Heritage, Change and the ‘Second-Generation’ Phenomenon: Traditional Craft and Revitalization in Jin
2021/4/19 20:53:12
Lili FANG is Professor and Director of the Art Anthropology Research institute of the China National Academy of Art, Beijing. For more than twenty years she has led major research projects on cultural heritage and the anthropology of art, leading to numerous publications. She is a member of the China Expert Committee for the Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage; President of the Chinese Society for the Anthropology of Art; and member of the Beijing Municipal People’s Congress Scientific, Educational and Cultural Committee. She is also a partner of Heritage Future. In this interview with Sharon Macdonald, conducted in August 2017, she talks about her research over many years in the major centre for ceramics, Jingdezhen. Sharon began by asking her about some of the changes that she had seen in the field of cultural heritage.
LF When I began doing fieldwork in 1990 in China, it was the very early stage of a real opening of the country and the market – we were experiencing the modernisation process. And it was exactly then that I started to think about the value of our heritage, how it would develop in the future, whether it was going to disappear or could it regenerate again. Back then, I did not have the concept of ‘intangible cultural heritage’ – UNESCO hadn’t come up with it. I just thought about it as traditional culture. So I started to study my hometown Jingdezhen. Jingdezhen has 1000-year-long history of making handmade porcelains. What I thought was – in this old town we have excellent porcelain producing techniques and if we don’t record them or study them, they might in future disappear very quickly. So I started to record those techniques. And as I did so, I discovered that there were several very traditional techniques were being revived – that were already reappearing at that time.
SM So some techniques had already disappeared but were being reintroduced?
LF What had happened was that in the 1950s, China’s government had closed down all the workshops making traditional handmade goods. These had been replaced by national government-owned factories. But after 1990s, during the reopening of the country and the market, the private workshop started to reappear in Jingdezhen.
SM So people hadn’t forgotten the techniques?
LF They remembered – and did so over a period of almost fifty years, from 1949 to 1990. Though even during the government-owned factory period, they still kept some traditional craftsmen working in factories to make those traditional styles to sell them abroad. So some people still continued with the techniques. Mostly they were copying antique products to sell in Hong Kong, Macao, and Korea and Japan. But in the 1990s it was quite different from the craftwork in the factory. What was happening was that porcelain was now being produced in private workshops. So that made me wonder about what the future might be for Jingdezhen traditional p

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