Arts & Culture

ChinaVine preserves traditional Chinese art, bridges cultural divide through social media



“Traditional art is like the soul of the country,” second-year University graduate student Nan Yang [email protected]@http://directory.uoregon.edu/telecom/directory.jsp?p=findpeople%2Ffind_results&m=student&d=person&b=name&s=Nan+Yang@@ @@Left because of weak connection at end of [email protected]@

Separated by 5,000 Pacific Ocean miles, United States and China are distanced in terms of proximity and culture. So when Yang caught wind of a summer fieldwork opportunity in her hometown of Beijing,@@http://www.beijingpage.com/@@ she was thrilled. And when Doug Blandy,@@http://directory.uoregon.edu/telecom/directory.jsp?p=findpeople%2Ffind_results&m=staff&d=person&b=name&s=Blandy@@ the associate dean for academic affairs for the School of Architecture and Allied Arts, first traveled to China for research, he decided to create a program that would bring knowledge and documentation of traditional Chinese arts back to the United States.

“China is going through so much urbanization,” second-year University graduate student Emily Dobkin [email protected]@http://directory.uoregon.edu/telecom/directory.jsp?p=findpeople%2Ffind_results&m=student&d=person&b=name&s=Emily+Dobkin@@ “Traditional art could be disregarded, or even lost, so it’s important to preserve it.”

Six years later, this initial idea has molded into an interactive website named ChinaVine[email protected]@checked@@ The ChinaVine project works to connect students through social media to bridge the physical and cultural distance between these two different countries. The website highlights different traditional arts of China through story, photography and video works produced by students from both countries. ChinaVine not only focuses on traditional art forms like embroidered shoes and kites, but also on contemporary art forms involving even older, more traditional aspects in the same way that a rock musician might use traditional instruments.

The ChinaVine team is in the process of relaunching its website at the end of this fall term. The site will entail social media aspects such as Sound [email protected]@http://soundcloud.com/@@, where visitors can remix their own versions of original Chinese music as well as use open-forum Chinese social media to build the connection between the works of ChinaVine and their own civilians.

“We are working on how to interrupt culture through a Web-based program,” Blandy said.

The University also partnered with Kristin Congdon, professor emeritus from the University of Central [email protected]@http://www.ucf.edu/profiles/kristin_congdon.shtml@@, and multiple universities in China. ChinaVine’s name actually came from a project called “Folkvine” that Congdon used to conduct.

“We thought what Congdon was doing at the University of Central Florida could serve as a model for what we might do with China,” Blandy said.

Fieldwork conducted by students can be seen on ChinaVine or at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art,@@http://jsma.uoregon.edu/@@ which has a vast collection of Asian art.

But research is not only being done across the ocean. Dobkin applied to be a part of ChinaVine as a graduate research fellow last winter. She works with ChinaVine and Jordan Schnitzer to revise and update the Chinese art collection and the research done in it to build it into a teachable curriculum.

Dobkin also works on the social media aspect of the site. Since physical connection is severed from the students in China and the U.S., social media is ChinaVine’s lifeline. The site spreads its videos, photos and information through contact with people through social media. Dobkin noticed that people were more likely to “Like” or repost something when there was a human connection associated with the information, especially concerning pictures and video.

“People still crave human connection, even in the digital age,” Dobkin said.

ChinaVine continues to share accessible research to a variety of communities. If ancient art is truly the soul of a country, the project hopes to share a piece of it with anyone in the World Wide Web.


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