UNESCO added the Chinese abacus to its World Intangible Cultural Heritage list on Wednesday during a meeting held in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.
According to UNESCO, the list is composed of “intangible heritage elements that concerned communities and State Parties consider require urgent measures to keep them alive”.
The earliest documentation of the Chinese abacus, or zhu shuan, dates back to 2nd century BC, it has assisted both decimal and hexadecimal computation for more than 2000 years. It is known as the fifth invention of Ancient China and has been regarded as a national intangible cultural heritage since 2008.
Since hand held calculators became readily available, the usage of abacuses has declined.
“Today, it contributes to the advancement of calculating techniques, cognitive schemas, educational psychology and intellectual development. It also has a far-reaching influence in various fields of cultural creativity, including folk customs, language, literature, sculpture and architecture,” UNESCO wrote.
This is China’s 30th World Intangible Cultural Heritage. The list includes a wide range of traditions such as calligraphy, opera, paper-cut art, Dragon Boat Festival, seal engraving, and silk craftsmanship.