Community museums work to preserve local history
The nostalgia of memory
Published: Jun 27, 2016 06:43 PM Updated: Jun 27, 2016 11:28 PM

A display at the Tanma Folk Museum in Tancheng county, Shandong Province, depicts local life during the early 1900s. Photo: Xu Liuliu/GT

A display at the Tanma Folk Museum in Tancheng county, Shandong Province, depicts local life during the early 1900s. Photo: Xu Liuliu/GT

Though he has been living in an apartment in the suburban community in Jinan, Shandong Province for several years now, fifty-something Mr. Hong still remembers the decades he spent working the fields as a farmer.

However, not too long ago he had begun worrying that China's rapid urbanization and massive social changes would mean that his grandchildren will be completely unfamiliar with the rural lifestyle and tools that he grew up with. It wasn't until his local community opened up a museum to display the types of tools he used to farm with that this worry finally subsided. 

Established by the Yaojia Jiedao community, the museum, whose slogan is "the nostalgia of memory," has old farm tools such as hoes, rakes and wheelbarrows on display as well as illustrations showing examples of other rural items such as wood fire griddles and old-fashioned dressers.

The head of Yaojia Jiedao, a large community that developed from several small rural villages, is Zeng Suyan. She told the Global Times that the museum aims to help residents maintain ties to the past.

"Although they have moved away from rural areas, residents still miss village life and hope that following generations can learn more about it. So we collected these old rural items that we have on display to provide a place for residents to have a dialogue with the past," she said.

From community to village

Actually, this community museum is just one of hundreds of similar museums in villages and communities across Shandong, which is well-known for its long cultural history and rich traditions as well as home to two historic giants, Confucius and Mencius.

About 250 kilometers south of Yaojia Jiedao, a similar museum showcasing the life and customs of people living in the southwest part of Shandong can be found - the Village Memory Museum.

Located in the Shilipu community, Linyi city, the museum has collected numerous items and old photos related to local history, from festival celebrations among local farmers to everyday objects including cooking utensils and cups. The four exhibition halls in the museum introduce clothing, food, shelter, travel, etiquette, seasonal life and local historical figures.

Local ceremonial customs including wedding and funeral ceremonies are also important parts of local culture on display at the Tanma Folk Museum in Tancheng county, Linyi city. 

Wang Bingchun, director of the General Affairs office at the Shandong Provincial Culture Department, told the Global Times that thanks to big data collected on local community museums, they have a map of the cultural heritages and specialty characteristics of villages throughout the province.

"The system we developed can accurately locate any village or community display space and how they display local folk art. In 2015, the Culture Department released a list of 99 counties, districts and cities that will receive financial support," Wang said.

Cultural heritage

To display and pass on their different cultural traditions and local heritage, villages have also established various museums focused on various aspects, such as the Willow Weaving Museum in Linshu county and the Jiaozhou Yangge Dance Museum in Dongxiaotun village in Jiaozhou city.

Yangge is a rural folk dance wildly seen throughout North China, but Jiaozhou-style yangge is quite different from other styles. It was listed as a national cultural heritage in 2006.

With the museum, local yangge performer Li Zaixin and his fellow villagers can introduce the history of Jiaozhou yangge as well as pass on some basic knowledge to young kids in the village.

"Currently, I teach several kids every day in the hope that they can carry on this heritage," he said.

Over at the Village Memory Museum, they provide free calligraphy classes and books. Ren Zhenshi, 64, volunteers as a calligraphy teacher, teaching children during the weekends and on holidays.

According to the Shandong Culture Department, they plan to establish local museums in every township and village by the end of the current 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020).