Cultural ecology reserve guards China's 'kite capital'

For many people, spring is the best season for flying a kite. As an old Chinese poem goes, "February sees grass grow and thrushes fly; O'er banks willows flick, spring mist high. After-school kids come home early, keen to fly kites while East Wind's spry," the folk activity is counted as a Chinese tradition that embraces the gentle and mild season.

People fly a kite measuring over 60 meters long in Weifang, Shandong, on April 22, 2017. (Photos: CFP)

Located in east China's Shandong Province, Weifang is dubbed China's "kite capital" and the city not only has a long history of manufacturing and flying kites but is also endowed with a rich historical and cultural heritage.

Children learn to make kites at a kite-themed museum in Weifang, Shandong, on July 29, 2022.

"Since the first kite, the earliest human aircraft, took flight in Weifang 2,400 years ago, crafts and creativity have been recognized as a foundation of local development," UNESCO is quoted as saying. And Weifang was added to UNESCO's Creative Cities Network (UCCN) as a Crafts and Folk Arts City in 2021, ahead of which, the city had already seen its Zhucheng guqin (a stringed instrument) and Gaomi paper-cutting craft listed as "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO.

Kites are used to decorate a local bus in Weifang, Shandong, on August 11, 2022.

In a bid to better develop unique and time-honored regional traditional cultures, China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism released a list of seven national-level cultural ecology reserves, among which is the Qilu Cultural (Weifang) Ecological Protection Zone.

Kites of various designs are displayed at a kite-themed museum in Weifang, Shandong, on March 24, 2021.

As the first of its kind in Shandong Province, the reserve covers the entire territory of Weifang. Serving as a specific area with the protection of local intangible cultural heritage at its core, the guardian of cultural ecology also highlights the overall protection of Weihe River culture.

The reserve is reported to have claimed over 110 items of intangible cultural heritage above the provincial level, with more than 60 representative inheritors above the provincial level, according to the website of the reserve's service center.