Written by Tang Qi / Translated by Xie Zongming
In the countdown video of the 19th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO), three inheritors of intangible cultural heritage from Guangxi bring the audience to the world of Guangxi’s cultural heritage with their innovative performances.
From Nanning’s papercutting that shows the friendship and shared culture between Chinese and Malaysian people to Guigang’s Zhuang oil-paper umbrella with special cooperation partner ROK’s traditional costume patterns and the five-color glutinous rice with CAEXPO logo, ancient traditional culture sparkles brighter at the CAEXPO.
A big stage for intangible cultural heritage
The cultural heritage of Guangxi has been flourishing in Nanning, the permanent venue of CAEXPO. At the 6th CAEXPO held in 2009, Chinese and ASEAN state leaders signed their names on a concentric Nixing Pottery vase, which showed the culture and art of Qinzhou Nixing Pottery and brought opportunities to the industry.
Later on, more cultural heritage of Guangxi started to enter the CAEXPO. At the Cultural Tourism and Wellness Section that was first introduced at the 19th CAEXPO, Guangxi Cultural Tourism Exhibition showed the cultural heritage products from 14 prefecture-level cities of Guangxi, such as Zhuang brocade, horn carving, round fans, and oil-paper umbrella. The products included local special and competitive products, innovative cultural products, and ethnic handicrafts, covering richer content than the former CAEXPOs.
Moreover, cultural heritage from other provinces and cities of China was also displayed at the CAEXPO. In 2019, Chengdu was selected as the City of Charm of the 16th CAEXPO. Sichuan embroidery, lacquerware, porcelain-bodied bamboo craft, filamentary silver hovering art, and Sichuan brocade, Chengdu’s five mostfamous cultural heritage items, were shown respectively at the CAEXPO. The exquisite craftsmanship, special techniques, and splendid culture attracted domestic and overseas audiences to appreciate and take pictures. Meanwhile, cultural inheritors of the Shu School of Qin Music, Sichuan Qingyin Singing, and tea art also made on-site performances for the crowd, winning applause.
In addition, more and more ASEAN countries have brought their cultural heritage to the CAEXPO. Every year, CAEXPO selects an ASEAN member state as the Country of Honor, allowing it to showcase its images and advantages comprehensively. Regarding intangible cultural heritage, CAEXPO has witnessed the Indonesian batik, Thai massage, and Lao Khene performances, which are all impressive cultural introductions for the CAEXPO audience every year.
A place in the market for cultural heritage
While cultural heritage decorates the CAEXPO, CAEXPO also allows cultural heritage to sustain more vividly by channeling cultural values into market values.
The world-known popular food Luosifen (river snail rice noodles) of Liuzhou was listed in the fifth batch of the State-Level Intangible Cultural Heritage Items in 2021. In recent years, Luosifen has successfully entered the ASEAN market through the CAEXPO, winning the heart of ASEAN consumers and driving the niche industry into a complete industry chain valued at over 10 billion yuan.
During the exhibition period of the 18th CAEXPO, the Rice Noodles Section at Nanning International Convention and Exhibition Centre was bustling with visitors. “I’ve been driving to CAEXPO from Guigang City every year since 2017. The brands of rice noodles promoted here are well-known and high-quality. For us foodies, exhibiting the products here is like a ‘guaranteed stamp’ on the package,” said Miss Huang, one of the visitors at the Section, with a smile on her face.
Luosifen with a cultural heritage title has become an irreplaceable best-seller at the CAEXPO. Famous brands like Xiluohui, Haohuanluo, and Luobawang showed up at the 18th CAEXPO, giving out over 2,000 samples in an hour.
Wang Dishi, Marketing Director of Haohuanluo, said, “Luosifen-related companies in Liuzhou keep expanding their brand’s influence through the CAEXPO. Haohuanluo has appointed franchisees in five ASEAN countries, Vietnam, for example. After the promotion at the CAEXPO this year, we have received many cooperation intentions. In the future, our company will expand to all ASEAN countries, and the total value of the MoUs for franchising is expected to reach 1 million yuan.”
Like Luosifen, Liu Bao Tea of Wuzhou City, Guangxi, also grabbed people’s attention. In 2022, Guangxi’s Liu Bao Tea-Making Technique was listed as the sub-item under Traditional Tea Processing Techniques and Associated Social Practices in China in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
According to Liang Weilong, Deputy Director of the Tea Industry Development Service Centre of Wuzhou, Liu Bao Tea is striving for overseas expansion along the “Tea Ship Road” in the Southeast Asian markets with this opportunity.At the 19th CAEXPO, the Agriculture and Rural Area Exhibition narrated the historical stories and development of Liu Bao Tea through a themed bulletin and provided on-site performances of tea-making techniques and tea art. Furthermore, Wuzhou City organized multiple local tea companies to participate in the exhibition and promotion of Liu Bao Tea and set five sample zones to allow the ASEAN participants to savor the unique tea fragrance, making the tea known to the Southeast Asian markets.
With CAEXPO as “the matchmaker”, cultural heritage products from all over China and ASEAN countries are marching swiftly into the market. With the Online CAEXPO, the promotion of cultural heritage brands is further facilitated via the Internet. “CAEXPO is like a window. We hope to utilize this platform to promote the advantaged products jointly made by China and Myanmar to the ASEAN market and
the world,” said Dr. Shwe Zin Ko, Commercial Counsellor of Myanmar in Nanning.
Creativity, a crucial part
In the new era, traditional cultural heritage requires new presentation. CAEXPO, as an essential platform for China-ASEAN cultural exchange, has been actively exploring new paths of cultural heritage development.
Before the opening of the 19th CAEXPO, CAEXPO presented three countdown videos via mainstream media and on its official platforms. Each video includes
the performance of an inheritor of cultural heritage in Guangxi. The videos received considerable upvotes by telling CAEXPO’s story with its flavor.
In the video, Zhong Yunrui, Inheritor of Nanning Papercutting, gently cuts a piece of paper into detailed patterns, presenting a vivid papercut work with ASEAN features; Wei Junmin, Inheritor of Guigang Zhuang Oil-Paper UmbrellaMaking Technique, polishes the bamboo to make them into umbrella decorated with hanbok patterns and CAEXPO slogans; Pan Honghua, Inheritor of Zhuang Five-Color Glutinous RiceMaking Technique, uses her swift hands to shape the logo of CAEXPO with colorful rice, bringing China and ASEAN closer with this particular food.
While the online presentation is innovating, the on-site part is also catching up. The Tourism Exhibition is one of the professional exhibitions under the CAEXPO framework that promotes tourism development and facilitates the innovative development of cultural heritage in Guangxi. Each year, the Exhibition invites various cultural heritage exhibitors to participate, the representatives of every city in Guangxi are also willing to bring local unique cultural heritage to the Exhibition, seeking to promote their culture and products. In 2019, the Exhibition added a Wayao Town Cultural and Creative Section. It was divided into three main parts: Cultural and Creative Products of Cultural Heritage Hall, Rare Stones, Root Carving, and Crafts Hall, and Public Lecture Hall. Through “Tourism + Cultural Heritage”, the Exhibition unleashes more potential for developing cultural heritage in Liuzhou.
As digital technology develops, more cultural heritage items are becoming lively activities instead of boring texts in government documents. Examples like the VR experience of Mogao Cave and AR-activated cultural heritage demonstrate that the new technologies used by CAEXPO allow the event to create a way of innovative development for cultural heritage in the forms of architecture, handicrafts, music, and dancing. CAEXPO will keep pace with the world and allow cultural heritage to extend to more industries and usher in a brighter future.
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