Cantonese opera, dim sum and Diwali: Hong Kong lists its cultural heritage

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It’s no surprise that Cantonese opera, egg tarts, pineapple buns and milk tea have made it on to the final list of Hong Kong’s intangible cultural heritage.


But Bangladesh’s International Mother Language Day?


The annual observance to promote that country’s language diversity is among 480 “items” that the city is vowing to “safeguard”.


The inventory is the culmination of seven years’ work by government-appointed researchers and also includes such traditions as umbrella making, Hakka folk songs, the making of snake wine and kung fu.


It also recognises the rituals of ethnic minorities, hence the Bangladesh entry. It also includes an annual festival of women organised by the Hong Kong Integrated Nepalese Society and poem reciting during Pakistani festivals.


Undersecretary for Home Affairs Florence Hui Hiu-fai said the government would sift through the 480 items to decide which needed urgent preservation.


“We’ll do so based on the items’ cultural importance, current situation and whether they are threatened with extinction,” she said.


Yeung Choi-fung, a Hokkien native of Cheung Chau island, is excited that her clan’s traditional dish, vegetable tea, is part of the city’s living heritage.


“It takes several days to prepare the dish, which has about 20 ingredients,” she said. “It is only eaten at weddings, happy events or on the 13th day of the Lunar New Year.”

But Democratic Party lawmaker Wu Chi-wai questioned why the old-fashioned cha chaan teng restaurants and street food had not been embraced.


And People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen questioned why the annual SAR establishment day rally on July 1 and the June 4 vigil were excluded.


The cultural secretary of the Bangladesh Association of Hong Kong, Ashfaqur Rahman Palash, welcomed the move, which he said honoured ethnic minorities and respected their culture.


Hong Kong began working on the list in 2007 in response to the UN Convention for Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which China ratified in 2004.


In 2011, four traditional Hong Kong festivals were placed on the national list of intangible cultural heritage: the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, Tai O dragon boat water parade, Tai Hang fire dragon dance and Yu Lan Ghost festival.


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