China Intangible Cultural Heritages

Definition of ICH

The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) defines the intangible cultural heritage as the practices, representations, expressions, as well as the knowledge and skills (including instruments, objects, artifacts, cultural spaces), that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognise as part of their cultural heritage. It is sometimes called living cultural heritage. It is manifested in the five domains: Oral traditions and expressions; performing arts; social practices, rituals and festive events; knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; traditional craftsmanship.

Features of ICH

The biggest features of the intangible cultural heritage is not separated from the special way of life and production. It exists on the basis of people themselves, with sound, image and skills as the means of expression, and is continued with the body and mouth transmission. It is the most vulnerable part of the “living” culture and its traditions. Therefore, for the process of inheriting intangible cultural heritage, the inheritors is particularly important.

Protection System of ICH

To standardize China’s intangible cultural heritage protection work, the State Council issued the notice on strengthening the protection of cultural heritage and make a 4-level protection system, namely Nation-Province-City-County protection system. It urged all localities and departments concerned to carry out the work principle of “Protection with High Priority, Rescue First, Rational Utilization, Inheritance and Development” and earnestly do a good job in the protection, management and rational utilization of intangible cultural heritage.

  • National Level: National Intangible Cultural Heritage List
  • Provincial Level: Including 31 intangible cultural heritages list at the provincial level such as Jiangsu Provincial Intangible Cultural Heritage List, Shanxi Provincial Intangible Heritage List, Shandong Provincial Intangible Cultural Heritage List, etc.
  • Municipal Level: Including 334 intangible cultural heritages at the municipal level such as Yangzhou Intangible Cultural Heritage List, Xuzhou Intangible Cultural Heritage List, Tianjin Intangible Cultural Heritage List, etc.
  • County Level: Including 2853 intangible cultural heritages at the county level such as Gaoyi County Intangible Cultural Heritage List, Guangde Intangible Cultural Heritage List, Hengnan County Intangible Cultural Heritage List, etc.

Organizations of Intangible Cultural Heritage

See more about Organizations of Intangible Cultural Heritage

List of China ICH

The State Council has approved the Ministry of Culture to identify four batches of national intangible cultural heritage lists, respectively published in 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2014. 

  • The First Batch of National Intangible Cultural Heritage List on May 20, 2006 (518 items in total)
  • The Second Batch of National Intangible Cultural Heritage List (510 items in total) on June 14, 2008
  • The Third Batch of National Intangible Cultural Heritage List on June 10, 2011 (191 items in total)
  • The Fourth Batch of National Intangible Cultural Heritage List on July 16, 2014 (153 items in total)

See more about National Intangible Cultural Heritages List


By the end of 2018, China has 41 elements included in the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list (including “Urgent Safeguarding List” and “Register of Good Safeguarding Practices”), which is also the country with the largest number of intangible cultural heritage in the world. The declaration of this element must have three basic conditions: artistic value, endangered condition and a complete protection plan.

Representative List

 2001 Kunqu Opera
 2002 Guqin music
 2005 Uyghur Muqam of Xinjiang, Urtiin Duu traditional folk songs
 2009 Sericulture and silk craftmanship of China, Nanyin, Craftsmanship of Nanjing Yunjin brocade, Traditional handicrafts of making Xuan paper, Grand song of the Dong ethnic group, Yueju opera, Mongolian Epic Jangar, Gesar epic tradition, Traditional firing technology of Longquan celadon, Regong arts, Tibetan opera, Manas, Mongolian Khoomei throat singing, Hua’er, Xi’an Drum Music, Farmers’ dance of China’s Korean ethnic group, Chinese Calligraphy, Art of Chinese seal engraving, Chinese Paper-cut, China engraved block printing technique, Chinese traditional architectural craftmanship for timber-framed structures, Dragon boat festival, Mazu belief and customs 
 2010 Peking opera, acupuncture and moxibustion of traditional Chinese medicine
 2011 Chinese shadow puppetry
 2013 Chinese Zhusuan
 2016 China’s Twenty-Four Solar Terms
 2018 Lum medicinal bathing of Sowa Rigpa

Urgent Safeguarding List

 2009 Qiang New Year’s festival, Chinese traditional wooden arch bridges, Li textile techniques including spinning, dyeing, weaving and embroidery
 2010 Meshrep, Chinese junks and their watertight-bulkhead technology, Chinese wooden movable-type printing
 2011 Hezhen Yimakan storytelling

List of Intangible Heritage on Register of Good Safeguarding Practices

 2012 Fujian puppetry

See more about China Intangible Cultural Heritage By UNESCO

Regional Distribution of China Intangible Cultural Heritages

Inheritors of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Being recognized as an inheritor involves a strict screening process, which includes a preliminary assessment by experts in cultural heritage and a second assessment by a review committee. China has made five lists of the inheritors of National Intangible Cultural Heritage respectively in 2006, 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2018. They are the patron saint of the intangible cultural heritages, aiming at protecting traditional culture, promoting and developing China’s intangible cultural heritages.

See more about Inheritors of Intangible Cultural Heritage