with boat races and the eating of zongzi, pyramid-shaped dumplings made of glutinous rice and wrapped in bamboo leaves.
South Korea's Gangneung Danoje Festival, which occurs at the same time and has roots in Chinese culture, is celebrated with masked performances and traditional Korean games.
When the news that the Republic of Korea planned to nominate its Gangneung Danoje Festival for inclusion in the UNESCO list in 2005, many Chinese people thought China would lose its "patent" on the celebration.
The furore eventually died down, but the widespread interest in protecting traditional Chinese festivals remained. The festival has been the focus of such interest.
Wen Yangyang, deputy secretary-general of the China Food Industry Association, said the association had submitted a proposal in 2005 urging the government to add traditional festivals to the State list of intangible cultural heritage.
That and five other traditional festivals, including Spring Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival, were added to the list last year.
"Last year, more than 10,000 people signed a banner calling for the festival to be recognized as part of the world's intangible heritage," Wen said.
The Ministry of Culture is reportedly ready to accept application documents for the preparatory list.
However, Zou Qishan, a ministry official, said China would not recommend the festival for inclusion on the UNESCO list this year.
Zou added that it was still heartening to see that so many care about the country's intangible heritage.
UNESCO defines intangible cultural heritage as "the practices, representations, expressions, as well as the knowledge and skills, that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage."
source: China Daily