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uschinaarts.org - Early Work in Yunnan

Early Work in Yunnan

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Chou Wen-chung greets Wujiepu Village residents
Chou Wen-chung greets Wujiepu Village residents in Luxi County during his December 1990 research trip
to Yunnan Province.

In the 1990s, the main focus of the Center’s work was the Yunnan Nationalities Cultures Project. The project was designed to assist the cultural leaders of Yunnan Province in creating a comprehensive strategy for the continuation and further development of the traditional arts of Yunnan’s 25 minority nationalities. It involved hundreds of specialists from China, the United States and Asia, and called for interaction among urban professionals, village community mentors, and rural master artists in Yunnan. This work was carried out with the collaboration of the Yunnan provincial government, primary funding from the Ford Foundation, and the partnership of major cultural and research institutions of Yunnan.

Major projects consisted of the following:
  • The creation of the Yunnan Nationalities Cultures Fieldwork Research Group consisting of approximately twenty Yunnan social scientists studying the diverse cultures and rich history of the province.
  • The establishment of the Nationalities Arts Department in the Yunnan Nationalities Institute, the first department of this kind in China that included village masters of traditional arts on its faculty. It also sends students and faculty to work with rural mentors n the natural setting of their community’s heritage.
  • The founding of the Yunnan Nationalities Museum in Kunming, the largest museum of this type after the National Nationalities Museum in Beijing.
  • Province-wide surveys and recognition (awarding of honorific titles) of traditional artists, musicians, dancers, as well as heritage conveyors (shamans, medicine men, etc.), which were then adopted by the central government and offered as models for cultural preservation and development throughout China.
Xiaojie Village elders prepare a wedding headress
In Xishuanogbanna, Xiaojie Village elders demonstrate the preparation of a wedding
headdress on Mi Du, a young Hani woman.