UNESCO: Intangible Cultural Heritage

According to UNESCO, a country’s intangible cultural heritage (ICH) is made up of practices, representations, expressions, and/or skills that are unique to that place and which have been preserved and passed down through the generations. Unlike buildings, historic places, monuments, and artifacts, which considered are to be “cultural property”, ICH is nonphysical “intellectual wealth” and includes things such as folklore, customs,  beliefs, traditions, knowledge, and language. Oral traditions, performing arts, social practices (such as rituals and festivals), and traditional craftsmanship are the most common examples. Since its establishment in 2008 until August 2021, the list is comprised of a total of 584 elements from 131 countries (40 of which are from China, either in whole or in part).

A sampling of some of the ICH elements which I have experienced are as follows (with the representative country and year inscribed):

  • Acupuncture and moxibustion (China, 2010)
  • Alpinism (France, Switzerland, Italy; 2019; see The Alps)
  • Ancient Chinese wooden architecture (China, 2009)
  • Bunraku puppet theater (Japan, 2008)
  • Calligraphy (China, 2009; see Anhui Calligraphy Arts)
  • Dragon boat festival (China, 2009)
  • Flamenco dance (Spain, 2010)
  • Guqin and its music (China, 2008)
  • Hawker culture (Singapore, 2020; see Little India)
  • Horsemanship (Austria, 2015; see Spanish Riding School)
  • Human towers (Spain, 2010)
  • Jeju Haenyeo, or women’s diving culture (South Korea, 2016)
  • Kimjang, or making and sharing kimchi (South Korea, 2013)
  • Mariachi music (Mexico, 2011)
  • Peking opera (China, 2010; see )
  • Reggae music (Jamaica, 2018)
  • Seal engraving (China, 2009)
  • Shadow puppetry (China, 2011; see Shaanxi Shadow Puppetry)
  • Silk craftsmanship/sericulture (China, 2009; see Zhejiang Silk)
  • Taichi (China, 2020)
  • Zhusuan, or mathematical calculation using the abacus (China, 2013)

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