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76 elements on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

The Tango of Argentina and Uruguay, the traditional Ainu dance of Japan and France’s Aubusson tapestries

UNESCO, Abu Dhabi, 2 October 2009

These 76 inscriptions were decided by the 24 Member States of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage, currently holding its 4th session in Abu Dhabi under the chairmanship of Awadh Ali Saleh Al Musabi (United Arab Emirates).

The following elements were inscribed:

* Argentina; Uruguay - The Tango - The Argentinean and Uruguayan tradition of the Tango, now familiar around the world, was developed by the urban lower classes in Buenos Aires and Montevideo in the Rio de la Plata basin.

* Azerbaijan - The art of Azerbaijani Ashiqs - The art of Azerbaijani Ashiqs combines poetry, storytelling, dance and vocal and instrumental music into a traditional performance art that stands as a symbol of Azerbaijani culture.

* Azerbaijan; India; Iran (Islamic Republic of); Kyrgyzstan; Uzbekistan; Pakistan; Turkey - Novruz, Nowrouz, Nooruz, Navruz, Nauroz, Nevruz - Novruz, Nowrouz, Nooruz, Navruz, Nauroz or Nevruz marks the New Year and the beginning of spring across a vast geographical area covering, inter alia, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan. It is celebrated on 21 March every year, a date originally determined by astronomical calculations.

* Belgium - Procession of the Holy Blood in Bruges - Each spring, 30,000 to 45,000 spectators gather in the heart of the Belgian city of Bruges to watch the Procession of the Holy Blood on Ascension Day, forty days after Easter. The colourful pageant dates back to the thirteenth century.

* Bulgaria - Nestinarstvo, messages from the past: the Panagyr of Saints Constantine and Helena in the village of Bulgari - The Nestinarstvo fire-dancing rite is the climax of the annual Panagyr ritual on the feast days of Saints Constantine and Helena (3 and 4 June) in the village of Bulgari, in the Mount Strandzha region of south-east Bulgaria. The ritual is held to ensure the well-being and fertility of the village.

* China - The art of Chinese seal engraving - The art of seal engraving is a cornerstone of Chinese fine arts. The seal was originally used as a signature or sign of authority, but it came to be used by all social classes and in much of Asia.

* China - China engraved block printing technique - The traditional China engraved block printing technique requires the collaboration of half a dozen craftspeople possessed of printing expertise, dexterity and team spirit.
China - Chinese calligraphy - Chinese calligraphy has always been more than simply a tool for communication, incorporating as it does the element of artistry for which the practice is still valued in an age of ballpoint pens and computers.

* China - Chinese paper-cut - Present throughout China and in various ethnic groups, paper-cut is a popular art integral to everyday lives. A predominantly female pursuit, it is transmitted from mother to daughter over a long period of time, beginning in childhood, and is particularly common in rural areas.

* China - Chinese traditional architectural craftsmanship for timber-framed structures - Standing as distinctive symbols of Chinese architectural culture, timber-framed structures are found throughout the country. The wooden components such as the columns, beams, purlins, lintel and bracket sets are connected by tenon joints in a flexible, earthquake-resistant way.

* China - The craftsmanship of Nanjing Yunjin brocade - In the Chinese tradition of weaving Nanjing Yunjin brocade, two craftspeople operate the upper and lower parts of a large, complicated loom to produce textiles incorporating fine materials such as silk, gold and peacock feather yarn.

tibetan opera
photo: Su-Kyung Han

* China - The Dragon Boat festival -Beginning on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, people of several ethnic groups throughout China and the world celebrate the Dragon Boat festival, especially in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River.

* China - Farmers’ dance of China’s Korean ethnic group
Gathering in fields or villages during community festivals, members of the Korean ethnic group in Jilin and other provinces in north-eastern China offer a traditional sacrifice to the God of the Land to pay homage to nature and pray for good fortune and a plentiful harvest.

* China - Gesar epic tradition - The ethnic Tibetan, Mongolian and Tu communities in western and northern China share the story of the ancient hero King Gesar, sent to heaven to vanquish monsters, depose the powerful, and aid the weak while unifying disparate tribes. The singers and storytellers who preserve the Gesar epic tradition perform episodes of the vast oral narrative (known as ‘beads on a string’) in alternating passages of prose and verse with numerous regional differences.

* China - Grand song of the Dong ethnic group - A popular saying among the Dong people in Guizhou Province in southern China has it that ‘rice nourishes the body and songs nourish the soul’. Their tradition of passing on culture and knowledge in music is exemplified in the Grand Song of the Dong ethnic group, multi-part singing performed without instrumental accompaniment or a leader.

* China - Hua’er - In Gansu and Qinghai Provinces and throughout north-central China, people of nine different ethnic groups share a music tradition known as Hua’er. The music is drawn from an extensive traditional repertoire named after ethnicities, towns or flowers.

* China – Manas - The Kirgiz ethnic minority in China, concentrated in the Xinjiang region in the west, pride themselves on their descent from the hero Manas, whose life and progeny are celebrated in one of the best-known elements of their oral tradition: the Manas epic. Traditionally sung by a Manaschi without musical accompaniment, epic performances takes place at social gatherings, community celebrations, ceremonies such as weddings and funerals and dedicated concerts.

* China - The Mazu belief and customs - As the most influential goddess of the sea in China, Mazu is at the centre of a host of beliefs and customs, including oral traditions, religious ceremonies and folk practices, throughout the country’s coastal areas.

* China - Mongolian art of singing: Khoomei - The Mongolian art of singing: Khoomei, or Hooliin Chor (‘throat harmony’), is a style of singing in which a single performer produces a diversified harmony of multiple voice parts, including a continued bass element produced in the throat.

* China – Nanyin - Nanyin is a musical performing art central to the culture of the people of Minnan in southern Fujian Province along China’s south-eastern coast, and to Minnan populations overseas.

* China - Regong arts - In monasteries and villages along the Longwu River basin in Qinghai Province in western China, Buddhist monks and folk artists of the Tibetan and Tu ethnicity carry on the plastic arts of painting thangka and murals, crafting patchwork barbola and sculpting known collectively as the Regong arts.

* China - Sericulture and silk craftsmanship of China
Sericulture and silk craftsmanship of China, based in Zhejiang and Jiangsu Provinces near Shanghai and Chengdu in Sichuan Province, have an ancient history. Traditionally an important role for women in the economy of rural regions, silk-making encompasses planting mulberry, raising silkworms, unreeling silk, making thread, and designing and weaving fabric.

* China - Tibetan opera
Tibetan opera, the most popular traditional opera of minority ethnic groups in China, is a comprehensive art combining folk song, dance, storytelling, chant, acrobatics and religious performance.

* China - The traditional firing technology of Longquan celadon - The city of Longquan in the coastal Chinese province of Zhejian is known for its celadon pottery and the traditional firing technology that imparts its distinctive glaze. Compounded from violet-golden clay and a mixture of burnt feldspar, limestone, quartz and plant ash, the glaze is prepared from recipes that have often been handed down for generations by teachers or within families.

* China - The traditional handicrafts of making Xuan paper - The unique water quality and mild climate of Jing County in Anhui Province in eastern China are two of the key ingredients in the craft of making Xuan paper that thrives there.

* China - Xi’an wind and percussion ensemble - Xi’an wind and percussion ensemble, which has been played for more than a millennium in China’s ancient capital of Xi’an, in Shaanxi Province, is a type of music integrating drums and wind instruments, sometimes with a male chorus. The content of the verses is mostly related to local life and religious belief and the music is mainly played on religious occasions such as temple, fairs or funerals.

* China - Yueju opera - The Chinese tradition of Yueju opera combines Mandarin operatic traditions and Cantonese dialect. Rooted in the Cantonese-speaking provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi in south-eastern China, Yueju opera is characterized by a combination of string and percussion instruments, with elaborate costumes and face painting.

* Colombia - Carnaval de Negros y Blancos - Arising out of native Andean and Hispanic traditions, the Carnaval de negros y blancos (Black and White Carnival) in San Juan de Pasto in south-western Colombia is a great celebration lasting from 28 December to 6 January each year.

* Colombia - Holy Week processions in Popayán - The Holy Week processions in Popayán are one of the oldest traditions in Colombia, practised since the colonial period. From the Tuesday to the Saturday before Easter, between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., a series of processions take place. The five processions, devoted to Mary, Jesus, the Cross, the Laying in the Tomb, and the Resurrection respectively, follow a two-kilometre route through the town centre.

* Croatia -Annual carnival bell ringers’ pageant from the Kastav area - During the January carnival period, bell ringers march through the villages that dot the Kastav region in north-west Croatia. Clothed in sheepskin throws with bells around their waists and sporting distinctive hats embellished with sprigs of evergreen, two to more than thirty ringers swagger in groups behind a guide carrying a small evergreen tree.

* Croatia - The festivity of Saint Blaise, the patron of Dubrovnik -The evening before the festivity of Saint Blaise in Dubrovnik, Croatia, as all the church bells in the city ring and white doves are released as symbols of peace, worshippers gather for a ritual healing of the throat to preserve them against illness. On the third of February, the official day of both saint and city, parish banner bearers flow into the city in folk costume for the centrepiece of the festival, a procession attended by bishops, ambassadors, civic leaders, visiting notables and the people of Dubrovnik.

* Croatia - Lacemaking in Croatia - At least three distinct traditions of Lacemaking in Croatia persist today, centred on the towns of Pag on the Adriatic, Lepoglava in northern Croatia and Hvar on the Dalmatian island of the same name.
Croatia - Procession Za Krizen (‘following the cross’) on the island of Hvar - After mass on Maundy Thursday before the Christian holiday of Easter, each of six villages on the Dalmatian island of Hvar in southern Croatia sends out a group that will proceed through the other villages in a circle, covering twenty-five kilometres in eight hours before returning home. Each party in this community-organized Za Krizen (‘following the cross’) procession is led by a cross-bearer who walks barefoot or in socks, never resting.

* Croatia - Spring procession of Ljelje/Kraljice (queens) from Gorjani - The Procession of Queens is performed by the young girls of the village of Gorjani in the Slavonia region of north-east Croatia every spring.

* Croatia - Traditional manufacturing of children’s wooden toys in Hrvatsko Zagorje - Villagers along the pilgrimage route to the Marian shrine of Our Lady of the Snow in Marija Bistrica in Hrvatsko Zagorje in northern Croatia developed a technique for traditional manufacturing of children’s wooden toys that has now been handed down for generations. The men in a family take soft willow, lime, beech and maple wood from the region and dry, hew, cut and carve it using traditional tools; the women then apply ecologically-friendly paint in improvisational floral or geometric patterns, painting ‘from imagination’.

* Croatia - Two-part singing and playing in the Istrian scale - On the Istrian peninsula in western Croatia, several varieties of two-part singing and playing in the Istrian scale are preserved by Croatian, Istro-Romanian and Italian communities. The style is characterized by vigorous, partly nasal singing.

* Cyprus - Lefkara laces or Lefkaritika - The tradition of lacemaking in the village of Lefkara in southeastern Cyprus dates back to at least the fourteenth century. Influenced by indigenous craft, the embroidery of Venetian courtiers who ruled the country beginning in 1489, and ancient Greek and Byzantine geometric patterns, Lefkara lace is made by hand in designs combining four basic elements: the hemstitch, cut work, satin stitch fillings and needlepoint edgings.

* Estonia - Seto Leelo, Seto polyphonic singing tradition - For the Seto community living in southeastern Estonia and the Pechory district of the Russian Federation, the tradition of leelo, an ancient polyphonic singing tradition, is a cornerstone of contemporary identity. Performed to traditional melodies and in traditional costume, leelo features a lead singer who delivers a verse line followed by a choir that joins in for the final syllables and then repeats the whole line.

* France - Aubusson tapestry - A centuries-old tradition, the craft of Aubusson tapestry consists of weaving an image using processes practised in Aubusson and a number of other localities in the Creuse region of France.

* France - Maloya - Maloya is a form of music, song and dance native to Réunion Island. Of mixed racial origins since its outset, maloya was created by Malagasy and African slaves on the sugar plantations and was eventually appropriated by the whole of the island’s population.

* France - The scribing tradition in French timber framing - The purpose of the scribing tradition is to master in three dimensions the design of a complex wooden building. This traditional expertise runs counter to modern standardization by emphasizing the role of the builder in the construction process and giving a creative impulse to the structures themselves.

* Hungary - Busó festivities at Mohács: masked end-of-winter carnival custom - The Busó festivities at Mohács in southern Hungary are a six-day carnival in late February to mark the end of winter, named for the busós, frightening-looking costumed people (traditionally men) wearing wooden masks and big woolly cloaks.

* India - Ramman: religious festival and ritual theatre of the Garhwal Himalayas, India - Every year in late April, the twin villages of Saloor-Dungra in the state of Uttarakhand (northern India) are marked by Ramman, a religious festival in honour of the tutelary god, Bhumiyal Devta, a local divinity whose temple houses most of the festivities. This event is made up of highly complex rituals: the recitation of a version of the epic of Rama and various legends, and the performance of songs and masked dances.

* Indonesia - Indonesian Batik - The techniques, symbolism and culture surrounding hand-dyed cotton and silk garments known as Indonesian Batik permeate the lives of Indonesians from beginning to end: infants are carried in batik slings decorated with symbols designed to bring the child luck, and the dead are shrouded in funerary batik.

* Iran (Islamic Republic of) - The Radif of Iranian music - The Radif of Iranian music is the traditional repertoire of the classical music of Iran that forms the essence of Persian musical culture. More than 250 melodic units, called gushe, are arranged into cycles, with an underlying modal layer providing the backdrop against which a variety of melodic motifs are set.

* Japan - Akiu no Taue Odori - In the Akiu no Taue Odori, residents of the town of Akiu in northern Japan pray for a good harvest by simulating in dance the actions involved in transplanting rice. Performed since the end of the seventeenth century in communities throughout the region, the Akiu no Taue Odori today takes place during festivals in the spring or autumn.

* Japan – Chakkirako - Located on a peninsula in Kanagawa Prefecture in central Japan, Miura City developed as a military port on the Pacific and a harbour providing shelter to passing ships. Drawing on dances from other cities demonstrated to them by visiting sailors, the people of Miura began the tradition of Chakkirako to celebrate the New Year and bring fortune and a bountiful catch of fish in the months to come.

* Japan – Daimokutate - In Yahashira Shrine of Nara City in central Japan, young men of the Kami-fukawa community stand in a semi-circle dressed in samurai clothes and carrying bows. One by one, they are called to the centre by an old man who reads the name of a character in the tales of the feud between the Genji and Heike clans.

* Japan - Dainichido Bugaku - According to legend, travelling performers of bugaku, the ritual dance and music of the imperial palace, visited Hachimantai Town in northern Japan in the early eighth century, during the reconstruction of Dainichido, the shrine pavilion. The ritual performance of Dainichido Bugaku takes its name from this story, but the art evolved considerably since, reflecting local features as elders transmitted it to the young within each of the four local communities of Osato, Azukisawa, Nagamine and Taniuchi. On the second day of each year, the 2 January, the people of these communities proceed from dedicated sites to the shrine, where they perform nine sacred dances from dawn to noon as a prayer for happiness in the New Year.

* Japan – Gagaku - Gagaku, characterized by long, slow songs and dance-like movements, is the oldest of the Japanese traditional performing arts. It is performed at banquets and ceremonies in the Imperial Palace and in theatres throughout the country.

* Japan - Hayachine Kagura - In the 14th or 15th century, when the people of Iwate Prefecture in the northern part of mainland Japan worshipped Mt. Hayachine as a deity, they began a tradition of folk performance that continues to enliven the Great Festival of the Hayachine Shrine held in Hanamaki City on the first day of August.

* Japan - Hitachi Furyumono - The Hitachi Furyumono is a parade held during the cherry blossom festival each April in Hitachi City on the Pacific coast in the middle of Japan, and once every seven years in May during the Great Festival at the local Kamine Shrine. Each of four local communities – Kita-machi, Higashi-machi, Nishi-machi and Hom-machi – creates a parade float that serves at once as a space to worship a deity and as a multi-level puppet theatre.

* Japan - Koshikijima no Toshidon - Japanese folk faith holds that, in times of change, a deity visits our world to bring blessings. Koshikijima no Toshidon, which occurs every New Year’s Eve on Shimo-Koshiki Island in the southwestern part of the Japanese Archipelago, is one such raiho-shin, or visiting deity.

* Japan - Ojiya-chijimi, Echigo-jofu: techniques of making ramie fabric in Uonuma region, Niigata Prefecture - The high-quality, lightweight patterned textiles made from the ramie plant are ideal for the hot and humid Japanese summer. Ojiya-chijimi, Echigo-jofu: techniques of making ramie fabric in Uonuma region, Niigata Prefecture developed in the north-western part of Japan’s main island and bear the mark of the region’s cooler climate – particularly its snowy winters.

* Japan - Oku-noto no Aenokoto - Oku-noto no Aenokoto is an agricultural ritual transmitted from generation to generation by the rice farmers of the Noto Peninsula, which projects from Ishikawa prefecture in the centre of Japan’s main island, Honshu. The twice-yearly ceremony is unique among the harvest rituals of Asia in that the master of the house invites the deity of the rice field into his home, behaving as though the invisible spirit were really present.

* Japan - Sekishu-Banshi: papermaking in the Iwami region of Shimane Prefecture - The unique techniques of Sekishu-Banshi papermaking create the strongest paper produced in Japan. Sekishu-Banshi has long been made in the Iwami region of Shimane Prefecture in western Japan, originally as a side business for local farmers.

* Japan - Traditional Ainu dance - The Ainu are an indigenous people who today live mostly in Hokkaidō in northern Japan. Traditional Ainu dance is performed at ceremonies and banquets, as part of newly organized cultural festivals and privately in daily life; in its various forms, it is closely connected to the lifestyle and religion of the Ainu.

* Japan - Yamahoko, the float ceremony of the Kyoto Gion festival - On July 17 every year, the Gion Festival in Kyoto in central Japan culminates in a grand procession of yamahoko, floats known as ‘moving museums’ because of their elaborate decoration with tapestries and wooden and metal ornaments.

* Mali - The Manden Charter, proclaimed in Kurukan Fuga - In the early thirteenth century, following a major military victory, the founder of the Mandingo Empire and the assembly of his wise men proclaimed in Kurukan Fuga the new Manden Charter, named after the territory situated above the upper Niger River basin, between present-day Guinea and Mali. The Charter, one of the oldest constitutions in the world albeit mainly in oral form, contains a preamble of seven chapters advocating social peace in diversity, the inviolability of the human being, education, the integrity of the motherland, food security, the abolition of slavery by razzia (or raid), and freedom of expression and trade.

* Mali - The septennial re-roofing ceremony of the Kamablon, sacred house of Kangaba - The Malinke and other peoples of the Manden region of south-west Mali gather every seven years to celebrate when a new thatch roof is installed atop the Kamablon (or House of Speech) in the village of Kangaba. Built in 1653, the distinctive circular Kamablon of Kangaba shelters objects and furniture of high symbolic value to the community and serves as a village senate.

* Mexico - Places of memory and living traditions of the Otomí-Chichimecas people of Tolimán: the Peña de Bernal, guardian of a sacred territory - Living in the semi-desert zone of the state of Querétaro in central Mexico, the Otomí-Chichimeca people have developed a range of traditions that express a unique relationship with their local topography and ecology.

* Mexico - Ritual ceremony of the Voladores - The ritual ceremony of the Voladores (‘flying men’) is a fertility dance performed by several ethnic groups in Mexico and Central America, especially the Totonac people in the eastern state of Veracruz, to express respect for and harmony with the natural and spiritual worlds.

* Nigeria - Ijele masquerade - In many communities in the state of Anambra in south-eastern Nigeria, celebrations, burial ceremonies and other special occasions during the dry season to evoke fertility and a bountiful harvest feature the performance of the Ijele masquerade. The mask is about four metres tall – so large that it takes a hundred men six months of work to prepare the costume and build an outdoor house to hold it before a performance.

* Republic of Korea – Cheoyongmu - Cheoyongmu is a court dance today performed on stage but formerly used to dispel evil spirits and pray for tranquillity at royal banquets or during exorcism rites on New Year’s Eve to promote good fortune.

* Republic of Korea – Ganggangsullae - Ganggangsullae is a seasonal harvest and fertility ritual popular in the south-western part of the Republic of Korea, performed primarily on Korea’s Thanksgiving in the eighth lunar month. Under a bright full moon, dozens of young, unmarried village women gather in a circle, join hands and sing and dance all night under the direction of a lead singer.

* Republic of Korea - Jeju Chilmeoridang Yeongdeunggut - The Jeju Chilmeoridang Yeongdeunggut is a ritual held in the second lunar month to pray for calm seas, an abundant harvest and a plentiful sea catch. The rites held at Chilmeoridang in the village of Gun-rip are representative of similar ceremonies held throughout the island of Jeju in the Republic of Korea.

* Republic of Korea - Namsadang Nori - Namsadang Nori, literally the ‘all-male vagabond clown theatre’, is a multifaceted folk performance tradition originally practised widely by travelling entertainers and now kept alive by professional troupes in the Republic of Korea. The performance is made up of six components.
Republic of Korea – Yeongsanjae - A central element of Korean Buddhist culture, Yeongsanjae is a re-enactment of Buddha’s delivery of the Lotus Sutra on the Vulture Peak in India, through which philosophical and spiritual messages of Buddhism are expressed and people in attendance develop self-discipline.

* Romania – Doina - Known by various names throughout Romania, the doina is a lyrical, solemn chant that is improvised and spontaneous. As the essence of Romanian folklore, until 1900 it was the only musical genre in many regions of the country.

* Spain - Irrigators’ tribunals of the Spanish Mediterranean coast: the Council of Wise Men of the plain of Murcia and the Water Tribunal of the plain of Valencia - The irrigators’ tribunals of the Spanish Mediterranean coast are traditional law courts for water management that date back to the al-Andalus period (9th – 13th centuries). The two main tribunals – the Council of Wise Men of the Plain of Murcia and the Water Tribunal of the Plain of Valencia – are recognized under Spanish law. Inspiring authority and respect, these two courts, whose members are elected democratically, settle disputes orally in a swift, transparent and impartial manner.

* Spain - Whistled language of the island of La Gomera (Canary Islands), the Silbo Gomero - The whistled language of La Gomera Island in the Canaries, the Silbo Gomero, replicates the islanders’ habitual language (Castilian Spanish) with whistling. Handed down over centuries from master to pupil, it is the only whistled language in the world that is fully developed and practised by a large community (more than 22,000 inhabitants).
Turkey - Âşıklık (minstrelsy) tradition - The Âşıklık (minstrelsy) tradition of Turkey is performed by wandering poet-singers known as âşıks. Dressed in traditional clothes and plucking a stringed saz, the âşık is a common performer at weddings, in coffeehouses and during public festivals of all sorts.

* Turkey – Karagöz - Karagöz is a form of shadow theatre in Turkey in which figures known as tasvirs made of camel or ox hide in the shape of people or things are held on rods in front of a light source to cast their shadows onto a cotton screen.

* Uruguay - The Candombe and its socio-cultural space: a community practice - Every Sunday and on many holidays, the llamadas de tambores de candombe or candombe drum calls enliven the Sur, Palermo and Cordón districts in southern Montevideo, Uruguay, home to a population of African descent. The practice of the candombe begins around communal fires as people gather to tune their drums and socialize before beginning their march.

* Uzbekistan - Katta Ashula - Katta Ashula (literally ‘big song’) is a type of traditional song that forms part of the identity of various peoples of the Ferghana Valley in Uzbekistan, which is also home to Tajiks, Uyghurs and Turks, and of some regions of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. An original genre, Katta Ashula combines performing arts, singing, instrumental music, Eastern poetry and sacred rites.

* Viet Nam - Quan Họ Bắc Ninh folk songs - In the provinces of Bắc Ninh and Bắc Giang in northern Viet Nam, many of the villages are twinned, reinforcing their relationship through social customs such as Quan họ Bắc Ninh folk songs. The songs are performed as alternating verses between two women from one village who sing in harmony, and two men from another village who respond with similar melodies, but with different lyrics.

See the website of UNESCO with pictures and videos --->>


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