Heritage So Young:Youth telling stories of Quanzhou, a World Heritage city of red brick walls and ancient houses

UNESCO | 06 12, 2023

Quanzhou, known as “Zayton” in early texts, is also often called “Carp City” for its silhouette resemblance to the shape of a carp. With its long history and profound cultural heritage, Quanzhou is renowned as one of the first batches of prominent Historical and Cultural Cities in China and a Culture City of East Asia. On 25 July 2021, “Quanzhou: Emporium of the World in Song-Yuan China” was inscribed on the World Heritage List as the 56thWorld Heritage site of China.


“Quanzhou: Emporium of the World in Song-Yuan China” encompasses 22 representative monuments and sites, including Qingjing Mosque – one of China’s earliest Islamic edifices, Islamic tombs, as well as a wide range of archaeological remains such as administrative buildings, stone docks that were important for commerce and defense, sites of ceramic and iron production, elements of the city’s transportation network, ancient bridges, pagodas, and inscriptions. These monuments and sites demonstrate Quanzhou’s vibrancy as a maritime emporium during the Song and Yuan dynasties (10th - 14thcenturies AD) and its interconnection with China’s hinterland.


Quanzhou is a city with abundant living heritage. There are 505 living heritage elements inscribed on China’s lists of intangible cultural heritage at all levels, including 36 on the national level. Quanzhou is also home to six UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage elements, including “Nanyin”, “Chinese traditional architectural craftsmanship for timber-framed structures” (Minnan Traditional Residential Architecture Craftsmanship) , “Ong Chun / Wangchuan / Wangkang ceremony, rituals and related practices for maintaining the sustainable connection between man and the ocean”, and the “Traditional tea processing techniques and associated social practices in China” (Quanzhou Anxi Tieguanyin) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, “Watertight-bulkhead technology of Chinese junks” on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, and “Strategy for training coming generations of Fujian puppetry practitioners” on the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices. As the birthplace of Minnan or Southern Fujianese culture and a region rich in Minnan cultural heritage, Quanzhou is the core zone of Southern Fujian Cultural Ecosystem Conservation Area as part of China’s first National Cultural Ecosystem Conservation Area (NCECA) designated by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.


Within the framework of the “Heritage So Young” initiative, a team of young volunteers from Communication University of China conducted a seven-day field excursion to Quanzhou, Fujian Province in February 2023. Focusing on experiencing local cultural heritage from a new perspective, the team explored the natural landscapes, historic architecture, and customs and traditions of Quanzhou. They gained in-depth knowledge of the city of trade and culture, where tradition and modernity intertwine.


At Licheng and Fengze Districts, the team zoomed in on ancient buildings and folk customs, where they visited the Kaiyuan Temple, Fu Wen Temple, Guandi Temple, Tianhou Temple, Qingjing Temple, Luoyang Bridge, Nianshi ancient residential houses, Tumen Street and Huaxiang residential houses, Nanyin Art Center, and Xunpu Village. The team produced a short film on the cultural impression of Quanzhou and three creative short videos respectively on the themes of ancient architecture, Nanyin and Xunpu women. In addition, the volunteers interviewed Mr. Jiang Qinquan, national living heritage bearer of Minnan Traditional Residential Architecture Craftsmanship, Ms. Zhuang Lifen, provincial living heritage bearer of Nanyin, and Ms. Huang Liyong, cultural ambassador of Xunpu Women folk culture of Fengze District.


In the process of interviews and filming, and through face-to-face communication with the local community, the young volunteers gained first-hand experience of the local cultural heritage and a better understanding of the historical and cultural charms, characteristics and depth of Quanzhou. At the same time, the experience also allowed them to deeper reflect on the role of cultural heritage in many other aspects, such as public awareness raising and cultural tourism.


“Heritage So Young” is a three-year online and offline communication initiative within the framework of UNESCO – China Youth Development Foundation Mercedes-Benz Star Fund “Conservation and Management of World Heritage Sites in China” Phase IV, which encourages youth to tell stories about heritage through young and creative lenses. We welcome young friends to follow the “Heritage So Young” official account on Weibo, WeChat Channel, and Bilibili, and to join the #HeritageSoYoung dialogue to promote cultural and natural heritage communication.


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