From March 23rd to 25th, Denis Ricard, Secretary General of Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) led a team to visit Zhouzhuang township in Kunshan city. Mr. Ricard offered much advice for Zhouzhuang in applying for the world heritage status. Mr. Ricard says that, conserving cultural heritage can pass down humankind’s civilization, preserve cultural diversity and also sustain development. Chinese, who always follow the philosophy of “harmony between man and the nature”, have become an indispensable pillar in preserving world cultural heritage.
On the morning of March 24th, Amareswar Galla, Vice Chairman of International Council of Museums, delivered a speech on “Ancient Town Heritage Protection and Public Participation”, which attracted 500 spectators and received good response. On that afternoon, the guests walked into Xiang Village, a specialty tourism village in Zhouzhuang and Zhudian Brick Kiln Culture House in Jinxi, another ancient town in Kunshan, where they caught a glimpse of the beauty of the countryside in the South of the Yangtze River. On the morning the next day, the guests roamed around Zhouzhuang on the blue-awning boat and further appreciated the lifestyle of local residents. Dr. Galla says that, protecting ecological civilization is a priority in protecting water towns. Showing the local life in the ancient town in a dynamic way can better manifest the water town culture, evoke the local residents’ passion of heritage protection and also shape a sustainable driving force in that course.
In the 1980s, Zhouzhuang, a water town which hosted around 800 local residents, adopted the idea of “paralleling protection with development” and scientifically combined tourism development with ancient town protection and culture continuity. Thanks to that, many folk custom and intangible cultural heritage now have been well preserved.
On April 2013, instructed by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, Zhouzhuang acted as a shepherd of water towns union in jointly applying for world heritage status. Now the work is steadily moving forward.
In his speech, Dr. Galla also stressed that, the protection of water towns should cover the protection of agriculture and fishing sectors, so that the local residents can substantially benefit from the heritage conservation. Besides, protection of tangible and intangible heritage should be combined, i.e. protecting tangible heritage like local architecture, wooden boats and shops and at the same time seeking and cultivating more inheritors of traditional crafts. Dr. Galls particularly appealed for more young people to be part of the heritage conservation.