Efforts needed to nurture ethnic culture and language in Yunnan

Updated: 2013-03-13 07:10

By Guo Anfei and Li Yingqing (China Daily)

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 Efforts needed to nurture ethnic culture and language in Yunnan

Villagers prepare masks for the Guansuo play in Xiaotun village, Chengjiang county in Yunnan province. The play is a ceremony to pray for good weather and a bumper grain harvest. Liu Ranyang / China News Service

Efforts needed to nurture ethnic culture and language in Yunnan

National legislators and political advisers have called for improved efforts to protect the unique heritage in Yunnan province, where the language and culture of some of its 25 ethnic groups are in danger of dying out.

National People's Congress deputy Bao Hongyi, from the Va ethnic group and a primary school teacher in Cangyuan county in southern Yunnan, said: "Many children can't speak the Va language or write its characters. I can just speak a few simple phrases, but cannot write in the language."

She said her family usually speaks Mandarin at home.

"Before my 9-year-old son was 6, he could not speak the Va language, so we have been teaching him our language since then. Now he can use the Va language in daily conversation," she said.

In the past, Va people were so poor that many families could not afford tuition fees, leading many of their children to drop out of school, she said.

Thanks to the introduction of free education, Va children are able to attend school, but their native language faces a crisis, she said.

Qi Dechuan, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee from Yunnan, suggested that a museum should be built as soon as possible for the Jingpo ethnic group to step up the protection of its intangible heritage.

"By constructing such a museum, we can utilize and protect the rich resources of the group by developing tourism, a move that can also promote the local economy, culture and education."

Rongba Shena, an NPC deputy and a performer in the native cultural troupe of Nujiang Lisu autonomous prefecture in Yunnan, submitted a proposal calling for greater efforts to preserve the cultures of ethnic groups.

She said a database should be constructed to ensure the long-term preservation of ethnic culture.

"We can construct some villages for ethnic people to live in to benefit cultural protection and improve their living standards," she said.

Zhao Lixiong, an NPC deputy and director of Yunnan Ethnic Affairs Commission, said the province plans to invest 1.77 billion yuan ($280 million) in the next five years in 13 major projects to protect ethnic culture. Villages with ethnic characteristics and outstanding examples of traditional ethnic cultural heritage will be constructed.

He said an annual fund of 20 million yuan had been set up to rescue traditional cultures. It covers 25 projects protecting ethnic songs and dances, music, art, craft, mythology and epics.

"To protect native languages, the commission has established an ethnic language research center, and some schools are teaching children bilingually," Zhao said.

Contact the writers at guoanfei@chinadaily.com.cn and liyingqing@chinadaily.com.cn

Hu Yongqi and Sun Li contributed to this story.

(China Daily 03/13/2013 page4)