The “Living State” Research of China Non-material Cultural Heritage on Digital Age

Taking the Nanjing Jinling Sutra Office as an Example
  • Xiaoxian WangEmail author
  • Hao Liu
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 10920)


Intangible cultural heritage is considered as the basic identification mark of the nation for many nationalities. With the changes of the times and the development of science and technology, intangible cultural heritage programs of the traditional art and skill types with technique as the core have faded out of people’s lives even gradually demised because of the changes of social demand, the lacking of inheritors and inadequate protection. So how to protect and inherit the intangible cultural heritage and how to provide a driving force for its survival and development by design innovation under modern conditions?

Nanjing Jinling Sutra Printing House, established in the fifth year of the Tongzhi Period (1866) and engaging in the gathering, collection, research and publishing of sutra, it has collected lots of precious sutra and statue engravings. Till now, the Printing House has collected 125,318 pieces of Buddhist classical engravings, completely protected and inherited traditional woodblock printing skill of China originated from over 1,300 years ago and formed a unique artistic style of books. The “Chinese woodblock printing technique”, represented by Nanjing Jinling Sutra Printing House, etc., was inscribed on the World Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO in 2009. Its book art has profoundly embodied the art symbol of traditional Chinese culture in the aspects of text and image, layout and binding, material and technology, etc., with unique aesthetic features of ancient Chinese art. Its master-to-apprentice mechanism of book art is even one of the representative methods and approaches of Chinese cultural and artistic inheritance.

The woodblock printing of Jinling Sutra Printing House includes four manual procedures of sample writing, engraving, painting and binding. Wherein, writing and engraving have a high request on professional skills of the operators, which need a long-term training and cultivating mechanism of apprentice learning from master and oral teaching that inspires true understanding within. The aesthetic value embodied by manual engraving is the precious aspect of artistic style of books but also a shortage for the passing on of the woodblock printing art. For instance, the difficulty in cultivating professional talents, the accurate requests on one-time molding of engraving skills, the labor and time-consuming in product output efficiency, increasing space requirements on storage of woodblocks, technical requirements on long-term preservation of woodblocks (anti-damping, anti-moth, fire proofing) etc. Besides, there are only four masters and apprentices of three generations in Jinling Sutra Printing House at present, and two of whom are the only apprentices of their masters, talent training and technology inheritance are confronted with a great risk of uncertainty. Although woodblock printing plays an important role in the development and inheritance of China’s traditional culture and artistry, it still has equally prominent technical limitations. Therefore, how to conduct effective and living research on such intangible cultural heritage and use digital technology for its comprehensive protection and inheritance in the digital times has become a particularly necessary proposition.

After preliminary research, the writer believes that the current protection and inheritance for intangible cultural heritage programs have the following patterns: first of all, inheriting the project originally; secondly, on the basis of original inheritance, thinking about how to combine the traditional skills with modern life, and how to integrate the intangible cultural heritage with times elements in innovative approaches, so that it can be inherited lively. The writer believes that, nowadays, living state is an important characteristic of China’s intangible cultural heritage. So, the development of contemporary intangible cultural heritage shall be effectively put into the market as a circulation commodity with higher added value and cultural value and interact and promote with the market to become a driving power and motive power for the development of social culture.


Jinling Sutra Printing House Living state Design drive Innovation 



The authors are grateful for the financial support provided by “the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities”. (No. 30915013107).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Design Arts and MediaNanjing University of Science and TechnologyNanjingChina

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