Last year, Indian yoga made UNESCO’s list. In 2011, South Korea’s taekkyeon became the first martial art so honoured. So why can’t Chinese tai chi win similar international recognition? That is the question on Yan Shuangjun’s mind as the annual deadline approaches for nominations to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list, established by the United Nations agency to celebrate and protect the world’s cultural diversity.
- tai chi, a centuries-old martial art that combines flowing movements with deep breathing and meditation.
- “Through tai chi, one can understand Chinese culture, from medicine to literature, from philosophy to art,”
Tai chi may have its roots in self-defense, in recent years it has gained broad popularity as a therapeutic exercise, promoting physical fitness while reducing stress.
Other Martial Art Recognition (Points to remember for Prelims-2017:)
- Taekkyeon, a traditional Korean martial art.
- Inscribed in 2011 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
- Taekkyeon is a traditional Korean martial art that makes use of fluid, rhythmic dance-like movements to strike or trip up an opponent.
- The graceful movements of a well-trained Taekkyeon performer are gentle and circular rather than straight and rigid, but can explode with enormous flexibility and strength.
- The feet play as important a role as the hands.
- In spite of its gentle impression, Taekkyeon is an effective martial art highlighting a broad variety of offensive and defensive skills employing all available fighting methods.
- It also teaches consideration: a skilled Taekkyeon practitioner can rapidly dominate an opponent, but a true master knows how to make an opponent withdraw without incurring damage.
- As a part of seasonal farming-related traditions, Taekkyeon serves to facilitate community integration, and as a sport accessible to all plays a major role in promoting public health. Taekkyeon is also practised by a great number of people as a daily activity.
- There are approximately fifty recognized practitioners of Taekkyeon at present, and the Korean Taekkyeon Association plays a significant role in the transmission and promotion of this traditional martial art.
The Dragon Boat festival:
- Beginning on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, people of several ethnic groups throughout China and the world celebrate the Dragon Boat festival, especially in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River.
- The festivities vary from region to region, but they usually share several features.
- A memorial ceremony offering sacrifices to a local hero is combined with sporting events such as dragon races, dragon boating and willow shooting, feasts of rice dumplings, eggs and ruby sulphur wine, and folk entertainments including opera, song and unicorn dances.
- The hero who is celebrated varies by region: the romantic poet Qu Yuan is venerated in Hubei and Hunan Provinces, Wu Zixu (an old man said to have died while slaying a dragon in Guizhou Province) in South China, and Yan Hongwo in Yunnan Province among the Dai community.
- Participants also ward off evil during the festival by bathing in flower-scented water, wearing five-colour silk, hanging plants such as moxa and calamus over their doors, and pasting paper cut-outs in their windows.
- The Dragon Boat festival strengthens bonds within families and establishes a harmonious relationship between humanity and nature.
- It also encourages the expression of imagination and creativity, contributing to a vivid sense of cultural identity.
Gangneung Danoje festival:
- Inscribed in 2008 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (originally proclaimed in 2005).
- The annual Gangneung Danoje Festival takes place in the town of Gangneung and its surroundings, situated east of the Taebaek Mountain Range on the Korean peninsula.
- The festival includes a shamanistic ritual on the Daegwallyeong Ridge, which pays tribute to the mountain deity and male and female tutelary deities.
- It encompasses traditional music and Odokddegi folk songs, the Gwanno mask drama, oral narrative poetry, and various popular pastimes.
- The Nanjang market, Korea’s largest outdoor marketplace, is today a major element of the festival, where local products and handicrafts are sold and contests, games and circus performances take place.
- The four-week long festival begins with the brewing of a sacred liquor and the Dano shamanistic rituals, in which a central role is played by a sacred tree, the sinmok, and the hwagae, a ritual object made of feathers, bells and bamboo wood.
- One of the specific features of the festival is the coexistence of Confucian, shamanistic and Buddhist rituals. Through the rituals devoted to the deities, the region is believed to remain unaffected by natural disasters, allowing all its residents to live in peace and prosperity.
- Every year, a large number of visitors attend the various ritual performances and actively participate in events such as making Danoje festival fans, brewing the sacred liquor, drawing masks for the Gwanno Mask Drama, preparing and eating Surichiwi rice crackers and washing their hair in Iris water.
- The Gangneung Danoje Festival enjoys immense popularity.
- However, cultural standardization and increased media coverage over the years have resulted in the loss of some traditional elements of the festival.
- In the traditional context of the festival, one of the functions has been to transcend social differences by allowing people of all social classes to participate.