Heritage and Creativity in Hangzhou
Marco Polo described Hangzhou as the most beautiful city in the world while a 13th century Chinese poet wrote, “There is paradise in heaven. And on earth there is Hangzhou.”
Today, Hangzhou is among China’s most dynamic cities, where heritage and creativity connect as development assets. On 15 May, the Director-General presented the Mayor with a certificate designating Hangzhou as a UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Arts, and visited Hangzhou’s West Lake Cultural Landscape, praised by poets and artists across the ages and inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2011.
“Cultural industries have always received priority attention from our local government,” said Mayor Shao Zhanwei. “Today, they account for 12 percent of local GDP, which is higher than the contribution of financial services. And their share continues to grow.”
Praising the Mayor for the impressive development of creative industries, she stressed the importance of inscribing the Creative Cities network into a broader reflection on culture and development. “Culture plays a huge role in creating a sustainable urban environment. Culture creates jobs, carries educational benefits and makes societies more cohesive, especially in urban areas.” She discussed with the Mayor the possible holding of an international conference on culture and development in Hangzhou in 2013.
The Mayor outlined several initiatives to expand access to culture in Hangzhou, notably to encourage reading. All museums and libraries are free, citizens can borrow up to 200 books by the Internet, while migrant workers can spend their lunch hours reading in the library without charge.
The richness of Hanghzou’s crafts tradition is on display at the city’s Museum of Arts and Crafts. Alongside its permanent collections spread over several floors, visitors can watch masters at work, from silk embroidery to woodcarving and calligraphy, while workshops initiate children to painting opera masks and other artistic activities.
The Director-General also congratulated Mayor Shao for the inscription of Hangzhou’s West Lake Cultural Landscape on the World Heritage List. “We always say that an inscription is just the beginning of a journey – one of protection, preservation and sustainable management for the benefit of present and future generations,” said Irina Bokova. “UNESCO is ready to accompany you in measures to sustainably manage this beautiful site.” The Director-General discovered the site famed for its islands, bridges, temples and pagodas that compose a harmonious landscape reflecting peacefulness and ‘nature as painting.’