Monday, November 30, 2009

Fascinating showcase highlights Chinese intangible cultural heritage

By Nancy T. Lu

“Root and Spirit: Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritage Exhibition” at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei calls for an eye-opening visit.

But not many people are aware of the rare possibility of seeing such an amazing and colorful array of traditional arts and crafts from China all under one Taipei roof until December 6.

Of the over 200 items from China on display, the elaborate costume worn by legendary Chinese opera artist Mei Lan-fang in his portrayal of the exalted imperial concubine, Yang Kuei-fei, in the Chinese opera titled “The Romance of the Imperial Concubine” back in 1925 to 1926 stands out. Next to it are the age-old Chinese musical instruments on which Chinese opera musician Mei Yu-tian, the uncle of Mei Lan-fang, played more than a century ago.

An enormous ancient handloom originating from Nanjing for brocade weaving dominates the display hall on the ground floor. The exhibited collection also includes an ornately carved bridal sedan in which young girls from Jiangnan or an entire area south of the Yangtze River rode on their wedding days in the late Qing Dynasty.

Early Qing Dynasty Tibetan tanka referring to handmade tassels, fringes, and cords can also be found on view. There is also a bronze human figure with all the acupuncture points marked out. This is said to have been modeled after the original one created by acupuncture scholar Wang Wei-yi in the 11th century.

Traditional shadow puppet theater from Chaozhou, Fujian Province, comes alive in one room in the basement exhibition area. More than 10 arts and crafts are demonstrated daily here, too. The making of classic New Year prints. paper-cutting, Tibetan tanka tying, Miao tribe’s silver ornament hammering, bamboo carving, sugar syrup sculpture shaping, ancient string musical instrument playing, creating of inksticks used in Chinese calligraphy as well as embroidery by ethnic minorities vie for attention in crowded space. Purchases can be made on the spot.

The UNESCO puts great importance on the preservation of intangible cultural heritage. “Root and Spirit” is a major cross-strait project along this line. The Chinese Cultural Association and the Shen Chun-chi Foundation have collaborated closely to make the exhibition of “Root and Spirit” in Taipei and Taichung possible.

The exhibition of the creativity of traditional Chinese artisans and craftsmen will move to the Taiwan Architecture, Design and Art Center (the former TTL Taichung Distillery), better known as the TADA Center, at 362 Fuxing Road in Taichung City from December 11 to 20. Admission is free.

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