Archiving Ephemeral Knowledge - Hong Kong Martial Arts as a Documentation Strategy for Intangible Cultural Heritage

Project: Research

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Different martial art styles and schools have influenced Chinese culture, philosophy, folklore but also medicine and sports. Especially Hong Kong has a long tradition in martial arts with its diverse and rich kung fu styles. With the traditional methods of documentation by photos, drawings or video, the different models of body mechanics are insufficiently recorded. This is why the International Guoshu Association and the School of Creative Media of City University are cooperating in the project 'The Hong KongMartial Arts Archive' since 2013. Meanwhile 20 Kung Fu styles and over 120 weapon sets in form of motion data (MOCAP) but also HD Video interviews with contemporary witnesses have been recorded. The next step will be the planning of the structure of the archive and a model for the digital preservation based on international museum standards for documentation and preservation.In 2014 the Documentation Committee (CIDOC) of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) had established the CIDOC Intangible Cultural Heritage Working Group because the existing data field catalogues used in museums and archives lag often behind the demands made by intangible heritage. At the moment there is no existing model or data field catalogue based on museum documentation standards for the archiving of martial arts.This proposed research is perfectly suited to remedy this gap. In this study we will examine the way how martial arts related forms of intangible cultural heritage like performance art and performing arts like dance get documented and how their digital data can get prepared for long-term preservation. We are applying for a GRF to develop a data field catalogue based on international museum documentation standards to create a digital archive for martial arts in Hong Kong which can be used as a model for the further documentation of intangible heritage.By analyzing these standards as well as discussing several case studies, the needs for this archive will get defined. In this research project leading experts in the field of the documentation of performance art, performing arts and martial arts will meet at a Workshop in Hong Kong to share their experiences and their knowledge to define criteria for the archiving of ephemeral knowledge. The results will have a high impact on martial arts as Hong Kong’s renown cultural heritage, on documentation of intangible cultural heritage as well as on long-term preservation of digital museum data and therefore support the work of ICOM/CIDOC and UNESCO.


Project number9042450
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/1731/12/19

    Research areas

  • Museum Documentation Standard , Intangible Cultural Heritage , Martial Arts , Performing Arts , Performance Art