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Preservation and Development of National Minority Cultures in China

State Ethnic Affairs Commission

September 21, 2006

China government has always attached great importance to the work on national minority cultures, and has formulated and implemented a series of laws, regulations and policies on this regard, to proactively support and assist the various ethnic minorities to develop their own cultures. The efforts include: establishment of working agencies on national minority cultures, enhanced cultural infrastructure construction and cultivation of significant amount of ethnic minority cultural professionals; strengthened rescue and preservation of cultural heritage, including the collection, reorganization, research and development of large volumes of ethnic minority arts and folklores, and maintenance of numerous national minority historic cultural sites; support of cultural innovation for ethnic minorities, where on the basis of inheriting traditional cultures, to create many more essential works of ethnic minority cultures with strong ethnic features and new characteristics of the ongoing era; respect of and safeguarding the rights of national minorities in using their native languages and characters, which resulted in continuous development in the fields of news press and publication, film-making and radio- and TV-broadcasting using ethnic minority languages; and organization of cultural activities that are various in forms and rich and colorful in content, purposing in promoting cultural exchanges both internally and externally for ethnic minorities. The implementation of these policy measures guarantees the prosperity and development of national minority cultures in China.

I. Ethnic minority cultural arts are diversified in variety and colorful in content.

Following the pace of socio-economic development in China, the cultural arts of ethnic minorities are becoming more developed gradually, demonstrated from the continuous appearance of many excellent artistic talents and masterpieces.

According to incomplete statistics, to date, there are more than 9000 cultural institutions in the areas covered by national ethnic autonomous entities in China, which include 513 artistic performing groups, 188 artistic performing facilities, 566 libraries, 163 museums, 81 mass arts galleries, 642 cultural palaces and 6894 cultural centers.

Many artistic masterpieces of ethnic minority cultures have been created. In the national level artistic award competitions in recent years, the large-scale stage performance of songs and dances titled Kashkar recommended by the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the Zhuang Opera titled King of Songs recommended by Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and the puppet show titled Lu Huitou (literally means Deer Turning-Back) recommended by Hainan province, have respectively won the 7th, 8th and 9th Wenhua Award (or Essence of Culture Award), with 19 other excellent ethnic cultural programs being granted single-event award. Meanwhile, for the Junma Award (or Courser Award), a national level award specially designed for outstanding cultural arts programs reflecting the life of ethnic minorities in China in the categories of TV broadcasting, movie-making and literature writing, 971 TV programs and 45 people have been awarded for best TV programs, 123 films and 20 directors have been awarded for best movie production, and 630 works and 32 writers have been awarded for best literature presentation.

Internal and external cultural exchanges are frequently undertaken. In the past few years, various cultural and art exchange delegations are organized by relevant agencies to dozens of countries for undertaking performances of ethnic minority songs, dances and acrobatics or exhibiting minority cultural relics. Inner Mongol Radio- and TV- Broadcasting Art Ensemble won a Golden Award in an international chorus competition; Matouqin (a Mongolian stringed instrument with a sculpture of Horse-head) Art Ensemble successfully held a special performance in the Vienna Golden Hall; and the counterpoints of Dong people's vocal chorus are world famous. Moreover, the artistic institutions and ensembles of the various ethnic minority areas often visit other countries as representatives of China and become ambassadors of friendship in the field of cultural exchanges.

China has successfully organized two splendid large-scale national ethnic minority arts festivals respectively in 1981 and 2001. The 3rd National Ethnic Minority Arts Festival co-organized and co-hosted by the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, the Ministry of Culture, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, and the Beijing Municipal Government is held in Beijing during the period of Sep. 5-25, 2006. Through organization of various kinds of cultural activities, these arts festivals work well in demonstrating the diversity and colorfulness of ethnic minority cultures, in promoting inter-culture exchanges, and in activating the cultural life of the mass populations.

The literatures, operas, dramas and musical skills created and performed with ethnic minority languages are preserved and protected. The Tibetan Operas, The Biography of King Gesar and The Reba in songs and narrations that is created and performed in Tibetan language, the Uyghur Dastan, the narrative literature and the operas in songs and narrations created and performed in Uyghur language, the Korean talk shows, the Yanbian narrations and songs and the drum and bell performances created and performed in Korean language, the Mongolian Haolaibao, Xiaokeyare and Wuliger in Mongolian language, and the Zhuang operas in Zhuang language are all very popular among the people. These works help promote the cultures of ethnic minorities and contribute to the diversity and colorfulness of the Chinese national cultural treasure banks.

II. Cultural legacies of ethnic minorities are effectively protected.

More than one million kinds of ethnic minority ancient books are collected nation widely, of which, more than 5000 kinds are published. The state has compiled 5 series of books respectively categorized as The Ethnography of Ethnic Minorities, The Brief History of Ethnic Minorities, The Brief Records of Ethnic Minority Languages, The Brief Introduction of Ethnic Autonomous Entities, and The Survey Findings of Ethnic Minority Socio-History, with more than 400 kinds of books falling into these series. The information provided in these books covers nearly all walks of life of all ethnic groups in China. The state researched, re-edited, translated and published three most recognized ethnic minority heroism epics: The Biography of King Gesar of the Tibetan people, The Life Stories of Jianggar of the Mongolian people and the Manas of the Kirghiz people. Meanwhile, great amount of money was earmarked for re-editing and publishing the traditional Tibetan encyclopedia The Grand Sutra of China; based on previous collection and research work, ten volumes of Collective Records of Ethnic and Folk Cultural Arts were compiled and published, covering the categories of literature, music, dance and the like; a large amount of cultural legacies in the forms of opera, music and dance are rescued, some are not only rescued, but achieved further development, such as the Mongolian Long Tones and the Uyghur Twelve Mukamu that are enlisted into the world non-material cultural heritages recognized by the United Nations for better preservation. The state also earmarked enormous amount of funding resources for maintenance of historic sites that have great cultural values for ethnic minorities, such as the Potala Palace of Tibet, the Kizil Thousand Buddha Grottoes of Xinjiang and many other national key cultural relics and ancient sites, where the input for maintenance and repair of the Potala Palace alone reaches 53 million yuan plus 1000 kilograms of gold. Investments are also made in ethnic areas for repairing existing or establishing new museums for collecting and preserving ethnic and folk cultural relics of minorities, of which, the TibetanMuseum with an input of about 100 million yuan for construction is already in use.

III. Ethnic news press and publishing industry has achieved fast development.

The state has attached great importance to the construction and development of news press and publishing industry of ethnic minorities. As early as in 1948, the Yanbian Daily in Korean language was initiated in the northeastern area of China. Since 1949, the Xinjiang Daily has been published in four versions respectively in Chinese, Uyghur, Kazak and Mongolian languages. In 1951, the first Tibetan newspaper, Qinghai Tibetan Journal, was produced. To date, there are 99 kinds of newspapers that have been published in ethnic minority languages across the nation, with a total volume of 131.3 million copies. Meanwhile, there are 223 kinds of periodicals that are printed in ethnic minority languages, with an annual output of 7.81 million books.

At present, there are 32 publishing houses of various kinds in China that have publications in ethnic minority languages, where the number of ethnic languages being used exceeded 20, the kinds of publications over 4000, and the total copies of publications beyond 50 million. Upon more than 50 years of development, a complete national minority publishing system incorporating publishing, printing and delivering services has been established, with a relatively high coverage rate. This basically safeguards that: every ethnic minority may find due publishing houses producing publications in its native language, and that every minority language has its own publications in the language.

IV. Ethnic minority radio- and TV-broadcasting and movie- making industries have accomplished great achievement.

With the substantive support from the state, following the implementation of the XiXin Project, the Radio- and TV-Broadcasting All Villages Coverage Project, and the movie projecting 2131 Project, the radio- and TV-broadcasting and movie-making industries in ethnic minority areas, especially the border regions of the western China, have achieved great progress.

Currently, in the autonomous areas of ethnic minorities, there are 73 radio broadcasting stations with 441 broadcasting programs, of which 105 programs are in ethnic minority languages. In addition, there are 90 TV stations with 489 broadcasting programs, of which 100 are in ethnic minority languages. The number of relay stations for receiving and transferring TV broadcasting information transmitted by satellites has reached 254,850. Each year, more than 230 movies are translated into ethnic minority languages, and the number of movie projecting agencies accumulated to 2551.

Every day, there are 21 ethnic minority languages being used in radio broadcasting programs either by the Central People’s Radio Station or by radio stations locally managed. The TV programs produced in Mongolian, Uyghur, Kazak, Kirghiz, Tibetan and Zhuang ethnic minority languages are respectively broadcasted by the provincial TV stations of Inner Mongol, Xinjiang, Tibetan, Qinghai and Guangxi. As all these provincial TV programs are transmitted through satellites, they are accessible to the people nation-widely. Moreover, the TV stations managed at prefecture- or county-level in ethnic areas also use more than 10 ethnic minority languages or dialects in their locally produced broadcasting programs, including but not limited to Mongolian, Uyghur, Tibetan, Zhuang, Korean, Kazak, Kirghiz and Dai languages.

The Tibetan People's Radio Station has 20 broadcasting programs in Tibetan language, and the total broadcasting time in Tibetan language amounts to 21 hours a day, covering the whole Tibetan Autonomous Region and various other places inside and outside the territory of China. The Tibetan TV Station was founded in 1985, with its programs being broadcasted through satellite transmission since October 1, 1999. In 2003, the Tibetan Satellite TV Channel was successfully launched in Nepal. Following the operation of the satellite TV channels in Tibetan language, the mass Tibetan people distributed in Tibetan Autonomous Region and other provinces like Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan are provided with more accesses to larger amount of TV programs produced in Tibetan language, which in turn improves the audience rating of their programs. To date, there are 20 TV programs produced in Tibetan language, with a total broadcasting time of 18 hours each day; the comprehensive TV coverage is rated at 86 percent.

V. The cultural life of the mass people is becoming more rich and colorful.

The ethnic minorities in China have their own thick ethnic or folklore cultural traditions. Many ethnic groups have sound reputations for their skillfulness in singing or dancing, with some ethnic communities being recognized as the Ocean of Songs and Motherland of Dances. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, especially after the implementation of the reform and opening up policies, fast pace of socio-economic development has been achieved in China. Accordingly, the development of radio- and TV-broadcasting, movie-making, and news publishing industries of ethnic minorities is continuously promoted. The cultural facility construction at the grass-root level is further strengthened; the folklore tourism to ethnic minority areas is becoming more prosperous; the living standard of the minority peoples is greatly improved; and the accesses to cultural, scientific and technological information are much easier to get. All these elements contribute to an enriched cultural life for the minority populations.

Traditional ethnic cultures are being further revived and activated, where the mass pastoral and rural farmers of ethnic communities are organized for undertaking various kinds of cultural activities like floral festivals, lamp festivals, singing competitions, art performances or labor skills contests, during the times of non-farming season, holidays, traditional festivals or marketing days. Governments at all levels proactively encourage and promote the cultural activities for ethnic minority peoples. For example, the government of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region earmarks a special fund of 30,000 yuan for every cultural center at the township level for organizing cultural activities for the local residents; in Sichuan, there is a popular Ethnic Minority Festival that is highly welcomed by the minority populations, held every four years; Guizhou has appraised and selected 64 townships respectively named as Township of a specific cultural arts since 1994, including: Township of Miao Lusheng (Reed pipe, an instrument) Art, Township of Dong Opera Art, Township of Buyi Octette Art, and Township of Yi Songs and Dances. Many cultural programs promoted in recent years by various ethnic regions, like the International Grassland Culture Festival, the biological tourism, the folklore tourism and other open public cultural activities, have significantly enriched the cultural life of minority peoples, while simultaneously bringing about economic progresses for the local region.

VI. Ethnic cultural industry is witnessing a rising trend in development.

Ethnic minority regions possess abundant ethnic cultural resources, and many provinces boost of minority cultural resources are proactively seeking to discover new ways of utilizing these resources for accelerating the development of the ethnic cultural industry. Taking into consideration the features that the number of ethnic minorities is large and that the types of ethnic cultures are diversified, Yunnan province proposes to build Yunnan into a cultural giant, to make full use of this advantage and promote the ethnic cultural tourism industry, to proactively develop more ethnic cultural products, and to make due efforts in forging well-known ethnic cultural brand, such as the construction of Shangri-la, Lijiang and Dali tourism attractions, as well as the creation and presenting of the song and dance performance titled Yunnan Impressions. These measures have returned Yunnan with sound economic and social benefits.

During the 10th Five-Year Plan Period, Guangxi has synergized and promoted 90 key prioritized cultural projects in the field of ethnic cultural industry, invested about 700 million yuan into these projects. As result, 9 Cultural Industry Demonstration Bases, such as the Baise Jingxi Old Street and the like, are officially inaugurated; and a group of key cultural industry projects represented by Impression-Liu Sanjie are given priority to in gaining government support. These efforts are fruitful. Ethnic cultural industry as a new rising industry has shown its capacity in rejuvenating development that in a short time, it has promoted the constructions of the relevant chain industries like ethnic cultural tourism, arts performance trade, entertainment business and cultural exhibitions and expositions; this also indicates that the cultural industry has a sound development prospect.

(China Development Gateway September 21, 2006)

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