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Beijing Stages Exhibit on Quake-Threatened Qiang Culture

An exhibit on the culture of the Qiang ethnic minority opened in Beijing on Saturday, part of the government's drive to raise public awareness of the need to protect the minority culture, whose survival has been threatened by last month's earthquake.

The exhibit, in the Cultural Palace of Nationalities in downtown Beijing, opened on China's third National Cultural Heritage Day and runs until June 30.

The exhibit features more than 100 depictions of the daily accessories and traditional garments of the ethnic group. Pictures and documentaries of the Qiang before and after the magnitude-8.0 quake on May 12 are also on show.

The most distinctive Qiang accessories, including embroidery, hats in the shape of monkey heads and sheep skin drums were all on display.

The show also features 15 precious cultural relics salvaged from the epicenter, Wenchuan County in southwest China's Sichuan Province, and 18 damaged relics collected from a Qiang-inhabited walled village.

Yang Jing, the State Ethnic Affairs Commission director, said the exhibit aimed to promote more awareness of the need to save and pass on the cultural heritage of the Qiang Minority.

The habitats of the Qiang ethnic minority, with a population of about 306,000, were in the areas worst hit by the quake. They include Miaoxian, Lixian, Beichuan, Heishui and Wenchuan counties, all in Sichuan Province.

Many heritage sites were severely damaged, while people who were heirs to some intangible heritage items, such as dance, handicraft and religion, were killed, said Wei Ronghui, the museum deputy curator.

The Qiang, who live mainly in northwestern Sichuan, are a very ancient ethnic group in China. The earliest documents mentioning them were inscribed bones or tortoise shells from the Shang Dynasty (16th-11th century BC) in central China about 3,000 years ago.

Their language, architecture and costumes are unique, as are their customs, arts and religious beliefs. They are famed for the stone castles they live in, often three or four stories tall.

(Xinhua News Agency June 15, 2008)

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