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Wooden arch bridges inscribed on the UNESCO List

The wooden arch bridge is an exclusive architectural style in East China's Zhejiang and Fujian Provinces. Instead of using building materials such as stone and concrete, the construction of such bridges employs only one type of material timber. And recently, the traditional design of the wooden arch bridge has been inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Heritage List of items that need urgent protection.

Huang Chuncai is busy making a model of the wooden arch bridge. It will be sent to Taiwan for an exhibition next month. It's the second time this special architectural technique has been showcased outside its birthplace in Fujian Province. The first was at a show in Beijing in February.

These events are a great consolation for Huang Chuncai who has been worrying for decades that this family craft may be lost forever. In fact, he hasn't built such a bridge for over forty years.

Huang Chuncai, builder of wooden arch bridges, said, "I'm the only one of four brothers who mastered this skill. My younger brothers were too young to learn the technique. By the time they were able to learn, there were no bridges left for them to make. So they changed their profession to carpentry."

In recent years, the local government has stepped up conservation efforts of this traditional technique. Three wooden arch bridges have been made and those that had been destroyed by fire have been rebuilt. Huang Chuncai, who is in his seventies, has welcomed the chance of restarting his career. His son has also inherited the craft.

But it's still too early to be optimistic about the future of this technique. In Fujian, there are only a dozen artisans left who can still master this skill.

Last month, UNESCO took the step to designate the traditional design of the wooden arch bridge as an example of intangible heritage that needs urgent protection.

Qi Qingfu, expert of intangible heritage protection, said, "By being inscribed on the UNESCO list, it means that this technique belongs to all of humanity. It also makes it an urgent task for us to safeguard this heritage."

A plan to protect this intangible heritage has been drafted by the local government. It states that during the next four years, the local government will invest more than 2-million yuan to better protect, spread, study and carry forward this technique.