China's rural museums promote local cultures

Updated: Apr 24, 2024 China Daily Print
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HAIKOU — Wang Zhenzhong, owner of a rural museum in a fishing village in the island province of Hainan, has gotten busier over the past two years as the number of visitors has increased.

A descendant of fishermen, Wang has collected items passed down by his family over the years, including nautical charts and compasses, and opened a museum near the venue of the Boao Forum for Asia in honor of his father and grandfather, who had both traveled across the South China Sea.

"The nautical charts I inherited contain the stories of our ancestors fighting the wind and waves in the South China Sea, and those stories have been listed as a national-level intangible cultural heritage," said Wang, who also serves as the docent of the museum located in Paigang village.

Despite its small size, the museum has attracted visitors from across the country, who come for its unique exhibits and the culture it preserves.

With old photos and veteran fishermen on hand to tell stories, the museum offers tourists a place to learn about the local culture and the courage of the anglers, said Du Yaping, a visitor from Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.

The site is one of a number of rural museums featuring local folk culture that have sprung up in China in recent years.

Museums are usually associated with gigantic buildings, eye-catching spotlights and massive collections in bustling downtown areas. Now, many museums demonstrating unique local cultures can be found in China's vast rural areas.

Located near a wide stretch of cornfields in Xinjia village is a museum focusing on Mahu Opera, a traditional art of the Manchu ethnic group in Jilin province.

Developed on a site formerly used as a primary school, the opera museum has five exhibition rooms with nearly 2,000 objects on display, including manuscripts, masks, costumes, instruments and books, most of which were donated by Wang Songlin, a local inheritor of intangible cultural heritage.

"By exhibiting the items in the village, I hope to inform more people about this fading ancient art that originated in the region," Wang said.

In 2021, China started to develop Jilin, Zhejiang and Shandong into pilot provinces for the construction of rural museums.

Zhejiang issued a guideline for the construction of rural museums in April 2022. It provides standards for rural museum construction, operation and management, and also calls for cultural heritage administrative departments and State-owned museums to strengthen management and support for the development of the sites.

According to the guideline, Zhejiang plans to build 1,000 rural museums from 2021 to 2025. As of Sept 30, 692 rural museums have been built in the province, according to the provincial cultural heritage administration.

While modernizing its rural regions, China is also seeking solutions to preserve the distinct history and vibrant culture of its regions, with the construction of rural museums being an important part of this strategy.

Rural museums can effectively explore and inherit rural culture. With the development of the tourism market in China, museums with distinctive exhibits will continue to be included in tourists' itineraries, said Ma Chao, an associate professor from Hainan Normal University.


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