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Intangible Cultural Heritage | Snuff Bottle, Tianjin


Tianjin Intangible Cultural Heritage Experiential Base

This exhibition and experiential base is located at Tianjin airport, domestic terminal. While traveling among airports, where are offering various range of catering, shopping and relaxing services but rarely to see an 'intangible cultural heritage base'. It must mean something! Curiously, should worth seeing.

(Photo credit | Chi Hsu)

Chinese-style Retail Innovation

I always read some articles or news in the morning. A few days ago, I read an article addressed "The innovation of time-honored brands in China" from WeChat's subscription (Title in Chinese: 老字號煥新生,看看百年老店們怎麼玩出時髦?). Those new look of old brands looked fantastic and indeed increased my desire to go shopping.

Review it again, I heard of 1 or 2 brands from my dad, whom is Tianjin-root, but no idea about most of those. Yet, according to the article, Chinese time-honored brands' innovation is surely ongoing in terms of physical retail store!

I checked the definition of ICH by the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage(非物質文化遺產,或無形文化遺產,簡稱「非遺」)

Intangible Cultural Heritage means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity. For the purposes of this Convention, consideration will be given solely to such intangible cultural heritage as is compatible with existing international human rights instruments, as well as with the requirements of mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals, and of sustainable development.

Meanwhile, I recalled my shopping experience in China, and what my shopping items had from time to time.

Long time ago, honestly, nothing really I was keen to buy, then started a decade ago, many western brands into China which became major occupiers on street and shopping malls. During latest years, I started enjoying on shopping in China as some western brands opened better concept stores in Tier 1 cities, such as MUJI and some creative national brands presented very well, such as Mi Home and various bookstores. While development into Tier 2 cities, the shopping experience is gradually changed but still enjoyable, such as Chengdu.

Until last visit in March, started being caught by time-honored brands which looked like being through innovation, ensured it after read the article. And, one of my shopping experiences shared below:

Snuff Bottle's shopping experience - let's called ‘the base’ as 'concept store'

Back to earlier story, I was in Tianjin airport, and walked into this ICH 'concept store'.

Quite a big space presented various Tianjin based time-honored brands, Yi-Decheng Snuff Bottle since 1710, was caught my eyes and I counted my fingers, it was the period of Qing dynasty. When traveling in well-preserved cities such as: London and Kyoto, a 300-year-old store is always appreciative to visit and browse a bit.

Yet, in mainland China, it had been over the years of culture revolution, more or less such traditional shops, transmitted generation by generation, probably being destroyed but looks like recovering in recent years. By reading its reference, in 2011, Yi-Decheng registered its time-honored brand as trademark and in 2014, Yi-Decheng listed onto China's intangible cultural heritage.

(Photo credit | Chi Hsu)

The other reason to make me interested in seeing snuff bottles, is I always heard of it but don't realize which is able to purchase in modern days as common goods. For my understanding, snuff bottles are somehow well-collected by many galleries or museums, which I have ever seen a lots. Backdated to school time, snuff bottles were introduced in history textbook. At an antique shop of England, it also easily sees some used snuff bottle being traded as little treasure.

(Photo credit | Chi Hsu)


When browsed these display goods and pretended no-interest visitor, I read carefully and slowly about 'what is "snuff"' and realized 'it means smokeless tobacco'.

"Tobacco is not good stuff for people in nowadays, isn't it?", I said to store staff.

She put down her smartphone and treated me as a 'serious' visitor and potential customer.

Yes, Madam, we had rephrased our products as 'smell-herbal-medicine' instead of 'snuff', she answered.

Well, what a thoughtful interpretation! It is much clear to appreciate and increase my shopping desire dramatically because of a Chinese herbs' wellness concept.

(Photo credit | Chi Hsu)

She continued to explain how its herbals worked in terms of relieve headache and assist better sleep etc.. My inner voice started yelling: "Whoa! I need it! Well, my mum needs it, too." Alright, I had to try to control my impulse shopping so asked more questions to give myself a time. I noticed Yi-Decheng had been through six generations yet the sixth one showed different surname.

"Why doesn't he, the sixth master, belong to the same family root?" I asked.

The store staff had a good sales training, including the brand story, so she answered "He is the apprentice of the fifth master. After culture revolution, this snuff technique became an apprenticeship."

Oh, I see. I appreciated.

So, I did a snuff bottle shopping!

Yes, of course. Herbal is good for wellness and its decorative bottle is a beautiful collection from China. Very practical and stylish stuff. An ICH product is thus becoming my newly shopping item from mainland China!

China - UNESCO recognised 40 elements of ICH

Once I figured out "ICH" definition, I sensed more goods or performance titled by ICH in Tier 2 and 3 city during my following travel. Why so many of ICH inscribed, no doubt of China's long history but still curiously to check out UNESCO's list. Whoa! China is ranked number one in terms of number of intangible cultural heritage elements inscribed.

(Source | Wiki)

Good sign of funs

The more local culture, the more funs for tourists. The more national brands, the more funs for shopping.

To enrich intangible cultural heritage and to reinforce its trading model, are good signs for funs. Look forward to experiencing more funs in China.

Yi-Decheng (益德成)official website:

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