I recently came across this article, http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2013-04/02/content_16370200.htm, which reports on an award given for the preservation of intangible heritage in China. Intangible heritage includes traditions which are passed from generation to generation, such as a skill, songs, rituals or storytelling. In this article, the award was for the preservation of paper making and paper conservation methods, of which many of the methods and the papers themselves have been adopted by Western paper conservators.
This is by far not the first time that China’s ancient papermaking traditions have been recognised and supported. Some paper makers in China, (and Japan) are themselves identified as national living treasures and their skills are recorded on film and in interviews. It is important that this recognition continues; intangible heritage is as deserved of conservation and preservation as is the heritage which we can hold and touch.
As a timely example, a few days ago I acquired an edition of a book called ‘Stories from the Ming Collection’ which I’m currently reading and really enjoying. As the title suggests, it is a collection of stories from the Chinese Ming dynasty, (1368-1644) which Unesco decided to preserve in the written word in the 1970’s to ensure that these valuable cultural assets are not lost permanently to time.
…And yes, it did need a little conservation!