Sholar Feng Jicai is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference who has put forward over a hundred proposals to government. However, in the last decade, his ideas have remained on a single issue: calling for the protection of ancient villages all across China.
After a discussion session during the CPPCC, Feng Jicai talks to media mainly about his plans to protect ancient villages. Now in his mid 70s, Feng is a writer and consultant to the state council, and has spent decades recording and preserving the country’s cultural heritage.
"We are working with the Ministry of Culture to push for the filing and recording of ancient villages. So we’ll organize scholars and photographers to investigate and build a comprehensive data base for the villages." said Feng Jicai, CPPCC Member.
In 2001, when the Chinese government launched an application and protection plan for intangible cultural heritages, Feng laid his eyes on the many villages that are disappearing because of the country’s rapid urbanization. He sees them as "folk museums" that carry living traditions, and a spiritual homeland for the entire country.
Since 2003, he and his students have travelled across the country, visiting villages and counties in remote areas, recording the many unique folk traditions and cultures, and using his social and political influence to promote the project. In 2012, the government released the first two lists of villages of cultural importance. But to Feng Jicai, the work is far from over.
"The historical forms of the villages should not be changed. So we have to launch a protection standard and build a supervision system. This year, I want to propose to the government to experiment on a few villages. Providing a sustainable economy for the villagers is essential to the protection of a village’s original culture." said Feng Jicai, CPPCC Member.
China is home to millions of historically significant villages, but once resourceful and diverse cultures are dying at a stunning speed. In 2009, Feng Jicai initiated the first Intangible Cultural Heritage Data Base Center, keeping a digital record of the folklore of ancient villages, including legends, operas, riddles and living customs. During the CPPCC, Feng presents his work to the participants.
"The data base is enormous. It now has 800 million words, including 800,000 entries on proverbs and 120,000 entries about legends. If it was printed in books and stored in libraries, young people wouldn’t learn much from it. So we put it online, so they can have easy access to it. The goal of our work is to carry on and spread traditional culture." said Feng Jicai.
Once a writer in his studio, now a cultural scholar that practices his social and cultural duty, Feng Jicai is living up to his responsibility as a CPPCC member.