Protecting Qiantang River's cultural heritage
The curtain was opened on the First H20 Global River Cities Summit recently to discuss sustainable development and protection of cultural heritage river.
Government officials from the world-famous cities nestled along rivers, including Paris in France, Budapest in Hungary and Sao Paulo in Brazil, gathered and delivered speeches themed on the “River — the Artery Passing on Civilization.”
As a part of the 2nd Hangzhou Qiantang River International Cultural Festival, the summit included a series of activities and seminars. The aim was to figure out effective actions for sustainable development and cultural heritage protection.
The highlight of the summit was signing the cooperation agreement on Qiantang River-Seine River (China/France) sustainable water resources development between Jianggan District in Hangzhou and the 19th arrondissement in Paris.
Both Qiantang and the Seine are cradles for enriched cultural heritage. The cooperation aims to deepen exchanges in the fields of water resources preservation and development.
“This is the beginning of our cooperation with Hangzhou. Paris people have endeavored for decades to harness the Seine, hoping to swim in it someday. Now, I can say it is going to come true within two to three years,” said Oliver Wang, vice district executive of the 19th arrondissement in Paris.
“We keep upgrading the filtration systems and using electric boats to reduce environment pollution in the Seine as much as possible,” Wang added. “Also, more public aquatic activities will be hosted in summertime to utilize the watercourse.”
As for Jianggan District, it is drawing experience from other cities, especially the aspect of cultural heritage preservation and creative product design.
“In the past two years, we have already developed a series of creative products themed on Qiantang River. Traditional crafts are designed according to practicality and modern aesthetics. A project is launched to revive intangible cultural heritage as well,” said Wang Jian, chief of cultural and creative department of Jianggan District.
As the mother river of Hangzhou and Zhejiang Province, Qiantang River has always been considered the origin of silk, tea and porcelain culture, as seen from the unearthed antiques that were lined along the watercourse.
Meanwhile, some of this centuries-old cultural heritage was included in the national and the UNESCO intangible heritage lists, like the antique weaving techniques and Jianggan-style paper cutting.
In modern times, the city’s development has shifted from the West Lake to Qiantang River. Besides a thriving economy, the government hopes to strengthen its soft power through the festival and summit.
“This summit allows us to communicate with other well-preserved river cities, learning their precious experience and solving the mutual problems facing in city construction,” Wang said. “The highest developing phase for cities is to bond construction with the river more ecologically and harmoniously. Hangzhou is still working toward that direction.”
Qiantang River is one of the world’s three largest tidal bore rivers along with the Amazon and the Ganges. Professionals from Bengal and Brazil were invited to attend the seminar “Extracting and passing on river civilization” on the site.
The summit got support from international organizations, including Alliance for Water Stewardship, China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, Waterkeeper Alliance and a local non-governmental organization Green Zhejiang.
Since its establishment in 2000, Green Zhejiang has earned fame as an NGO involved in water conservation. It has employed local volunteer inspectors to monitor rivers in Hangzhou. These voluntary inspectors cruise along the rivers periodically and report pollution issues to government departments.
In order to promote the awareness of water preservation among students, a batch of local schools have collaborated with official organizations to launch a “Young River Inspector” program letting them take active part in the daily protection work of watercourses.
During the summit, a team of government officials from other countries visited Qianjiang campus of Hangzhou High School to exchange information with these young river inspectors and in return deepened the public consciousness among young people.
Meanwhile, eight celebrities from different industries were recruited as volunteers to promote the Hangzhou Qiantang River International Cultural Festival on the site, aiming to raise awareness among the public to conserve the river.
“During my career of a rower, I believe boat is the link between human beings and rivers. Compared with the grandeur of nature, humans are humble and tiny. We could harness the river only if we respect nature,” said Xu Yaping, a gold medal winner in the women’s kayak at the 2005 China National Games.
“Qiantang River symbolizes the spiritual world of Zhejiang locals and virtues of perseverance and braveness. I hope to attract more visitors through my work,” said Yi Yi, one of China’s most famous women anchors.
In addition to harnessing watercourses, Hangzhou also hosts public activities to enhance citizens’ participation in river development.
A walk along Qiantang River attracted more than 15,000 people from 20 countries and regions earlier this month.
The walk was divided into three categories: the 5-kilometer family route, 30km and 50km trails. People walked along wetland parks, dams, historical zones and tidal bore scenic spots, and learned about the history and development of the mother river.