By GoKunming Staff in Features

Intangible cultural heritage is the manifestation of traditional culture passed down by generations of different ethnic groups. Containing profound cultural elements, intangible cultural heritage showcases the creativity and aesthetic concept of different ethnic minorities, and forms an important, inseparable part of a certain culture.    Kunming is one of China's historical and cultural cities first promulgated in 1982, and as the capital city of Yunnan province, which is home to the largest number of ethnic groups in China, it is a place where different ethnic cultures meet and fuse.    With rich, distinctive ethnic culture resources, Kunming has as many as 500 items of intangible cultural heritage of many different levels. During the 2016 Cherry Flowers Festival (which lasts until the end of March) of Mount Yuantong (圆通山) (Kunming Zoo), a small domed building is opened to the public, displaying the most typical intangible cultural heritage of Kunming.   

Yi ethnic costumes of Luquan

The Yi people in Luquan County (禄劝) have a fascinating tradition for making a wide variety of costumes and embroideries, including dresses, satchels, pillow covers, quilt covers, baby carriers, sofa covers, curtains and many other embroidered decorations. Patterns in these works are highlighted by traditional lucky plants and animals such as peony flowers, plum blossoms, tigers, eagles, dragons, magpies and butterflies. 


These patterns carry different meanings in the Yi culture. For example, the dragons, tigers and eagles on the coats of Yi men are the Yi totems; the sheep horns on the lapels of the Yi women means "life goes well"; the pomegranates on the baby carrier symbolise fertility; and the Rhododendron-like hats imply the pursuit of a good life.  

Yunnan style snuff bottles


As the most important part of the snuff bottle techniques, the history of painting the inside of the bottles can be dated back to the Qianlong (乾隆) Period of the Qing Dynasty. Highlighted by Yunnan's natural landscapes, cultural elements, and ethnic customs, a Yunnan-style snuff bottle is more than just a container for snuff.  

Jiama paintings of Jinning


Jiama (甲马画) is a style of painting traditionally used in sacrificial ceremonies such as funerals, religious services and exorcisms. In Kunming, Jiama paintings are mainly found in Jincheng Town (晋城镇) and Kunyang Town (昆阳镇) of Jinning County at the southern bank of Lake Dian.   

Wood carving of Yiliang


The massive immigration of the Han ethnic group from the 1360s to 1390s laid a firm foundation for the introduction of Central China's agricultural civilisation and traditional culture to Yiliang that was then known as the "Granary of Central Yunnan". The wood carving of Yiliang gradually developed against this historical background.    The wood carvings of Yiliang are mainly used as decoration for architecture, furniture, and housed items. The most prolific artisan is Gao Zhiyong whose exquisite works like The Boat of Zheng He are fascinating to examine.   

White pottery of Yiliang


A village named Yaoshangcun (窑上村) of Majie Town (马街镇) is famed for its special clay resources, and local villagers have preserved the centuries-old kilning technique from their forefathers. This rare pottery appears smooth and white, and features a very fine texture, while the pieces are functional.  

Yunnan style kites


The history of Yunnan-style kites is somewhat complex. During the immigration of the Han ethnic group to Yunnan in the Yuan and Ming dynasties, Northern China's kite-making techniques were introduced. Local craftsmen then cleverly mastered the technique and adjusted it to suit the local climate of Yunnan.   

Dough sculptures of Songming


The dough sculpture is an outstanding traditional technique of Songming County as well as receiving province-level recognition as an intangible cultural heritage of Yunnan.    This charming handicraft is made from glutinous rice and assorted colours, before undergoing the key process of kneading. The dough is skillfully shaped into trees, mountains, animals, people, fruits, vegetables or whatever else a customer might want.  

Copper silver artefacts of Guandu


Known locally as "Wu Tong Zou Yin" (乌铜走银), this kind of precious handicraft is a Han technique first invented in Shiping County (石屏县) in the south of Yunnan province, and also traditionally produced in Guandu, Kunming.    The main part of a copper-silver artefact is copper on which different intaglios are engraved. Craftsmen infuse melted silver (or gold) into the intaglios and then polish the whole masterpiece. As time goes by, the copper turns black, highlighting the silver or gold in a charming manner. The local name for this technique (Wu Tong Zou Yin) means "silver walks on black copper".  

Yunan bornite sculptures


The history of bornite sculptures can be dated back 300 years. It is said that at the beginning, craftsmen in Dongchuan of Kunming and Huize (会泽) of Qujing (曲靖) forged the natural bornite ores into utensils and traded with buyers in Kunming where local coppersmiths then reprocessed them into sculptures. 

The bornite sculptures vary in style including people, animals, flowers, incense burner, jars, wall decorations and containers. The most famous two works are the Ox-Tiger Table and the Peacock Jar.   

Yunnan chessmen


Yunnan chessmen were originally produced in the ancient Yongchang (永昌镇) prefecture (current Baoshan city (保山市) in the west of Yunnan province, which is why Yunnan chessmen are also called "Yong Zi" (永子). In the Ming and Qing dynasties, Yong Zi were listed as articles of tribute. When Queen Elizabeth visited Kunming in 1985, the Yunnan Provincial Government presented her with a set of Yunnan chessmen.  

Tile cats of Xiaoyao Village


Tile cats are talismans set on roofs of buildings, which in folklore are believed to invite good fortune and ward off bad luck. The history of producing tile cats in Xiaoyao Village (小窑村) (Panlong District) can be dated back to the Ming and Qing dynasties.