Chinese authorities opened a reserve zone on Tuesday to protect Huizhou culture, which is considered to be representative of the country's late agricultural era.
Zhou Heping, vice minister of culture, said that the move was aimed at protecting the history of regional cultures, which differed because of the nation's vast territory, and that the zone would help preserve China's tangible and intangible heritage.
The reserve zone includes Huangshan city and Jixi county in the eastern province of Anhui and Wuyuan county in neighboring Jiangxi Province.
Folk customs and songs, local dialects and other intangible heritage items would get better protection in the zone, according to an action plan.
Observers said the move would strengthen cooperation between the local governments when it came to protecting Huizhou culture, since Wuyuan was put under the jurisdiction of Jiangxi Province in 1949 and Jixi went under the government of Xuancheng, Anhui Province.
The official name of Huizhou, which dates back nine centuries, was changed to Huangshan in 1987 with a view to promoting tourism of the Huangshan Mountains. The change brought more investment, tourists and economic benefit to areas surrounding the world natural heritage site, which is known for its unique pines, rocks, springs and "cloud seas."
However, since the name change, more than 900 national legislators and top advisors have introduced motions and bills to change the name back. The intellectual community charged that the disappearance of the name Huizhou, which was home to Peking Opera, an important branch of Chinese merchants and distinctive architecture, was a great loss to culture and tradition.
Huizhou culture, also called Hui culture, began to flourish more than 1,000 years ago during the later Northern Song Dynasty (960-1120) and reached its zenith in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties.
Hui Studies, together with Dunhuang Studies and Tibetan Studies, is counted as one of China's three major regional areas of study.
There are 1,022 well-preserved ancient villages in the area formerly called Huizhou, with more than 5,000 ancient private residences, ancestral temples, memorial archways, pavilions and bridges, among other structures, said Fang Lishan, researcher of the Anhui Research Institute of Culture and History.
Among the local dwellings, two renowned villages in Huizhou, Xidi and Hongcun have been listed as World Cultural Heritage Sites. Huangshan Mountain has been listed as one of the World Natural and Cultural Heritage Sites.