The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

Construction and Change of Ethnic Cultural Resources

Joint Research Coordinator TAKEUCHI Fusaji

Reserch Theme List


China is a multiethnic nation in which dwell many minority ethnic groups in addition to the Han majority. There are various cultural resources for all of these ethnic groups. A variety of tangible and intangible cultures give rise to resources marked with the special characteristics of an ethnic group, which are used and further disseminated through media. Many issues regarding such cultural resources remain to be explicated. Among these issues are who gives birth to cultural resources and in what manner, and how cultural resources change as they are put to strategic use. This includes numerous other questions as to movement of cultural resource generation and application and their diversified subjects, and the politics in terms of power structure born from these cultural resources. Other questions include their occupancy /dispersion and the interactive relationships between cultural resources and defined ethnic groups. This research will seek clarification from both ethnology and history concerning the cultural resources of various ethnic groups living in South China, especially in terms of their generation and transformation.

Research Results

This joint research represented a survey of the processes in handling cultural resources among the many ethnic groups dwelling in the regions stretching from Southeast China through continental Southeast Asia. We analyzed mainly the aspects described below.

First, regarding forms of preservation for cultural resources, we had detailed reports on written culture such as the Dongba script, the agricultural methods preserved by the Miao and Dong peoples of southeastern Guizhou province in China, and various other aspects of the traditions and present state of cultural resources, and lively discussions about their significance.

Second, we examined ideas and changes related to the process for utilization of traditional cultural resources among the various ethnic groups of Southwest China and continental Southeast Asia. For example, since the 1990s there has been a discovery of various ethnic symbols that are rife in various places in Southwest China, and we were able to shed light on instances in which such trends for recognition have become tied up with the promotion of tourism, as well as the roles of the cultural figures and researchers who have supported these trends.

Third, we investigated aspects related to the politics involved in the standing given to ethnic cultural resources. One issue we studied concerned the supervision by administrative organs of publicity and publication activities. For example, editorial activities related to ethnographic collections involve not just the examination of past ethnic culture, but also their current standing. That is, there is an inseparable relationship with cultural promotion.

 Since the 1990s, the Chinese government side has been engaged in large-scale cultural resource projects, including the establishment of several Chinese-style eco-museums (modes of life museums) in Guizhou, Yunnan and Guangxi provinces, and we conducted a study of these projects. In particular, in March 2003 we held a symposium at which Tan Bo, head of the Cultural Artifacts Office (Wenwuju) of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region (em>Gvangjsih Bouxcuengh Swcigih) and the person responsible for planning eco-museums and outdoor museums in Guangxi and Guizhou, Wu Weifeng, director of the Guangxi Museum, and Xie Mohua, director of the Yunnan Nationalities Museum, delivered reports. They introduced current conditions regarding the preservation and transmission of the cultures of various ethnic groups through such eco-museums. Through this symposium, we were able to reconfirm how the extremely important strategic roles that the preserved cultures of the ethnic groups have in the industry and society of their local areas as an accompaniment to the spectacular development of China’s market economy. 

Our project to survey the cultural dynamism of the ethnic groups in the regions of Southwest China and continental Southeast Asia from the perspective of cultural resources was a first-time attempt, but we believe that we achieved our objectives.