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Preserving folk culture

By Liao Danlin (Global Times)

09:03, September 11, 2012

Local food exhibition. (GT/Liao Danlin)

The tourism industry: helping ethnic minorities?

The five-day Yining folk culture festival came to an end on Sunday. Held in Yining, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, it featured folk singing, dance performances, horseback riding competitions, food and travel exhibitions, and cultural and economic forums.

The festival aims to promote traditional folk cultures in Xinjiang and develop some of the cultural activities as tourist attractions.

Yining covers 755 square kilometers and has a population of 580,000. Located northwest of Xinjiang, it was once an important juncture in the Silk Road and was China's historical gateway to Central Asia, Russia and Europe. With its historical background and geographical advantages, the city boasts a mixed culture of different ethnic groups and influences from neighboring countries.

However, following the economic development and modernization of the city, many ethnic groups have abandoned old ways of living, leaving behind only skeletons from their traditions for tourist purposes.

Business model

The Yining folk culture festival held three dance and singing shows, presenting traditional art forms from the Hui, Uyghur and Hazak ethnic groups. The Hazak performance, held in the center of a park, attracted many local residents.

Kanjibieke Daken, deputy mayor of Yining and organizer of the Hazak performance, told the Global Times that the large number of people attending reflected the love for these traditional art forms.

He said that "Hazak Ayer tes," a folk singing art form has applied to be one of UNESCO's intangible cultural heritages.

Addressing the purpose of the festival, Cheng Xuewen, deputy mayor of Yining said it is not only a celebratory event, but also a way to develop programs and performances for new tourist centers in Yining. The food and travel competition, for instance, will find a platform to continue the exhibition in newly established tourist centers.

Li Ningping, the Secretary of the Yining municipal committee of the CPC, said during an economic forum at the festival that the Yining government aims to promote its travel industry as an integral part of its economic development. The folk culture festival is part of the local government's plan to preserve traditional ethnic folk cultures.

Besides art, dances and singing, other traditional customs of the Hazak, Hui and Uyghur ethnic groups are also turning into tourist attractions.

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