cultural heritage

a chinese iconic ship: the junk

The junk is a classic Chinese sailing vessel of ancient origin, designed as a warship but also used across centuries, and even today, for trade and maritime exploration.

In this blog, authored by Sofie Taes for Europeana in the context of PAGODE – Europeana China project, stories and curiosities are told about this iconic ship – whose silhouette looks so familar in any imagery of Chinese seascapes.

From early testimonies about junks to the epic history of the “Keying” crossing the oceans in mid 1800s, there is no need of being a naval enthusiast to enjoy these easy pills of cultural heritage.

Read the blog about the junk in Europeana website >>

More junks? Also enjoy a cherrypicked gallery in Europeana >>

image: CC-BY-NC-ND Östasiatiska museet via Europeana.

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

yin and yang

img.: Illustration titled ‘Peace through anarchy’ depicts the balance of inflammation in blood vessels. Three states; anarchy (Circle-A symbol; left), balance (yin-yang; centre) and peace (CND symbol; right) are shown, each essential for the health and wellbeing of our blood vessels.; Neil Dufton, Wellcome collection CC-BY via Europeana .

Flows of people, objects and knowledge went back and forth between Europe and China across centuries, and are witnessed by a wealth of China-related cultural heritage preserved in European Institutions.
Discover the interesting stories that are told in digitized collections available on Europeana, carefully curated and selected by the Editorial Team of EU funded PAGODE – Europeana China project.

Today’s gallery is about “Yin and Yang“.

The idea of opposite forces complementing each other is at the core of many belief systems. The Ancient Chinese concept of yin & yang is often represented by black & white ‘taijitu’, but also by broken and solid lines sometimes combined into trigrams.

Visit the gallery on Europeana.eu!

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

pagode’s crowdsourcing campaign: scenes and people from china

The Europeana portal gives access to about 60 million digital cultural heritage items of all sort, from thousands of cultural heritage institutions throughout Europe. Rich and descriptive information to be associated to the images is vital for making this digital cultural heritage meaningful and searchable by users. In the remits of PAGODE, we are committed to improve the information available on Europeana for a minimum of 2.000 digital records. To do this, we recently launched a crowdsourcing campaign that allows researchers, students and culture lovers join the effort of annotating and curating photographic materials about Chinese culture that are currently published in Europeana.

PAGODE’s crowdsourcing campaign is accessible here: https://crowdheritage.eu/en/china

By using a very intuitive crowdsourcing platform, anyone can look at selected heritage photographs from Europeana and add descriptive tags to identify places, historic periods, pictorial styles or photographic qualities (contrast, landscape, portrait, perspective…). The annotations will then be fed back by PAGODE to Europeana to improve the information available.

The PAGODE crowdsourcing campaign is entitled “Scenes and People from China”, currently comprising two volumes of images that offer a glimpse of life in China throughout the 20th century as well as portraits featuring people with Chinese roots or ancestors.

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

mandarins of china

img.: Pekin, Mandarin et Bonze Chinois, Chinese mandarin et priest. Carte Postale; Etnografiska museet CC-BY-NC-ND via Europeana.

Flows of people, objects and knowledge went back and forth between Europe and China across centuries, and are witnessed by a wealth of China-related cultural heritage preserved in European Institutions.
Discover the interesting stories that are told in digitized collections available on Europeana, carefully curated and selected by the Editorial Team of EU funded PAGODE – Europeana China project.

Today’s gallery is about “Mandarins of China“.

Mandarins were important public officials & bureaucrats, playing a vital role in the country’s imperial history. The notoriously difficult imperial exams were an important facet of social mobility, granting those who passed a privileged status.

Visit the gallery on Europeana.eu!

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

rice cultivation in china

img.: poster by Sun Jingbo; The Royal Library: The National Library of Denmark and Copenhagen University Library; CC-BY-NC-ND via Europeana.

Flows of people, objects and knowledge went back and forth between Europe and China across centuries, and are witnessed by a wealth of China-related cultural heritage preserved in European Institutions.
Discover the interesting stories that are told in digitized collections available on Europeana, carefully curated and selected by the Editorial Team of PAGODE – Europeana China.

Today’s gallery is about “Rice cultivation in China“.

Did you know that China produces almost a third of the world’s rice? As different types of rice crops are planted and harvested throughout the year, cultivating rice is a continuous and labour intensive job.

Visit the gallery on Europeana.eu!

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

the heritagization of the emigration from China

img. Part of the exhibition at the Overseas Chinese Museum of China, Beijing, source: http://www.7782tour.com/museum/27.html.

blog authored by dr. Martina Bofulin, Slovenian Migration Institute, Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

After the implementation of the reforms in the 1980s the Chinese state started to embrace a more diverse understanding of heritage. After the adoption of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Convention in 2003, China experienced the so-called “heritage boom” that also included the new stance towards the legacies of emigration from China.  For a long time considered to be traitors and agents of imperialism, Chinese emigrants, or Overseas Chinese as they are most often called, turned from ideologically suspicious to patriotic with their material and immaterial legacies being celebrated through museums, rituals, and monuments.

Part of the exhibition at the Overseas Chinese Museum of China, Beijing, source: http://www.7782tour.com/museum/27.html.

According to some estimates, there were at least 30 such museums across China, including major metropolises (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou) as well as smaller places with strong emigration in Fujian, Zhejiang, Guangdong and even Yunnan and Heilongjiang provinces (Wang 2019). Among these, the flagship project is the National Overseas Chinese History Museum of China in Beijing officially inaugurated in 2014.  As Wang Cangbai  (2019) observes, these museums may differ in style and size but are very much alike in their monolithic patriotic discourse. This discourse emphasizes the contribution of the Overseas Chinese to China’s revolution (especially their contribution to the struggle against Japanese aggression) as well as subsequent modernization. Museums thus construct the Overseas Chinese as a highly unified “patriotic subject” who had suffered as a victim of Western colonialism and imperialism (Wang 2019).

A statue of Johann Strauss at Longjin Park in Qingtian. Longjin Park is described as “a community park characteristic of natural beauty, European styled structure, traditional culture and modern garden arts”, source: Martina Bofulin.

While on the national level the heritagization of Chinese emigration is highly ideological and does not depart in any way from the prescribed forms of the Chinese state’s metanarrative of the great revival of Chinese civilization under the CCP Chinese Communist Party, the heritagization at the local level pursues many more complex aims and gives local authorities more creativity for turning local practices and legacies into heritage. At the local level, the heritagization is much less ideological as it is practical – the main aims are local development through tourism, urban development as well as social cohesion, and successful town branding. But as the case of Qingtian county, a small “hometown of Overseas Chinese” in the southern Zhejiang province reveals, the migration legacies are mostly intangible practices that must be somehow made more palpable and material. In Qingtian, many resources are invested in creating an environment that reflects the century-long connection to Europe through migration. These legacies materialize in the local “European style” projects, including newly built monuments and buildings, as well as the celebration of particular consumption practices (e.g. coffee houses, wine drinking).

Qingtian as a coffee town – the presence of the coffee culture due to the emigration “to 120 countries and districts”, source 旅游青田/ Qingtian Tourism, 2019.

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

ancient chinese calligraphy

A series of very interesting teaching and learning materials about China, its culture and cultural heritage, is published by the renowned online magazine Ancient History Encyclopedia. An article by Mark Cartwright dives into the meaning and history of Chinese calligraphy which was considered more an artistic practice than a way to communicate in written.

“Calligraphy established itself as the most important ancient Chinese art form alongside painting, first coming to the fore during the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE). All educated men and some court women were expected to be proficient at it, an expectation which remained well into modern times. Far more than mere writing, good calligraphy exhibited an exquisite brush control and attention to composition, but the actual manner of writing was also important with rapid, spontaneous strokes being the ideal. The brushwork of calligraphy, its philosophy, and materials would influence Chinese painting styles, especially landscape painting, and many of the ancient scripts are still imitated today in modern Chinese writing. “

Exquisite calligraphy was highly appreciated and cherished, by preserving the support in different ways; and talented writers could even become real celebrities so that their works were collected and faithfully copied (and sometimes even forged!) since the early days, irrespectively of the meaning of the text. “There are many scraps (tie) which may be very old and highly valued but are, in fact, merely comments on the weather or a note for a gift of oranges.”

Read or listen to the entire article from Ancient History Encyclopedia website: https://www.ancient.eu/Chinese_Calligraphy/

image: Rubbing of Essay on Yue Yi by calligrapher Wang Xizhi. Weltmuseum Wien via Europeana CC-BY-NC-SA

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

Public Domain and misuse: some thoughts

Being so deeply embedded in the Europeana ecosystem, PAGODE – Europeana China fully embraces the advocacy towards more open access content to be made available online in repositories like Europeana. The effort of cultural heritage institutions in showcasing their gems in digital format goes hand in hand with their mission of sharing this cultural heritage at large, for the benefit and enjoyment of the entire community.

Also, the general trend in Europe about digitization of cultural heritage and associated rights comes from a lenghty discussion that is continuing for years: does the digitization action add new rights to the digitized object? Despite there is not a general consensus on this, the direction is on maintaining the rights status of the physical object also in the digital instance, and specifically this means that if an artwork is in Public Domain because of copyright’s expiration, also the digital reproduction should be labelled as “Public Domain”.

Irrespectively of the associated rights, however, there is always a problem of possible misuse for this content that is available online and easily downloadable. And while in our minds there is this idea of the “evil” user who breaks copyright on purpose, and stoles the images to e.g. make unlawful money out of them, the problem on the control of what happens to the online content is much deeper.

the Journal’s cover

An example of this, that particularly catched the attention of PAGODE – Europeana China because it relates to a Chinese cultural heritage item, has recently come to the stage: a beautiful image of a Chinese embroidered cloth (a so-called rank-badge) depicting a leopard, in PD from the Metropolitan Museum of Arts, was recently used to illustrate the cover page of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Journal, titled “Emerging infectious diseases”.

The Journal and CDC were immediately flooded with expressions of outrage and concern of many from the Asian-American community and beyond, at the inappropriate use of a Chinese work of art on the cover and tweet-posting of a journal issue devoted to scholarly articles on COVID-19 and other respiratory infections.

The power of imaging should not be underestimated, as the choice of this image in such a context may suggest an emphasis on animals in China as carriers of the disease, resulting in an unvoluntary but certainly irresponsible example of using a PD digital item. The sensitivity about associating the COVID-19 crisis straightforward with China is clearly understandable, especially in America in this moment of xenophobia concerns and protests; but the explaination of CDC cuts short, by stating this is all a misunderstanding, and simply confirming that the image was chosen just for decorative purposes, being a striking piece of art – as indeed it is. At the moment, no reaction is known from the Metropolitan Museum of Arts as the content holder of the misused digital image.

The entire story is deepened in an interesting article by Hyperallergic magazine.

But the question about protection against digital content misuses is still very open. It is not always a matter of  whom makes money out of the content, but more of what happens to the content once it is freely available for “any” purpose.

While advocating the open access approach, we really must think that the content holder completely loses any control and responsibility on the reuse of this content, and on the possible consequences that may arise. This is one of the many reasons for which some archives still have doubts about embracing the open access tout-court, especially when they deal with potentially-sensitive content.

image: Rank Badge with Leopard, Wave and Sun Motifs, China, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), late 18th century, silk and metallic thread, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 30.75.1025

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839