UPSC highlights cultural heritage protection
updated: 2024-07-10 09:15:50

From 2016 to 2022, Geng Hong, a member of the Urban Planning Society of China (UPSC) and a professor at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST), formed a team with her colleagues, providing continuous support to the Lahu ethnic villages located in Lincang, Southwest China's Yunnan province, in an effort to alleviate local poverty and promote heritage protection.

The Lahu Wooden Palm House, locally known as "Zhapianfang," is an example of early South China's stilt-style architecture that has endured to the present day. It features a simple "binding and tying" architectural structure from an era with limited technology.

As a minority with no written language, the Lahu people preserve their culture solely through oral transmission. Although the Wooden Palm House was recognized as a municipal intangible cultural heritage project in 2005, its architectural culture and construction techniques have yet to be systematically documented in text and images. Moreover, a lack of restoration techniques and video recordings poses risks to the long-term protection of the cultural relics.

To this end, Professor Geng Hong, together with experts in urban and rural planning, architecture, art design, and sociology, thoroughly analyzed the role of Lahu's construction techniques in the preservation of ethnic culture and the promotion of rural revitalization.

With all-round support of the local government, they overcame challenges such as difficult transportation, language barriers, and resource shortages.

Over five years, through oral interviews and field surveys with dozens of intangible cultural heritage inheritors, they produced hundreds of hand-drawn sketches of Wooden Palm Houses and reports.Through the application of professional processing and video recording, they completed the first digital restoration of the Wooden Palm House and documented the entire process of Lahu's unique "building a house in one day" ceremony.

Moreover, they also assisted the local government in the preservation of three traditional villages and 28 traditional Wooden Palm Houses, as well as the registration of nine intangible culture inheritors.

Photo of onsite work

Hand-Drawn Records and Digital Restoration of Wooden Palm Houses

Under the guidance of the UPSC, the team has consistently dedicated efforts to study and promote the value of Lahu culture. The journal Urban Planning launched by the UPSC, coupled with a series of academic conferences organized by the UPSC, offered platforms to  reflect the team's professional insights into and systematic analysis of Lahu's architectural culture.

Thanks to these concerted efforts, the Lahu Wooden Palm House has now become an important cultural symbol in rural revitalization, with its culture and techniques displayed during significant festivals.

Source: Official website of the UPSC