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Work to save traditional culture in Guizhou

By  Liu Xiangrui  (China Daily)

08:15, July 24, 2012

Traditional ethnic cultures in China are being increasingly threatened by rapid industrialization and urbanization and should be better protected, said experts who attended a recent forum in southwest Guizhou province.

Guizhou is one of the most poverty-stricken and ethnically diverse provinces in China.

As a result, it has become an important site for the Tencent Foundation, which is owned by the Internet company Tencent Group. Since 2009, the company has carried out various charity projects aimed at preserving local ethnical cultures and reducing poverty.

The foundation also initiated the forum that was held recently in Guizhou's Liping county and was aimed at protecting rural culture in China, especially the cultures of various ethnic groups. The event was attended by more than 100 local officials and scholars as well as representatives from NGOs.

"Many ethnic cultures are now faced with threats," said Zhang Xiaojun, a professor at Tsinghua University, speaking at the forum. "And many ethnic villages are disappearing from the Chinese cultural scene. The situation is serious."

He said various ethnic groups in Guizhou have seen their traditional ways of living, such as mountain farming, change with the advent of globalization. That process has caused many traditional cultures to wither, he added.

"Although no one can stop industrialization or urbanization, we should think more about how we can better preserve these unique arts and pass them down to future generations," said Xie Qingsheng, vice-governor of Guizhou province, who is also a scholar on ethnic culture.

For the five years following the start of the Tencent Foundation's charity work in 2009, the organization has plans to spend more than 50 million yuan ($7.8 miilion) to support singers from various ethnic groups and teach young students at schools.

The work is meant to ensure the passing down of art forms such as the Dong Chorus, which was listed as being an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2009.

Many traditional art forms are being stunted as more and more young people move from villages to cities to seek better lives, leaving behind fewer people who can receive knowledge of the forms.

As a result, some customs have almost died out.

"We intend to set up a multifaceted system to provide education, the preservation of native cultures and boost local economies," said Chen Yidan, CEO of Tencent Group, who started the charity project.

The foundation has also established a special fund and worked with the local government to open a museum and research center dedicated to Dong ethnic music in Liping county.
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