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Xinjiang's music may join world list
By Qin Chuan (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-27 06:16

Uygur Mukam, the melodious centuries-old music from Xinjiang, might soon become an art form deemed to be internationally-recognized intangible cultural heritage.

The genre dates back to the 15th century and comprises narrative and dance music created by the ancient Uygur people.

If listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Mukam will join Guqin Music and Kunqu Opera on the global list.

Intangible cultural heritage is defined by the UNESCO as "the practices, representations, expressions, as well as the knowledge and skills, that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage."

The UNESCO began to list intangible cultural heritage in 2001 and has so far proclaimed 47 as masterpieces, including Kunqu in 2001 and Guqin two years later.

The UNESCO adds new items to the list every two years and each country is permitted to nominate one each time.

For UNESCO's November release of the list, China this year chose to recommend Mukam, Vice-Minister of Culture Zhou Heping revealed at a news conference in Beijing yesterday.

Other Chinese forms seeking similar status are kung fu of Shaolin and tai chi (shadow boxing).

But UNESCO listing is certainly not the sole focus of the government. China will conduct a nationwide survey this year to have authoritative data on the kind, number and distribution of intangible heritage in the country, Zhou said.

At the same time, China's Law on the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been drafted and is under review.

The country will start listing forms of heritage at State, provincial, city and county levels.

State-level heritage means that the subject has high art value which faces the threat of extinction; and would be placed under a well-designed protection plan.

Zhou said the Chinese Government attaches great importance to protecting intangible heritage in the country, "which boasts 56 ethnic groups who have contributed immensely to the rich and diverse culture crystallized in the civilization of the Chinese nation."

(China Daily 04/27/2005 page2)

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