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The wooden arch bridge needs urgent protection

2009-10-22 09:25 BJT

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The wooden arch bridge is an architectural specialty exclusively owned by east China's Zhejiang and Fujian Provinces. Instead of using common building materials such as stone and concrete, the construction of such bridges employs only one type of material timber. And recently, the traditional design of the wooden arch bridge was inscribed on the UNESCO intangible heritage list of items that need urgent protection.

Huang Chuncai is busy with making a model of the wooden arch bridge. The model will be sent to Taiwan for an exhibition next month. It is the second time that this special architectural technique has been showcased outside its birthplace in Fujian Province. The first was at a show in Beijing in February.

These events are great consolation for Huang Chuncai who has been worrying for decades that this family craft may be lost forever. In fact, he hasn't built such a bridge for over forty years.

Huang Chuncai, wooden arch bridge builder said, "I'm the only one of our four brothers who mastered this skill. My younger brothers were too young to learn the technique. By the time they were able to learn, there were no bridges for them to make. So they shifted their profession to carpentry."

In recent years, the local government has stepped up conservation efforts for this traditional technique. Three wooden arch bridges have been made and those that had been previously destroyed by fire have been rebuilt. Huang Chuncai, who is in his seventies, welcomed another career boom. His son also became the heir of this craft.

But it's still too early to be optimistic about the future of this technique. In Fujian, there are only a dozen artisans who still master this skill.

Last month, UNESCO took the step to designate the traditional design of the wooden arch bridge as an masterpiece of intangible heritage that needs urgent safeguarding.

Qi Qingfu, expert of intangible heritage protection said, "After it was inscribed on the UNESCO list, it means that this technique belongs to all humanity. It also puts forward the urgent task for us to safeguard this heritage."

A plan to protect this intangible heritage has been drafted by the local government. It states that during the next four years, the local government will invest over 2-million yuan to better protect, spread, study and carry forward this technique.

Editor: Zhao Yanchen | Source: CCTV.com