Foreign Students Embrace Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritage

Author:Cheng Mengyang, Zhou Yanxi     December 01,2017

Foreign students wearing Opera headpieces,  Nov 22,2017 (Photo by Zhou Keli)

A special cultural experience activity featuring Beijing’s Intangible Cultural Heritage, “Within a meter,”was held at CUC. The event invited more than 160 foreign students from Faculty of Literature and Law of CUC to learn and experience the city's most representative cultural legacies. 

Jointly organized by the Beijing’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection Center, the Xicheng District Cultural Commission and the Faculty of Literature and Law of CUC, the event ,“Within a meter,” was part of a series of  “Folk Treasure, Charming Capital City” 2017 Beijing’s Intangible Cultural Heritage public experience project , a city-wide project educating the pubic about traditional Chinese crafts. The event offered students the opportunity to interact with practitioners (referred to as “inheritors”) of traditional folk crafts.

Interactions occurred online, face-to-face and during themed master class. Foreign students observed artists practicing the craft of inside-bottle painting, a craft in which the interior surface of snuff bottles are decorated with calligraphy. Other featured crafts included: Beijing Internal Drawing Snuff Bottles, Clay Painting Masks, Beijing Brick Carvings, Skill of Making Opera Headpieces , Beijing Porcelain Engraving, Carved Lacquerware, Flour Sculpture(Lang). On site there are also examples of Woodblock Watermark Printing, Kunqu Opera, Beijing Story-telling Opera and Beijing shadow play. Students were also taught to play traditional toys such as Diabolo and Shuttlecock.

Beijing Internal Drawing Snuff Bottle

Thanks to its special way of performing, Beijing shadow Play attracted the most attention, as students were able to get behind the silk screen to manipulate the puppets.

Beijing shadow play

Lacquerware Carving was also popular. Many foreign students, already familiar with Chinese porcelain,  stated that they felt emotionally close to this delicate art, especially students from cities along the “Silk Road.”

 Carved Lacquerware

In interviews, students described the activities as “inspiring,” providing an opportunity to learn more about Beijing from a new angle.

Tong Xiufen, an “inheritor” and practitioner of clay mask painting taught foreign students the history of mask painting before giving them semi-finished masks to paint themselves. She hopes to stimulate students’ interests in clay mask painting.

Clay Painting Masks

According to one leading teacher, one of the difficulties in teaching a folk craft to foreign students, is the challenge of explaining mythical or historical/literary characters like Guan Gong (Lord Guan, a character from China’s Three Kingdoms historical/mythological period) or Zhong Kui (“King of Ghosts”).

In terms of heritage preservation, most students agreed that activities like these are effective ways to preserve traditional arts, and hope that similar events will be held on campus in the future. Combining traditional crafts with technologies such as VR may also help to promote the crafts among younger generations.

Play Shuttlecock


At the same event, a ceremony was held to celebrate the opening of a Chinese Traditional Culture Experience Centre by Faculty of Literature and Law. A five-year cooperative agreement was set, and standardized teaching materials were given to the center to popularize intangible cultural heritage. 


Unveiling ceremony of ChineseTraditional Cultural Experience Center. 

Center for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language of CUC and Xicheng District Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection Center signing the cooperative agreement.

CUC youth Organization of intangible cultural heritage and Xicheng District Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection Center signing the cooperative agreement.

Donation ceremony of teaching materials 

Editors:Cao Wanchen, Tao Yifei, Sophie