China has a long history and a complex culture. The traditional knowledge that is deeply intertwined with the land, resources, and ecological systems in China has been carried down for centuries. The genetic resources that are associated with traditional knowledge are closely related to the production and lifestyle of communities. The relationship between peoples and resources in China plays a positive role in the conservation of local biodiversity and provides great potential for the sustainable development of the global biotechnology industry.
Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture (referred to as "Xiangxi") is a major region inhabited by the Tujia and Miao ethnic groups. Local communities have cultivated a wide variety of traditional medicines, crops, livestock, and other plants over the centuries. These resources have become the material basis for their local, ethnic cultures and their sources of livelihood.
Local cultures and traditional forms of knowledge impart wisdom that help us understand how our lives are shaped by our relationship to nature and offer valuable insight that can help guide the future. The traditional knowledge related to genetic resources in Xiangxi is widely used in the daily lives of local people, festival celebrations, weddings, funerals, religious ceremonies, and the tradition of conservation of biological diversity. However, due to changing cultural attitudes and ways of life, valuable traditional knowledge is at risk of disappearing in the modern world.
In order to protect traditional knowledge, China is developing a project with the Republic of Korea and other Asian countries through the facilitation of the Bio-Bridge Initiative. The project aims to share best practices between Asian countries regarding official documentation of invaluable traditions, techniques, and cultural practices of local communities that offer insight for the advancement of biological diversity. The main activities of the project include documentation of traditional knowledge, case studies on the utilization of traditional knowledge, and a joint workshop.
The Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment of the People's Republic of China (referred to as "NIES") spearheaded the project earlier this year. The China Institute for Environment and Resource Protection of Minority Areas of the Minzu University of China (CIERPMA) have since then contributed significantly to the project. NIES and CIERPMA are currently conducting field studies to document the traditional knowledge of the Xiangxi in the Hunan Province, China.
A joint workshop held in Nanjing, China on May 31st, 2018 offered a platform through which key institutions from China and the Republic of Korea, as well as Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Nepal, began to develop a collaborative strategy to promote the protection of traditional knowledge. Documenting traditional knowledge, techniques, and methods of local communities provides valuable insight for understanding how to live in such a way that promotes biological diversity and the sustainable use of resources. Fifteen categories of traditional knowledge of the Tujia and Miao ethnic groups in Xiangxi have been documented thus far.