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Why "cultural survival"?

Monks and nuns practicing the traditional Tibetan craft of butter flower sculpture,

Buddhist decorative temple arts and building crafts have developed over time in Buddhist communities throughout Asia. Often as a hybrid between Buddhist practice and local culture, artistic expressions and traditions in decorative arts and crafts are shared among communities within the same socio-cultural space. At the same time, each of these communities enjoy their unique cultural identities which are as unique as the crafts that are the result of this diversity. Traditionally the knowdledge and craft skills are transmitted through a masters-apprentice system, which ensures social, economic and cultural relevance of the arts, crafts, and related ritual from generation to generation. Due to the rapid social and economic transformations and globalization during recent decades, these artistic expressions and crafts have suffered from detrioration and disappearance.   When a craft is dying out, it will not only cause the loss of material culture and built environment, but also of artistic expressions, craftsmanship, and indigenous wisdom of managing cultural resources, and the systems that ensure their transmission to future generations.

These systems traditionally function as a vehicle, through which crafts and related rituals were created and recreated, and modified in accordance with their ever evolving social, economic and cultural contexts. The loss of Buddhist temple arts and building crafts, if occurs, is the loss of socio- economic fabric which is the cornerstone of community culture.

In order to address this, capacity needs to be built at the grassroots level to manage cultural resources and revitalize craft skills and their transmission systems. As culture and cultural diversity are increasingly recognized as one of the key components for sustainable development, it is believed that safeguarding cultural heritage brings about sustainable social, economic, cultural and environmental advancement.

In reponse to these needs, UNESCO, with support from the Government of Norway, initiated Cultural Survival and Revival in the Buddhist Sangha: Documentation, Education and Training to Revitalize Traditional Decorative Arts and Building Crafts in the Buddhist Temples of Asia.