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Four local ICH items successfully inscribed onto national list of intangible cultural heritage

     Four intangible cultural heritage (ICH) items from Hong Kong have been successfully inscribed onto the fourth national list of ICH. They are the Hang Hau Hakka Unicorn Dance, Wong Tai Sin Belief and Customs, Quanzhen Temples Taoist Ritual Music and the Arts of the Guqin. The list was announced by the State Council earlier.

     At the invitation of the Ministry of Culture in September 2013 on application for inscription onto the national list of ICH, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government submitted the application prior to the deadline in November last year after consulting the views of the experts of the ICH Advisory Committee.

     The four successfully inscribed items are in the categories of "performing arts", "social practices, rituals and festive events" and "traditional craftsmanship" defined by the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage promulgated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. With outstanding historical and cultural value, these four items are representative of their kind.

     Details of the four items are as follows:

(1) Hang Hau Hakka Unicorn Dance

     The activity has been practised for more than 200 years. The Hakka people believe the Chinese unicorn, the qilin, is an auspicious animal that can ward off evil and bring good luck. So, on all celebratory occasions such as Chinese New Year, weddings, birthday parties, the inauguration of an ancestral hall, moving into a new home, welcoming guests, the Jiao festival and birthdays of deities, there would invariably be a unicorn dance. Since the Hakka people brought the unicorn dance, fusing local traditional music and martial arts, with them to Hong Kong, the unicorn dance has developed its own styles and sequence of movements.

(2) Wong Tai Sin Belief and Customs

     The folk religion of Wong Tai Sin originated in the Jinhua area of Zhejiang Province and was introduced into the Lingnan region at the turn of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Local Wong Tai Sin belief and customs originated in 1915. In 1921, Sik Sik Yuen was established to manage the Wong Tai Sin Temple. After a century of inheritance, nowadays the folk religion of Wong Tai Sin has developed in conjunction with charitable features and has been widely circulated in Hong Kong and overseas Chinese communities. Sik Sik Yuen has founded various social services for the local community, achieving Wong Tai Sin's "grant every wish" spirit.

(3) Quanzhen Temples Taoist Ritual Music

     Taoist ritual music consists of Zhengyi (Orthodox Unity School) and Quanzhen (Complete Perfection School) traditions. The Quanzhen Temples Taoist Ritual Music has been developed in Hong Kong for many years. The Taoist music inherited by Fung Ying Seen Koon is considered one of the most typical representatives of the Quanzhen temples tradition in Hong Kong. After decades of inheritance in Hong Kong, the liturgical music of Fung Ying Seen Koon has evolved into a kind of Taoist music with local characteristics under the influence of Cantonese opera and its singing style, Cantonese tunes, and other religious music genres such as Confucian and Buddhist music.

(4) The Arts of the Guqin

     The Arts of the Guqin include the techniques for making the qin (a seven-stringed plucked instrument). Qin making is a craft that starts with chopping and trimming a piece of wood, and involves nine steps, namely seeking, chopping, hollowing, fitting, assembling, cement priming, sanding, lacquering and stringing, until it reaches the final stage of becoming an instrument. Local craftsmanship of qin making can be traced back to Xu Wenjing, a master qin player of the Zhejiang school (pai). He taught the craft to Choi Chang-sau, whose family operated the Choi Fook Kee musical instrument shop, in the 1950s. Choi Chang-sau started the Qin Making Class, teaching the craft publicly to local qin players so that it can be perpetuated in Hong Kong.

     The State Council announced three batches totalling 1 219 items inscribed onto the national list of ICH in 2006, 2008 and 2011. The governments of Guangdong, the HKSAR and the Macau Special Administrative Region jointly applied and succeeded in inscribing Cantonese opera and traditional herbal teas onto the national list of ICH. In 2011, four local ICH items, the Cheung Chau Jiao Festival, the Tai O dragon boat water parade, the Tai Hang fire dragon dance and the Yu Lan Ghost Festival of the Hong Kong Chiu Chow community, were successfully inscribed onto the third national list of ICH.

     The HKSAR Government will continue its commitment to preserving and promoting local ICH and will also encourage the participation of the community in supporting the transmission and development of Hong Kong's traditional culture.

Ends/Friday, December 5, 2014
Issued at HKT 19:57


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