Modern approach to cultural heritage proves popular, Zhao Ruixue reports.
The art and significance of Chinese intangible culture are taking on new forms to enhance modern life and are consequently gaining new fans.
Huang Sihan is 15 years old but her nimble fingers can create an artwork that is both intricate and entertaining. In just half an hour, she cut out a butterfly-shaped ring from a piece of red paper at an exhibition of intangible cultural heritage. The exhibition was part of activities held by the Confucius Museum from Wednesday to Sunday to celebrate Lantern Festival, which falls on Friday. It provides a platform where people can try several ancient arts, such as paper cutting.
The girl put the ring on her finger and the wings of the butterfly she cut flapped gracefully as she moved her finger.
"Girls like rings, so I got the idea of making a butterfly ring," she says.
Huang has been learning paper cutting for three years. The grade two student at a junior middle school in Qufu, Shandong province, now practices paper-cutting every Wednesday afternoon at school.
"Students like paper-cutting," says Chang Fengying, who teaches paper-cutting at the school. "They imagine shapes and cut them out from paper. Some make very good works that can be used during Spring Festival instead of buying items from shops."
The museum in Qufu, the hometown of Confucius, holds exhibitions to bring ancient culture closer to young people, says Lin Lin, a staff member there.
Making radish lamps by putting a candle into the plant is a sure way to attract lots of children. However, some doubted whether the radish that contains the candle is real and some asked why not use lanterns instead of the radish lamps.
Their questions were answered by patient explanations of the lamp makers.
"These were popular and were made with flour dough and radishes, a popular agricultural product in Qufu," says radish lamp specialist Qiu Qingfeng.
To prove his point he quickly carved two radishes with holes for the light and lids and carved Chinese characters on them.
In recent years, the Chinese government has made great efforts in preserving and developing traditional art forms. The central and local government authorities are listing intangible cultural heritage and providing support to artists.
Zhou Chuanmei, 64, is glad that the pastry, made by patissiers at the Confucian Mansion, was listed as an intangible cultural project by the Qufu city government last year.
The line of culinary expertise can be traced back. The teacher of Zhou's father made pastry for Confucius' descendants. Zhou learned the techniques of making pastry from her father and has been making it for over 30 years.
"Confucius Mansion pastry must be made with fresh materials such as seasonal fruits," says Zhou, adding that no additives are used.
"We use honey to keep the pastry for a longer time," she says.
Zhou made tangyuan, a stuffed dumpling ball made of glutinous rice flour, for Lantern Festival, with one of her apprentices at the Confucius Museum on Wednesday. Their tasty product sold out quickly.
To enrich residents' life at home during Spring Festival, Qufu authorities opened a cloud platform to livestream the procedures of making Confucius Mansion pastry. More than 17,000 residents joined the livestreaming.
In recent years, Zhou has been making more pastry with vegetables and fruits.
"Tradition should be preserved. It's also necessary to embrace some new elements to keep the handicraft alive," says Zhou.
To help visitors understand the customs related to Spring Festival, the museum also holds exhibitions during the same period to showcase antiques passed down by Confucius' descendants, such as lanterns.