China makes solid progress in reducing poverty through the promotion of intangible cultural heritage

Women from Miao ethnic group work on a batik product at an indigo dyeing workshop for poverty alleviation in Danzhai county, southwest China's Guizhou province, Aug. 25. Photo by Huang Xiaohai/People's Daily Online

Intangible cultural heritage, apart from being protected, is also playing an important part in China’s poverty alleviation efforts.

A total of over 2,200 intangible cultural heritage workshops have been built nationwide since July 2018 under the support of the country’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. These workshops have created half a million jobs, lifting more than 200,000 households out of poverty.

The lack of skills always hinders poor households from getting rid of poverty. However, many impoverished regions are blessed with abundant traditional handicrafts. Intangible cultural heritage resources, such as traditional paper cutting, embroidery, painting, forging, and architecture, all serve as advantages for these areas when they strive to get rid of poverty.

In Linxia Hui autonomous prefecture, northwest China’s Gansu province, Zhang Hongjie, who once suffered from poverty, has embraced a well-off life after learning brick carving at an intangible cultural heritage workshop. The workshop offers stable jobs for many from the local community, who can make an average of over 4,000 yuan ($612) a month working there.

In the mountainous village of Maliao in Qiandongnan Miao and Dong autonomous prefecture, southwest China’s Guizhou province, silver forging and tourism have been prospering after the village established intangible cultural heritage workshops. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 earlier this year led to a significant drop in the number of tourists and sales of silver ornaments.

Thanks to an intangible cultural heritage-themed shopping festival, which was organized by major e-commerce platforms under the support of China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Ministry of Commerce and the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, the village finally found a way out to expand the sales. The shopping festival created an online outlet for relevant departments and enterprises of intangible cultural heritage, as well as intangible cultural heritage workshops.

Pan Shixue, a silversmith, was quite excited about the online shopping festival. Receiving e-commerce training, he discovered the huge potential of online shopping. “Now our silver ornaments are directly linked with the urban markets, and we are confident for future development,” the man told the People’s Daily.

Training sessions of traditional handicrafts have been widely launched at the intangible cultural heritage workshops across China by relevant departments to improve impoverished households’ ability to design and manufacture products, and expand businesses. Besides, these departments have also held various exhibitions and promotional events at intangible cultural heritage workshops, introduced these workshops’ products to tourist sites and public service areas, and amplified the promotion and marketing efforts of these products both online and offline.

Intangible cultural heritage workshops, as a “hematopoiesis machine” of poverty reduction, not only pass expertise on to the impoverished, but also expand their vision and inspire them to generate more ideas.

For Mu Shuping, a woman from Sanshipu village, Yuntian township, Longxi county of northwest China’s Gansu province, used to work out-of-town for a living together with her husband, a major source of income for local impoverished groups. After the village built an embroidery workshop for poverty alleviation, Mu and other 20 women received training and have been employed.

The workshop passes on traditional handicrafts and offers stable income for villagers at their doorsteps. This not only helps poverty reduction, but also contributes to the inheritance of traditional skills.

“We make good money through embroidery, and both our children and parents are happy about that. The village is more energetic now,” said a woman from Huayuan county, central China’s Hunan province. Many females of the village who used to work out-of-town have returned home and secured a job at local intangible cultural heritage workshops. “It’s great to find a balance between work and family,” they said.

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