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AFS Review: Reports

Report from the First China-US Conference on ICH Policy

Tuesday, November 29, 2011   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Timothy Lloyd

The First China-US Forum on Intangible Cultural Heritage, on the topic of Comparative Policies, took place at the Fontainebleau Hotel outside Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China, on November 6-7, 2011.

The Institute of Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritage, Sun Yat-Sen University (Guangzhou) and the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy, Vanderbilt University (Nashville) sponsored the conference. The China Folklore Society and the American Folklore Society were co-sponsors. The Henry Luce Foundation, Project 985 of the Education Ministry of China, and the Lingnan Foundation provided financial support for the event.

Approximately 70 scholars, experts, and students from China and the US participated in the conference, and were welcomed by Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nick Zeppos, who participated by video, and Chen Chunsheng, Vice-President of Sun Yat-Sen University.

Presided over by Kang Baocheng, Director of Sun Yat-Sen University’s Chinese ICH Institute and Bill Ivey, Director of Vanderbilt’s Curb Center, the conference included presentations by eight folklorists, four from China and four from the US, each of which was followed by a prepared set of comments:

Huang Yonglin of Central China Normal University: A Study of Digital Technology’s Application to Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritage / Comments by Tim Lloyd of the American Folklore Society

Yuan Li of the Chinese National Academy of Arts: Three Theoretical Issues of Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection / Comments by Liu Xiaochun of Sun Yat-Sen University

Gao Xiaokang of Sun Yat-Sen University: Chinese Urbanization and ICH Protection / Comments by Ted Fischer of Vanderbilt University

Song Junhua of Sun Yat-Sen University: Intangible Cultural Heritage of China and Business Practice / Comments by Jiang Mingzhi of Sun Yat-Sen University

Robert Baron of the New York State Council on the Arts: American State Intangible Cultural Heritage Programs: Characteristics, Interrelationships, and Challenges / Comments by Wang Xiaobing of Sun Yat-Sen University

Dan Sheehy of the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage: Music Recording Copyright in the United States: Challenges, Issues, and the Need For Cultural Heritage Policy / Comments by Deng Qiyao of Sun Yat-Sen University

Michael Ann Williams of Western Kentucky University: The US Historic Preservation Movement and ICH / Comments by Liu Xiaoming of Guangzhou University

Charlie Seemann of the Western Folklife Center: Presenting ICH Performances in the US: The Cowboy Poetry Gathering / Comments by Ma Guoqing of Sun Yat-Sen University

Presenters’ responses to the commentary, and questions and discussions involving all present, followed. Bill Ivey, Kang Baocheng, and Tim Lloyd also provided opening and closing comments for the conference as a whole.

At its conclusion, the sponsors of the conference issued the following declarations:

1. We find that a thoughtful and integrated set of policies for the identification, documentation, presentation, and safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage is critical to the national interest and well-being of China.

2. We find that a thoughtful and integrated set of policies for the identification, documentation, presentation, and safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage is critical to the national interest and well-being of the United States.

3. We respect the cultural sovereignty of each country, and encourage scientifically safeguarding intangible cultural heritage and developing academic collaboration.

4. We encourage the Chinese State Government to further improve the policies and regulations on the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, which should be systematic, scientific, operational and sustainable. Meanwhile, we encourage agencies of the government of the Peoples’ Republic of China to value the critical role of university scholars and researchers in the development of policies affecting China’s intangible cultural heritage.

5. We encourage the US State Department to continue its work toward US ratification of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The next conference in this series, which will focus on case studies of intangible cultural heritage research, documentation, presentation, archiving, education, and protection in China and the US, will take place on the Vanderbilt University campus on April 26-27, 2012.

After the Nashville conference, the sponsors—with the assistance of the American Folklore Society and the China Folklore Society—will publish a set of proceedings from the first two conferences in hard copy and online.

The final two conferences in this series will be held in China in fall 2012 and in the US in spring 2013.

These four conferences are part of a larger China-US Forum on Intangible Cultural Heritage (FICH) project, led by AFS and supported by funding from the Henry Luce Foundation. The FICH project also includes a professional exchange program for folklorists from the two countries, and the planning of future efforts in ethnographic museum practice and in undergraduate and graduate education.

For more information on this conference, or on the China-US Forum on Intangible Cultural Heritage project, please contact AFS Executive Director Tim Lloyd at 614/292-3375 or

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