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  Plan aims to save dying folk culture  

In a few years' time, people will be able to go to nearby folk culture centers or museums to help protect traditional folk culture. The plan is part of a 17-year-long project that started last year to preserve unique folk arts, crafts, literature and traditions in China.

Struck by modern lifestyles, unique folk cultural items are disappearing unbelievably fast.

"Almost every minute some folk culture is dying and we are racing against time," said Zi Huayun, senior research fellow with the China Arts Academy and an adviser to the project.

For example, local operas are disappearing in South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region due to a lack of attention.

Statistics showed Guangxi had 18 local operas 50 years ago, but only the four major ones are still alive today.

Many other folk arts, like paper cut in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, are dying at the same rate as elderly people as the younger generation loses interest in inheriting the culture and would rather work in cities for more money.

"If there is only one radio in a remote village, young people there want to hear rock or pop songs. Girls wish to own a pair of high heels," said Zi, who has been to the rural areas of China many times.

In addition to the influence from lifestyles and globalization, experts also noted folk culture, as opposed to cultural relics, are believed by some people to be in bad taste.

"Such prejudice will make people feel numb to the loss of folk culture," said Bai Gengsheng, vice-chairman of the China folk artist association.

Left with countless endangered folk culture elements, the country established a national center last February at the China Arts Academy responsible for planning and implementing the protection project.

The draft of a law on folk culture protection is also in the works.

"The day of passing this law on folk culture protection is not far off," Zhou said.

At present, the project has carried out trial protection projects on 10 folk arts to learn more about folk culture protection.

The 10 varieties of folk arts include New Year pictures made in Wuqiang of Hebei Province, traditional cotton spinning technique of the Li minority in Hainan Province and shadow play from Qingyang County of Gansu Province.

The central government has earmarked 20 million yuan ($2.4 million USD ) this year for the project, part of which will directly benefit the 10 folk arts, Zhou said.

Despite the government's efforts, the vice-minister stressed raising the public's awareness of the importance of protecting folk culture.

"Experts like me act like a bridge," said Zi. "After we and the masses have fully understood each other in the field, I believe people can always think of better methods to protect the endangered folk culture."

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The plan is part of a 17-year-long project that started last year to preserve unique folk arts, crafts, literature and traditions in China.

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