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A proud history of giving gifts

Updated: 2023-09-25 07:53 ( CHINA DAILY )
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The exhibition presents the intangible cultural artifacts traditionally given as gifts at ceremonial and social occasions, including tinware handicrafts. CHINA DAILY

He took over from his grandfather and became host of the ceremonies, often standing to one side and instructing attendees in the rituals, which include kneeling and kowtowing to a statue of Confucius.

Gifts are an indispensable component of the village rites and ceremonies. For weddings, they traditionally give dowries, like sets of tinware comprising a pair of candlesticks, teapots and wine jugs, and custom-made furniture, including square tables, armchairs, cabinets and wardrobes.

Apart from upholding Confucian traditions, Juxi villagers have also come to harmoniously coexist with Zhejiang regional customs over the years, some of which evoked Liu's childhood memories of growing up in the countryside in Zhejiang province.

Each Lantern Festival, on the 15th day of the first lunar month, apart from common practices like the dragon dance and lantern displays, Juxi residents light small red candles throughout the village, from the temples and bridges, to every corner of their households, including doors, windows, staircases, bedside tables and pillars.

According to Liu, these practices resemble those of her own hometown in Zhejiang's Taizhou and date back to ancient times when people set fires, a symbol of light, warmth and hope, at the beginning of spring to pray to the gods for a year of good harvests.

The exhibition taking place at the Crafts Museum of China Academy of Arts includes 38 case studies and over 500 exhibits covering topics such as gifts as an homage to nature, gifting and interpersonal relationship, as well as religious items and gifts.

It also takes a modern viewpoint on gifts, as Liu observes the recent trend of returning to traditional gifting practices at festive and ceremonial occasions, and an increasing focus on the design of gifts.

"Professional designers have become involved in the design of merchandise related to rural intangible cultural heritage, and professional organizations devoted to promoting folk arts are also taking part, infusing modern design with contemporary gifts and expanding their reach," Liu says.

A special section of the exhibition is devoted to the change in gifts, featuring cultural merchandise, especially the popular creative products developed by museums and art galleries.

"These new designs not only have a fresh appearance but also introduce new functionality into gifts, allowing them to carry cultural significance and provide users with insights into life, reflecting the contemporary outlook on gifts," she adds.

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