China’s intangible cultural heritage goes online, gains new vitality


By Zheng Haiou and Qing Yuan from People’s Daily


More and more inheritors of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) in China are taking it to online platforms to integrate ICH into modern life, in an attempt to attract more public attention on and consumption of ICH-related products, win people’s respect for their wisdom and craftsmanship, and showcase the charm of cultural heritage.


Qiao Xue, a young inheritor of handmade leather art, an item of the ICH list of Yinchuan city in northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, opened an account on short video platform Douyin, also known as Tik Tok last July to show her expertise in leather carving. In less than a year, Qiao has hosted nearly 60 livestreaming shows on the platform, selling handmade leather products totaling two million yuan (around $282,789), with the highest turnover created in a single livestreaming show hitting 450,000 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 project had 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 has hit 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, Kuaishou and Sina Weibo, have recently launched characteristic ICH sections to showcase relevant videos and images.


Tencent Video, for example, focusing on 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 created documentary series on ICH items that are frequently seen in movies and TV dramas, including embroidery, velvet flower, Kunqu opera and Peking Opera.


Douyin used 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 to encourage its users to participate in online discussions and share their own stories about ICH.


The young generation represents the 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.


Sina Weibo invited celebrities, online influencers in culture and art, and ICH institutes across the country to 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,, and Pingduoduo jointly held a shopping festival to promote the 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 an ICH-themed livestreaming marketing held in Nanchong, southwest China’s Sichuan province garnered over 30 million yuan in just four days.


As COVID-19 prevention and control becomes regular in China, online events are 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 covering more 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. 

Culture and tourism bureau of Yuncheng city in north China’s Shanxi province promotes flowery steamed-buns, an item of ICH of the city, in a livestreaming show, June 9. (Photo by Bao Dongsheng/People’s Daily Online)

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