Lobby started for getting mahjong on Unesco heritage list
- Created on Tuesday, 29 November 2011 10:01
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 November 2012 18:00
- Written by Staff
CHONGQING, China - The Unesco World Heritage List contains hundreds of the world’s most magnificent cultural and natural landmarks: the Yellowstone National Park in the USA, the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, Angkor in Cambodia, the Borobudur Temple Compounds in Indonesia and the Great Wall of China, to name just a few. And, if the World Mahjong Organisation will get its way, also the game of mahjong will be added to the list.
According the the Chinese/English website China Daily, a ‘semi-official organization’ under the Chinese ministry of Culture has said it will work with the World Mahjong Organization (WMO) to prepare a new application for the game to be included on the world list of Intangible Culture Heritage items. Landmarks on the list have a special status, which implies that they shall not be modified or destroyed. But countries do not receive financial support in order to maintain the sites.
The current lobby is a second attempt to get mahjong on the Unesco list. In 2007, according to the China Daily, the committee submitted a first application to the ministry to include the game as an item of China’s national intangible cultural heritage. This was considered a first step before applying to Unesco. But the committee received no reply.
The committee expects that the new application will be innovative, in that it will engage Western and Eastern countries as joint applicants directly to Unesco.
The China Daily claims that Ma Xiaomei, president of the Chinese Promotional Committee of World National Culture Exchange, has said that the environment will be favorable for a new application, since many local mahjong associations have worked to promote the culture behind the sport and standardize the game rules. Ma: “The goal is to raise people’s awareness that mahjong has valuable cultures that could be beneficial to people's minds and health, and elevate the quality of life.
“The essence of mahjong has been reduced, and its image distorted. We need to reverse that trend”, said Ma, referring to the fact that in China, mahjong used to be a gambling game. “This is more difficult than protecting some other dying cultural heritages. As long as our application is not rejected outright, it will be a victory.”
Ma said mahjong is worthy to be listed because it is an implied metaphor of the universe and has logical and philosophical elements. Chairman Mao Zedong once said that mahjong is one of three Chinese national treasures contributing to the world. But, on the other hand, when his Communist Party took over China, mahjong was forbidden since it was used for gambling.
The China Daily quotes Jiang Xuanqi, secretary-general to the WMO, who said that he expects that the more than twenty national member-associations will support the committee in the attempt. Also former Sports Minister Li Menghua, and former vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Yu Guangyuan, who is also chairman of the WMO, are quoted. They should have stressed the urgency of promoting mahjong culture and making sure it isn’t seen as a mere sport, like the martial arts.
"The combined application reflects compatible and harmonious development of the Western and Eastern cultures,” said Yu.
Henrik Leth, a Danish player, said that the move is worth trying ‘with the argument that mahjong is close to Chinese culture’.
Yukari Kugimiya, a member of the Japan Mahjong Sports Association, said she supports China, where mahjong was born, to apply for inclusion on the list.
“We need to include a social image for mahjong. I sometimes think Chinese people have the gene of mahjong. It's in their blood.”
Rui Quanbao, president of the Mahjong Association of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, said the game is also good for national unity, for “people of different ethnic groups love playing the game together.”