The Watertight

By Raymond Webb,2014-07-06 17:27
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The Watertight

    The Watertight-Bulkhead Technology of Chinese Junks is an age-old craft for the construction of ocean-going vessels with watertight compartments in South China‟s Fujian Province. The vessels are made mainly of camphor, pine and fir timber, and assembled through use of traditional carpenters‟ tools. They are built by applying the key technologies of rabbet-jointing planks

    together and caulking the seams between the planks with ramie, lime and tung oil. A master craftsman designs and directs the whole process. A large number of craftsmen work in close coordination to build solidly rabbeted ocean-going vessels consisting of multiple independently watertight cabins. The core technology for building such vessels is called The Watertight-Bulkhead Technology of Chinese Junks.

    Watertight bulkheads are the most important step in building Chinese junks. To start with, the craftsmen build an integral hull by joining the vessel‟s bilge and sides. The hull is then divided into cabins according to the function and size of the ship. The whole process is manual. Planks are rabbet-jointed together. And then interlocked to the bilge and on to frames or held with crampons. Ramie fibber, lime and tung oil are mixed in the proper proportion to wedge into any gaps between planks and make the cabins waterproof. The tools are largely those used by traditional Chinese carpenters, such as axes, carpenter‟s ink markers, hand drills, rulers, maces, pit saws, chisels and planers.

    Chinese junks are subdivided into multiple watertight cabins. If in the course of navigation one or two cabins are accidentally damaged, seawater will not flood other cabins. The vessel will not sink, but remain afloat. This greatly improves navigation safety. This technology has been widely used over the centuries in fishing vessels, cargo ships, warships, and diplomatic vessels. In particular, Fujian‟s ocean-going cargo ships sailing along the Maritime Silk Road during the Song and Yuan dynasties, and the fleets commanded by Ming Dynasty navigator Zheng He in his seven voyages to the West, fully adopted this technology. The technology has served as a bridge and unifier in the exchange between Eastern and Western civilizations. In the late 18th century this technology was finally adopted in the West. Since then Watertight bulkheads have become an important structural element in modern ship design, remain so today and have greatly enhanced navigation safety. The Watertight-Bulkhead Technology of Chinese Junks dates back to the Jin Dynasty (265;420

    AD). It was passed down and improved in relevant communities through the Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. This is exemplified by a Song Dynasty ocean-going cargo vessel built with a watertight-bulkhead structure that was brought to the surface in Quanzhou Bay. This technique is largely transmitted through oral direction from masters to apprentices and among family members. It forms a coherent technological system, has a documented line of continuous transmission, and has been sustained by the transmitters and by community recognition. The craftsman presiding over watertight-bulkhead Fujianese-junk construction is addressed respectfully as Master Craftsman. The master craftsmen command the core technology, take charge of design and construction, and play an important role in orderly transmission of the heritage. So far, transmitters Fangcai Chen, Xixiu Liu and Zhaowei Liu of the heritage all have a complete command of hull construction and the core techniques of rabbet

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    jointing, crampon joiningand caulking seams with ramie, lime and tung oil. Their transmission lines have been recorded orally from master to apprentice or in genealogical records. Watertight-bulkhead Chinese junks were the fishing vessels and ocean-going ships of Fujian Province. They ensure the safety of fishermen and sailors. Over the centuries, local communities

    established the custom of holding solemn memorial ceremonies to pray for peace and safety before beginning construction of Fujianese junks, as well as upon their completion before launch and maiden voyage. Such practices have strengthened relations among practitioners, and are widely observed in the communities transmitting the heritage.

    In 2007 the China Sailing Vessel Development Center, based in Fulong, Fujian Province, commissioned master craftsman Fangcai Chen to design and build a non-motorized 13-cabin watertight-bulkhead wooden Fujianese junk, named the Taiping Princess. The vessel successfully sailed across the Pacific Ocean. The event enormously raised the heritage‟s public profile in the

    transmitting communities. Thus, in 2010, some relevant organizations reached a preliminary agreement with Fangcai Chen to construct a replica of the sunken

Meshrep, which in modern Uygur language means „get-together‟ or „venue,‟ is the developed

    version of the Uygur sacrificial offerings, blessings and ceremonial events of antiquity. Early records of Meshrep appear in the Chinese source The Biography of Gao Che in the Book of Wei (553 AD) and in the Arabic classic The Grand Dictionary of Turkic Language (1073 AD). The Meshrep is an organized folkloric event that follows certain procedures and is often held in a spacious outdoor venue on seasonal and traditional holidays, or according to the needs of the people‟s life and work.

    There are mainly three types of participants: a) the host of Meshrep, viz, the yigetbixi who, elected by the local people, has to preside over the rituals, ballads and dances, games, mock court proceedings and other events taking place in the Meshrep; usually he is aided by several assistants that ensure the orderly progress of the activities; b) the folk artists invited to perform and c) the general public. The event is normally attended by hundreds of people and all of them participate in the activities.

    Meshrep contains a rich collection of traditions. A complete Meshrep event includes performances like the Uygur muqam, folk songs and dances, story-singing and drama, as well as other activities such as oral literature, tournaments and games, which people enjoy and actively take part in. Meshrep has both relation and difference with Uygur muqam. Usually, some USL10 No. 00304

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    songs and dance music from it will be song, played in Meshrepevent, for the public to enjoy it and dance by self-entertainment with the rhythm of the songs and dance music. In the Uygur “twelve muqam”, each set of muqam has such songs and dance music in its third part, therefore this part is also called “Meshrep”. Uygur muqam is the large comprehensive art form integrating song, dance

    and entertainment, while Meshrep is just one of the cultural space of Uygur Muqam. Meshrep is rather like a big stage for various arts or a carnival party, with the public freely participating in various activities, who are not only auditors, also players, even the participants and judge of the moral forum; there is no boundary between the spectator seats and the stage, while Uygur muqam artists are just a small portion of the mass participants of Meshrep. In conclusion, Uygur muqam is the art for the public to enjoy, while Meshrep is the important space accommodating various traditional cultural expression forms. Therefore, we can say that Meshrep is not only an important

„moral forum‟ and „stage‟ for folk artists of various kind to display their brilliant skills, but also a

    „court‟ where the host mediates conflicts and ensure the preservation of moral standards. Moreover, it is a „classroom‟ where people learn about their traditional customs, nature, and different experience of economic production. It is a „playground‟ where to entertain body and soul. Meshrep is the most important cultural venue carrier of Uygur traditions.

    There are dozen varieties of Meshrep known so far, this is evidence of the diversity of its social and cultural functions. For example: the „Kok (Young crops) Meshrep‟ is held in Springtime; the „Huoxalik (Festivity) Meshrep‟ takes place at weddings, adulthood rites, harvest and festivals; the „Namakul (Apology) Meshrep‟ is held to mediate conflicts or settle disputes; the „Keiyet (Disciplinary) Meshrep‟ is performed with the aim of criticizing immoral behaviours or educating the public; the „Dolan Meshrep‟ is meant to show admiration for the hunting life and bravery of the ancestors; and the „Ketaphan (storytelling) Meshrep‟ serves as a sort of review of literature. Thus, the word put in front of „Meshrep‟ indicates the social and cultural function it is meant to perform.

    Meshrep is mainly transmitted and inherited by the hosts who know well its rules, sequence and cultural connotation, and by the virtuoso folk artists who frequently participate in Meshrep. They learn the tradition either from older hosts and skilled folk artists, or by frequently attending the Meshrep events. They become hosts of the Meshrep only after obtaining the appreciation and recognition of the local masses. At the same time, the transmission of Meshrep cannot dispense with the majority of Uygur people who participate in its actual practice.

    Being a cultural space for the practice of Uygur people‟s traditions, Meshrep has already become a

    part of their culture and folk customs. It provides the Uygur people with abundant knowledge about their traditions and sustains their cultural identity. Hence, it is considered one of the most important cultural heritages of the Uygur nation.

    To rescue and safeguard Meshrep not only meets the demands for mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals, but it also answers to the need for improving its viability and achieving its sustainable development.

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    Items 3.a. and 3.b. are the key section of the nomination to justify why an element should be inscribed on the Urgent Safeguarding List. The nomination should demonstrate (Criterion U.2) either that:

    a) The element is in urgent need of safeguarding because its viability is at risk despite the efforts of the community, group or, if applicable, individuals and State(s) Party(ies) concerned. Or, that:

    b) The element is in extremely urgent need of safeguarding because it is facing grave threats as a result of which it cannot be expected to survive without immediate safeguarding. N.B. In cases of extreme urgency, if the element meets the conditions of paragraph “b”, the Committee may wish to expedite its examination of the nomination. Cases of extreme urgency may include, for instance, natural disaster, environmental change, epidemic, armed conflict, the destruction of or lack of access to places and/or natural resources important for its enactment or transmission, or other acute threatening conditions.


Viability assessment

    Describe the current level of viability of the element, particularly the frequency and extent of its practice, the strength of traditional modes of transmission, the demographics of practitioners and audiences and its sustainability.

    Not to exceed 500 words.

    Meshrep of various forms is a traditional activity belonging to more than nine million Uyigurs and that thirty years ago was seen more frequently in Xinjiang. There are various types and functions of Meshrep performances which, besides traditional festivals and wedding ceremonies, are determined by needs of life and economy such as seasonal events, moral education and so on. Meshrep takes place at least once every month.

    A relatively complete Meshrep is spontaneously organized by the people according to customs and traditional principles transmitted by generations. The format of a performance is decided on the basis of the specific purpose intended. Usually, after meticulous preparation, the people from a village or a community belonging to this ethnic group (the number may vary, from dozen to hundreds people), invite each other or announce the event to which villagers freely take part. At the venue of the celebration, attendees temporarily select together a person of high moral standard who will act as host, and preside over and manage all aspects of the Meshrep.

    In recent times, the Meshrep remains alive mostly among the villages of Xinjiang, in the districts where the about 5-million Uygurs live. It continues giving the people a chance to practice their traditions and to maintain their cultural identity. However, the factors endangering the viability of the element are still many, such as the social changes resulting from urbanization and industrialization, the youngsters going to cities to work, far away from their communities; the younger generation being influenced by the modern and foreign cultures, and knowing little about the traditions, cultural connotation and social functions of the element, lacking interest in it with very rare times of participation; in countryside, the frequency of its occurrence and the number of people taking part are progressively diminishing; the number of transmitters who understand the traditional rules and rich content of the element has been sharply reduced from hundreds to tens, with uneven distribution in territory; in villages closer to the cities, less often complete Meshrep performances can be seen; Especially in the urban communities, changes in the living environment and pace of life, as well as the lack of hosts have brought about variations in the practice of this element. Only the smaller performance in a family or friend get-together or wedding could be seen, which has been already simplified to purely singing and dancing of self entertainment, and lost the traditions, rich content, and the unique cultural values of a complete Meshrep. With the help of the government‟s effort in implementing Intangible Cultural Heritage

    Safeguarding Project and the active participation of the inheritors and the people, in recent times urgent measures have been taken in order to improve the conditions for the continuity and viability of this heritage. Inscribing the element on the Urgent Safeguarding List is good for

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