By ZhengHaiou and Qing Yuan
More and more inheritors of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) in China are taking it to online platforms tointegrateICH into modern life, in an attempt to attract more public attention onand consumption of ICH-related products,win people’s respect for theirwisdom andcraftsmanship, and showcase the charm of cultural heritage.
QiaoXue,a young inheritor of handmade leather art,an item oftheICH list of Yinchuancity in northwest China’s Ningxia HuiAutonomous Region,opened an account on short video platform Douyin, also known as TikTok last July to show her expertise in leather carving. In less than a year, Qiao has hosted nearly 60 livestreamingshows on the platform, selling handmade leather products totaling two million yuan (around $282,789), with the highest turnover created in a single livestreaming show hitting450,000 yuan.
A project aiming at better promoting and inheriting ICH was launched on Douyin in April 2019. According to the platform,more than 40 ICH inheritors participating in the projecthad gained over a million followers in the past year.
So far, clips uploaded on Douyin have featured 96 percent of China’s national intangible cultural heritage projects, or 1,318 items. The number of videos related to intangible cultural heritage programs posted on the platform hashit 48 million, with more than 200 billion views and nearly 6.5 billion likes.
On June 13, China’s Cultural and Natural Heritage Day,the country’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism(MCT) launched a series of online promotional events for ICH, broadening the way of ICH protection, inheritance and development.
Diversity was a major highlight of the promotional events. Over a thousand ICH documentaries and feature films were played online, and online discussions about ICH were joined by both internet influencers and young icons. Besides, livestreaming platforms invited users to share their stories about ICH, and e-commerce platforms jointly held an online shopping festival to promote the sales of ICH products.
Many Chinese internet platforms, such as Tencent Video, Iqiyi, Douyin, KuaishouandSinaWeibo, have recently launched characteristic ICH sections to showcase relevant videos and images.
Tencent Video, for example, focusingon Chinese cuisine,launched food documentaries such as Breakfast in China and Flavorful Origins to display the charm of traditional Chinese food listed as ICH items.
Its rival Iqiyi createddocumentary series on ICH items that are frequently seen in movies and TV dramas, includingembroidery, velvet flower, Kunqu operaandPeking Opera.
Douyinused a combination of short videos and livestreaming to showcase ICH items such as traditional Chinese oral stunts and Guqin, a seven-stringed plucked musical instrument in some ways similar to the zither, in an attempt toencourageits users to participate in online discussions and share their own stories about ICH.
The young generation representsthe future of ICH.The promotional events, staged online in youth-friendly formats and inviting innovative, pioneering and fashion-sensitive youth representatives, has found a more trendy approach to promote ICH.
SinaWeiboinvitedcelebrities, online influencers in culture and art, and ICHinstitutes across the countryto join hotspot topics, calling on the young people to pay more attention to ICH protection by sharing stories about ICH, introducing splendid ICH items, and improving public ICH literacy.
Kuaishou, a popular Chinese short video and livestreaming platform, launched ICH-related hashtags to encourage more young craftsmen to display the making of ICH handicrafts in a more youth-friendly way.
In an effort to introduce more ICH resources to e-commerce platforms and establish a new chain linking ICH production and consumption, e-commerce platforms including Alibaba, JD.com, and Pingduoduo jointly held a shopping festival to promotethe sales of products related to ICH with the support of the MCT, the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) and the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development.
Nearly 6,500 online shops across the country joined the festival, selling over 80,000 kinds of products related to around 4,500 ICH items. It is reported that anICH-themed livestreamingmarketingheld in Nanchong, southwest China’s Sichuan provincegarnered over 30 million yuan in just four days.
As COVID-19prevention and control becomes regular in China, online eventsare a new trend, and to host ICH-themed shopping festivals is also an important measure for the country to advance poverty alleviation during the COVID-19 epidemic, said an official with the MCT.
So far, the country has established over 2,000 ICH poverty-relief workshops coveringmore than 2,200 ICH items. These workshops have offered training for nearly 180,000 people, created about half a million jobs and lifted over 200,000 impoverished households out of poverty.