World Heritage Site
A World Heritage Site is a place (such as a building, city, complex, desert, forest, island, lake, monument, or mountain) that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as being of special cultural or physical significance. The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 UNESCO member states which are elected by the General Assembly.
The programme catalogues, names, and conserves sites of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humanity. Under certain conditions, listed sites can obtain funds from the World Heritage Fund. The program was founded with the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage, which was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 16 November 1972. Since then, 191 states parties have ratified the Convention, making it one of the most adhered to international instruments. Only Liechtenstein, Nauru, Somalia, South Sudan, Timor-Leste, and Tuvalu are not Parties to the Convention.
As of July 2015, 1031 sites are listed: 802 cultural, 197 natural, and 32 mixed properties, in 163 states parties. According to the sites ranked by country, Italy is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites with 51 sites, followed by China (48), Spain (44), France (41), Germany (40), Mexico (33), and India (32). UNESCO references each World Heritage Site with an identification number; however, new inscriptions often include previous sites now listed as part of larger descriptions. Consequently, the identification numbers exceed 1,200, even though there are fewer on the list.
While each World Heritage Site remains part of the legal territory of the state wherein the site is located, UNESCO considers it in the interest of the international community to preserve each site.
List of World Heritage Sites in China
Preface: This is a list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China. China has 48, ranking second in the world. China ratified The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage on 12 December 1985. These sites comprise some of the most essential part of China’s valuable and rich tourism resources.
Since joining the International Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage in 1985, China has 48 world heritage sites to date; of these 34 are cultural heritage sites, ten are natural heritage sites, and four are cultural and natural (mixed) sites, ranking second in the world. Since 2004, China has made the first large-scale renovations on seven world cultural heritage sites in Beijing – the Ming Tombs, the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, the Grand Canal, and the “Peking Man” site at Zhoukoudian, all of which are planned for completion before 2008. In addition, China has rich intangible cultural heritages (ICHs), with several of them inscribed on UNESCO’s list of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Following is a map of the World Heritage Sites in China.
Numbered sites in Beijing: 1. Great Wall of China; 2. Forbidden City; 3. Zhoukoudian; 4. Summer Palace; 5. Temple of Heaven; 6. Ming Dynasty Tombs.
Legend: World Cultural Heritage Site; World Natural Heritage Site; World Cultural and Natural Site (mixed)
Properties inscribed on the World Heritage List (48)
Cultural Sites (34)
- Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains (1994)
- Ancient City of Ping Yao (1997)
- Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui – Xidi and Hongcun (2000)
- Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom (2004)
- Classical Gardens of Suzhou (1997)
- Cultural Landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces (2013)
- Dazu Rock Carvings (1999)
- Fujian Tulou (2008)
- Historic Centre of Macao (2005)
- Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa (1994)
- Historic Monuments of Dengfeng in “The Centre of Heaven and Earth” (2010)
- Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang (1987)
- Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (2000)
- Kaiping Diaolou and Villages (2007)
- Longmen Grottoes (2000)
- Lushan National Park (1996)
- Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor (1987)
- Mogao Caves (1987)
- Mount Qingcheng and the Dujiangyan Irrigation System (2000)
- Mount Wutai (2009)
- Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples, Chengde (1994)
- Old Town of Lijiang (1997)
- Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian (1987)
- Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan Corridor (2014)
- Site of Xanadu (2012)
- Summer Palace, an Imperial Garden in Beijing (1998)
- Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu (1994)
- Temple of Heaven: an Imperial Sacrificial Altar in Beijing (1998)
- The Grand Canal (2014)
- The Great Wall (1987)
- Tusi Sites (2015)
- West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou (2011)
- Yin Xu (2006)
- Yungang Grottoes (2001)
Natural Sites (10)
- Chengjiang Fossil Site (2012)
- China Danxia (2010)
- Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area (1992)
- Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area (1992)
- Mount Sanqingshan National Park (2008)
- Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries – Wolong, Mt Siguniang and Jiajin Mountains (2006)
- South China Karst (2007)
- Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas (2003)
- Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area (1992)
- Xinjiang Tianshan (2013)
Mixed Sites (4)
- Mount Emei Scenic Area, including Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area (1996)
- Mount Huangshan (1990)
- Mount Taishan (1987)
- Mount Wuyi (1999)
Outstanding Universal Value (48)
Sites are listed chronologically according to their inscription date from oldest (Mount Taishan, 1987) to youngest (Tusi Sites, 2015).
1. Mount Taishan (1987)
The sacred Mount Tai (‘shan’ means ‘mountain’) was the object of an imperial cult for nearly 2,000 years, and the artistic masterpieces found there are in perfect harmony with the natural landscape. It has always been a source of inspiration for Chinese artists and scholars and symbolizes ancient Chinese civilizations and beliefs.
Mount Taishan is the most famous sacred mountain of China, with exceptional historic, cultural, aesthetic and scientific value. Settled by humans as early as the Neolithic (a Dawenkou site is nearby), the mountain has been worshipped continuously throughout the last three millennia. A large and impressive rock mass covering 25,000 ha and rising to 1,545 m above the surrounding plateau, Mount Taishan is considered one of the most beautiful scenic spots in China and was an important cradle of oriental East Asian culture since the earliest times. The mountain was an important object of the cult worship of mountains even before 219 BCE, when the Qin Emperor, Huang Di, paid tribute to the mountain in the Fengshan sacrifices to inform the gods of his success in unifying all of China. On the mountain there are 12 historically recorded imperial ceremonies in homage to Heaven and Earth, about 1,800 stone tablets and inscriptions, and 22 temples, which together make Mount Taishan the most important monument in China, a world-renowned treasure house of history and culture.
The key monument, the Temple to the God of Taishan, contains the Taoist masterpiece painting of 1,009 CE “The God of Taishan Making a Journey”. Inscriptions include the Han Dynasty stelae of Zhang Qian, Heng Fang and Madam Jin Sun; the Valley of Inscribed Buddhist Scriptures inscribed in the Northern Qi Dynasty; the Eulogium on Taishan by Tang Xuanzong, and the Parallel Stelae of the Tang Dynasty. There is also a number of ancient and significant trees, including six cypresses of the Han Dynasty planted 2,100 years ago; Sophora japonica of the Tang Dynasty planted 1,300 years ago, and the Guest-Greeting Pine and the Five-Bureaucrat Pine, both of which were planted some 500 years ago. All the architectural elements, paintings, in situ sculptures, stone inscriptions and ancient trees are integrated into the landscape of Mount Taishan.
2. The Great Wall (1987)
In c. 220 B.C., under Qin Shi Huang, sections of earlier fortifications were joined together to form a united defence system against invasions from the north. Construction continued up to the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), when the Great Wall became the world’s largest military structure. Its historic and strategic importance is matched only by its architectural significance.
The Great Wall was continuously built from the 3rd century BC to the 17th century AD on the northern border of the country as the great military defence project of successive Chinese Empires, with a total length of more than 20,000 kilometers. The Great Wall begins in the east at Shanhaiguan in Hebei province and ends at Jiayuguan in Gansu province to the west. Its main body consists of walls, horse tracks, watch towers, and shelters on the wall, and includes fortresses and passes along the Wall.
The Great Wall reflects collision and exchanges between agricultural civilizations and nomadic civilizations in ancient China. It provides significant physical evidence of the far-sighted political strategic thinking and mighty military and national defence forces of central empires in ancient China, and is an outstanding example of the superb military architecture, technology and art of ancient China. It embodies unparalleled significance as the national symbol for safeguarding the security of the country and its people.
3. Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang (1987)
Seat of supreme power for over five centuries (1416-1911), the Forbidden City in Beijing, with its landscaped gardens and many buildings (whose nearly 10,000 rooms contain furniture and works of art), constitutes a priceless testimony to Chinese civilization during the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Imperial Palace of the Qing Dynasty in Shenyang consists of 114 buildings constructed between 1625–26 and 1783. It contains an important library and testifies to the foundation of the last dynasty that ruled China, before it expanded its power to the centre of the country and moved the capital to Beijing. This palace then became auxiliary to the Imperial Palace in Beijing. This remarkable architectural edifice offers important historical testimony to the history of the Qing Dynasty and to the cultural traditions of the Manchu and other tribes in the north of China.
As the royal residences of the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties from the 15th to 20th century, the Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang were the centre of State power in late feudal China. The Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing known as the Forbidden City was constructed between 1406 and 1420 by the Ming emperor Zhu Di and witnessed the enthronement of 14 Ming and 10 Qing emperors over the following 505 years. The Imperial Palace of the Qing Dynasty in Shenyang was built between 1625 and 1637 by Nurgaci for the Nuzhen/Manchu forebears of the Qing Dynasty, which established itself in Beijing in 1644. Also known as Houjin Palace or Shenglin Palace, it was then used as the secondary capital and temporary residence for the royal family until 1911. The Imperial Palaces of Beijing and Shenyang were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1987 and 2004 respectively.
The Forbidden City, located in the centre of Beijing is the supreme model in the development of ancient Chinese palaces, providing insight into the social development of late dynastic China, especially the ritual and court culture. The layout and spatial arrangement inherits and embodies the traditional characteristic of urban planning and palace construction in ancient China, featuring a central axis, symmetrical design and layout of outer court at the front and inner court at the rear and the inclusion of additional landscaped courtyards deriving from the Yuan city layout. As the exemplar of ancient architectural hierarchy, construction techniques and architectural art, it influenced official buildings of the subsequent Qing dynasty over a span of 300 years. The religious buildings, particularly a series of royal Buddhist chambers within the Palace, absorbing abundant features of ethnic cultures, are a testimony of the integration and exchange in architecture among the Manchu, Han, Mongolian and Tibetan since the 14th century. Meanwhile, more than a million precious royal collections, articles used by the royal family and a large number of archival materials on ancient engineering techniques, including written records, drawings and models, are evidence of the court culture and law and regulations of the Ming and Qing dynasties.
The Imperial Palace of the Qing Dynasty in Shenyang while following the traditions of palace construction in China retains typical features of traditional folk residences of the Manchu people, and has integrated the architectural arts of Han, Manchu and Mongolian ethnic cultures. The buildings were laid out according to the “eight-banner” system, a distinct social organization system in Manchu society, an arrangement which is unique among palace buildings. Within the Qingning Palace the sacrificial places for the emperors testify to the customs of Shamanism practiced by the Manchu people for several hundred years.
4. Mogao Caves (1987)
Situated at a strategic point along the Silk Route, at the crossroads of trade as well as religious, cultural and intellectual influences, the 492 cells and cave sanctuaries in Mogao are famous for their statues and wall paintings, spanning 1,000 years of Buddhist art.
Carved into the cliffs above the Dachuan River, the Mogao Caves south-east of the Dunhuang oasis, Gansu Province, comprise the largest, most richly endowed, and longest used treasure house of Buddhist art in the world. It was first constructed in 366AD and represents the great achievement of Buddhist art from the 4th to the 14th century. 492 caves are presently preserved, housing about 45,000 square meters of murals and more than 2,000 painted sculptures. Cave 302 of the Sui dynasty contains one of the oldest and most vivid scenes of cultural exchanges along the Silk Road, depicting a camel pulling a cart typical of trade missions of that period. Caves 23 and 156 of the Tang dynasty show workers in the fields and a line of warriors respectively and in the Song dynasty Cave 61, the celebrated landscape of Mount Wutai is an early example of artistic Chinese cartography, where nothing has been left out – mountains, rivers, cities, temples, roads and caravans are all depicted.
As evidence of the evolution of Buddhist art in the northwest region of China, the Mogao Caves are of unmatched historical value. These works provide an abundance of vivid materials depicting various aspects of medieval politics, economics, culture, arts, religion, ethnic relations, and daily dress in western China. The unique artistic style of Dunhuang art is not only the amalgamation of Han Chinese artistic tradition and styles assimilated from ancient Indian and Gandharan customs, but also an integration of the arts of the Turks, ancient Tibetans and other Chinese ethnic minorities. Many of these masterpieces are creations of an unparalleled aesthetic talent.
The discovery of the Library Cave at the Mogao Caves in 1990, together with the tens of thousands of manuscripts and relics it contained, has been acclaimed as the world’s greatest discovery of ancient Oriental culture. This significant heritage provides invaluable reference for studying the complex history of ancient China and Central Asia.
5. Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor (1987)
No doubt thousands of statues still remain to be unearthed at this archaeological site, which was not discovered until 1974. Qin (d. 210 B.C.), the first unifier of China, is buried, surrounded by the famous terracotta warriors, at the centre of a complex designed to mirror the urban plan of the capital, Xianyan. The small figures are all different; with their horses, chariots and weapons, they are masterpieces of realism and also of great historical interest.
Located at the northern foot of Lishan Mountain, 35 kilometers northeast of Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, Qinshihuang Mausoleum is the tomb of Emperor Qinshihuang, founder of the first unified empire in Chinese history during the 3rd century BCE. Begun in 246 BCE the grave mound survives to a height of 51.3 meters within a rectangular, double-walled enclosure oriented north-south. Nearly 200 accompanying pits containing thousands of life-size terra cotta soldiers, terra cotta horses and bronze chariots and weapons – a world-renowned discovery – together with burial tombs and architectural remains total over 600 sites within the property area of 56.25 square kilometers. According to the historian Sima Qian (c. 145-95 BCE), workers from every province of the Empire toiled unceasingly until the death of the Emperor in 210 in order to construct a subterranean city within a gigantic mound.
As the tomb of the first emperor who unified the country, it is the largest in Chinese history, with a unique standard and layout, and a large number of exquisite funeral objects. It testifies to the founding of the first unified empire- the Qin Dynasty, which during the 3rd BCE, wielded unprecedented political, military and economic power and advanced the social, cultural and artistic level of the empire.
6. Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian (1987)
Scientific work at the site, which lies 42 km south-west of Beijing, is still underway. So far, it has led to the discovery of the remains of Sinanthropus pekinensis, who lived in the Middle Pleistocene, along with various objects, and remains of Homo sapiens sapiens dating as far back as 18,000–11,000 B.C. The site is not only an exceptional reminder of the prehistorical human societies of the Asian continent, but also illustrates the process of evolution.
Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian is a Pleistocene hominid site on the North China Plain. This site lies about 42 km south-west of Beijing and is at the juncture of the North China Plain and the Yanshan Mountains. Adequate water supplies and natural limestone caves in this area provided an optimal survival environment for early humans. Scientific work at the site is still under way. So far, ancient human fossils, cultural remains and animal fossils from 23 localities within the property dating from 5 million years ago to 10,000 years ago have been discovered by scientists. These include the remains of Homo erectus pekinensis, who lived in the Middle Pleistocene (700,000 to 200,000 years ago), archaic Homo sapiens of about 200,000–100,000 years ago and Homo sapiens sapiens dating back to 30,000 years ago. At the same time, fossils of hundreds of animal species, over 100,000 pieces of stone tools and evidence (including hearths, ash deposits and burnt bones) of Peking Man using fire have been discovered.
As the site of significant hominid remains discovered in the Asian continent demonstrating an evolutionary cultural sequence, Zhoukoudian is of major importance within the worldwide context. It is not only an exceptional reminder of the prehistoric human societies of the Asian continent, but also illustrates the process of human evolution, and is of significant value in the research and reconstruction of early human history.
7. Mount Huangshan (1990)
Huangshan, known as ‘the loveliest mountain of China’, was acclaimed through art and literature during a good part of Chinese history (e.g. the Shanshui ‘mountain and water’ style of the mid-16th century). Today it holds the same fascination for visitors, poets, painters and photographers who come on pilgrimage to the site, which is renowned for its magnificent scenery made up of many granite peaks and rocks emerging out of a sea of clouds.
Mount Huangshan, often described as the “loveliest mountain of China”, has played an important role in the history of art and literature in China since the Tang Dynasty around the 8th century, when a legend dated from the year 747 described the mountain as the place of discovery of the long-sought elixir of immortality. This legend gave Mount Huangshan its name and assured its place in Chinese history. Mount Huangshan became a magnet for hermits, poets and landscape artists, fascinated by its dramatic mountainous landscape consisting of numerous granitic peaks, many over 1,000 m high, emerging through a perpetual sea of clouds. During the Ming Dynasty from around the 16th century, this landscape and its numerous grotesquely-shaped rocks and ancient, gnarled trees inspired the influential Shanshui (“Mountain and Water”) school of landscape painting, providing a fundamental representation of the oriental landscape in the world’s imagination and art.
The property, located in the humid subtropical monsoon climate zone of China’s Anhui Province and covering an area of 15,400 ha with a buffer zone of 14,200 ha, is also of outstanding importance for its botanical richness and for the conservation of a number of locally or nationally endemic plant species, some of which are threatened with extinction.
8. Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area (1992)
Stretching over 72,000 ha in the northern part of Sichuan Province, the jagged Jiuzhaigou valley reaches a height of more than 4,800 m, thus comprising a series of diverse forest ecosystems. Its superb landscapes are particularly interesting for their series of narrow conic karst land forms and spectacular waterfalls. Some 140 bird species also inhabit the valley, as well as a number of endangered plant and animal species, including the giant panda and the Sichuan takin.
The Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area is a reserve of exceptional natural beauty with spectacular jagged alpine mountains soaring above coniferous forest around a fairyland landscape of crystal clear, strange-coloured blue, green and purplish pools, lakes, waterfalls, limestone terraces, caves and other beautiful features. These include a number of karst formations; indeed the area is a “natural museum” for alpine karst hydrology and research. Covering 72,000 ha in the northern part of Sichuan Province, Jiuzhaigou preserves a series of important forest ecosystems including old-growth forests which provide important habitat for numerous threatened species of plants and animals, including the giant panda and takin. Attaining heights of 4,752 m in the southern Minshan Mountains, Jiuzhaigou also contains an important number of well-preserved quaternary glacial remnants with great scenic value.
9. Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area (1992)
Situated in the north-west of Sichaun Province, the Huanglong valley is made up of snow-capped peaks and the easternmost of all the Chinese glaciers. In addition to its mountain landscape, diverse forest ecosystems can be found, as well as spectacular limestone formations, waterfalls and hot springs. The area also has a population of endangered animals, including the giant panda and the Sichuan golden snub-nosed monkey.
Situated in the north-west of Sichuan Province, the Huanglong valley with its series of travertine lakes, waterfalls, forests and mountain scenery is a superlative natural property. Topped by permanently snow-capped peaks rising from a base of 1,700 m up to 5,588 m, these include the easternmost glacier in China. Covering 60,000 ha, this area located within the Minshan Mountains also includes spectacular limestone formations and hot springs. Its diverse forest ecosystems provide the home for a number of endangered plants and animals, including the giant panda and Sichuan golden snub-nosed monkey.
10. Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area (1992)
A spectacular area stretching over more than 26,000 ha in China’s Hunan Province, the site is dominated by more than 3,000 narrow sandstone pillars and peaks, many over 200 m high. Between the peaks lie ravines and gorges with streams, pools and waterfalls, some 40 caves, and two large natural bridges. In addition to the striking beauty of the landscape, the region is also noted for the fact that it is home to a number of endangered plant and animal species.
Wulingyuan is an island of nature within a heavily populated agricultural region. A spectacular area stretching some 26,400ha in China’s Hunan Province, the site is dominated by more than 3,000 narrow quartz sandstone pillars, many over 200m high. Nestled within its towering peaks lie ravines and gorges with streams, pools and waterfalls, two large natural bridges, and some 40 caves. Impressive calcite deposits are a notable feature within these caves. In addition to the striking beauty of the landscape, including spectacular jagged stone peaks, luxuriant vegetation cover and clear lakes and streams, the region is also home to a number of endangered plant and animal species.
11. Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples, Chengde (1994)
The Mountain Resort (the Qing dynasty’s summer palace), in Hebei Province, was built between 1703 and 1792. It is a vast complex of palaces and administrative and ceremonial buildings. Temples of various architectural styles and imperial gardens blend harmoniously into a landscape of lakes, pastureland and forests. In addition to its aesthetic interest, the Mountain Resort is a rare historic vestige of the final development of feudal society in China.
The Mountain Resort of palaces and gardens at Chengde with its Outlying Temples is the largest existing imperial palace-garden and temple complex in China, covering a total area of 611.2ha. Built between 1703 and 1792 as the Qing emperors’ detached summer palace near the imperial Mulan hunting ground 350 kilometres from Beijing, it was a base from which to strengthen administration in the border regions. The 12 outlying imperial temples, some built in the architectural styles of the ethnic minorities, are distributed across the eastern and northern hills outside the palace and garden area. They fostered relations with the ethnic minorities and helped to safeguard the Mountain Resort. Every summer and autumn, emperors of the Qing dynasty including Kangxi and Qianlong handled military and government affairs of the country and received leaders of ethnic minority groups and diplomatic envoys from foreign countries here, and went north from here to hold the Mulan Autumn Hunting. Important historical events of the Qing dynasty took place here, and the historical sites and objects have witnessed the consolidation and development of China as a unitary multi-ethnic state.
The Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples, Chengde is a classic masterpiece of Chinese palace architecture, gardening art and religious architecture.The landscape of the Mountain Resort is designed following the topography of natural hills and water. As an outstanding example of Chinese natural landscape gardens and palaces, it inherits and carries forward China’s imperial gardening tradition. By integrating elements of Han, Mongolian and Tibetan architectural art and culture the Outlying Temples crystallize the achievements of cultural exchanges and integration among different ethnic groups in the course of development of Chinese architecture.
The manmade landscape of the Mountain Resort and its Outlying Temples perfectly integrates with the special natural environment of Chengde, such as the danxia landform. Its natural and harmonious layout is a successful practice of the traditional Chinese geomantic culture (fengshui). As a representative of ancient Chinese garden design, it once exerted influence in Europe, and has played an important role in the history of 18th century landscape garden design worldwide.
12. Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains (1994)
The palaces and temples which form the nucleus of this group of secular and religious buildings exemplify the architectural and artistic achievements of China’s Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Situated in the scenic valleys and on the slopes of the Wudang mountains in Hubei Province, the site, which was built as an organized complex during the Ming dynasty (14th–17th centuries), contains Taoist buildings from as early as the 7th century. It represents the highest standards of Chinese art and architecture over a period of nearly 1,000 years.
The palaces and temples of the Ancient Building Complex are located amongst the peaks, ravines and gullies of the picturesque Wudang Mountains, Hubei Province. Established as a Taoist centre from the early Tang Dynasty, some Taoist buildings could be traced back to the 7th century. However the surviving buildings exemplify the architectural and artistic achievements of China’s secular and religious buildings of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. The Ancient Building Complex reached its apogee during the Ming dynasty, with 9 palaces, 9 monasteries, 36 nunneries and 72 temples, following the major building campaign undertaken by Emperor Zhu Di to align his imperial regime with Taoism. Today, 53 ancient buildings and 9 architectural sites survive, including the Golden Shrine and the Ancient Bronze Shrine, which are prefabricated buildings in bronze made in 1307; the stone-walled Forbidden City of 1419; Purple Heaven Palace built originally in the 12th century, rebuilt in the 15th century and extended in the 19th century; the Nanyang Palace of the 12th and 13thcenturies; the Fuzhen Temple of the 15th and 17th centuries and the stone Zhishi-Xuanyue Gateway built to mark the entrance to the Wudang Mountains in 1522.
The buildings in the Wudang Mountains exhibit exceptional architectural art and technology and represent the highest level of Chinese art and architecture achieved over a period of nearly 1,000 years. They are examples of religious and secular buildings closely associated with the growth of Taoism in China and lavishly endowed by successive Emperors. As an exceptionally large and well-preserved Taoist building complex it is important material evidence for studying early Ming politics and the Chinese history of religion.
13. Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa (1994)
The Potala Palace, winter palace of the Dalai Lama since the 7th century, symbolizes Tibetan Buddhism and its central role in the traditional administration of Tibet. The complex, comprising the White and Red Palaces with their ancillary buildings, is built on Red Mountain in the centre of Lhasa Valley, at an altitude of 3,700m. Also founded in the 7th century, the Jokhang Temple Monastery is an exceptional Buddhist religious complex. Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama’s former summer palace, constructed in the 18th century, is a masterpiece of Tibetan art. The beauty and originality of the architecture of these three sites, their rich ornamentation and harmonious integration in a striking landscape, add to their historic and religious interest.
Enclosed within massive walls, gates and turrets built of rammed earth and stone the White and Red Palaces and ancillary buildings of the Potala Palace rise from Red Mountain in the centre of Lhasa Valley at an altitude of 3,700 metres. As the winter palace of the Dalai Lama from the 7th century CE the complex symbolizes Tibetan Buddhism and its central role in the traditional administration of Tibet. The White Palace contains the main ceremonial hall with the throne of the Dalai Lama, and his private rooms and audience hall are on the uppermost level. The palace contains 698 murals, almost 10,000 painted scrolls, numerous sculptures, carpets, canopies, curtains, porcelain, jade, and fine objects of gold and silver, as well as a large collection of sutras and important historical documents. To the west and higher up the mountain the Red Palace contains the gilded burial stupas of past Dalai Lamas. Further west is the private monastery of the Dalai Lama, the Namgyel Dratshang.
The Jokhang Temple Monastery was founded by the regime also in the 7th century, in order to promote the Buddhist religion. Covering 2.5ha in the centre of the old town of Lhasa, it comprises an entrance porch, courtyard and Buddhist hall surrounded by accommodation for monks and storehouses on all four sides. The buildings are constructed of wood and stone and are outstanding examples of the Tibetan Buddhist style, with influences from China, India, and Nepal. They house over 3,000 images of Buddha and other deities and historical figures along with many other treasures and manuscripts. Mural paintings depicting religious and historical scenes cover the walls.
Norbulingka, the Dalai Lama’s former summer palace constructed in the 18th century, is located on the bank of the Lhasa River about 2km west of the Potala Palace in a lush green environment. It comprises a large garden with four palace complexes and a monastery as well as other halls, and pavilions all integrated into the garden layout to create an exceptional work of art covering 36ha. The property is closely linked with religious and political issues, having been a place for contemplation and for signing political agreements.
The Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and Norbulingka embody the administrative, religious and symbolic functions of the Tibetan theocratic government through their location, layout and architecture. The beauty and originality of the architecture of these three sites, their rich ornamentation and harmonious integration in a striking landscape, contribute to their Outstanding Universal Value.
14. Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu (1994)
The temple, cemetery and family mansion of Confucius, the great philosopher, politician and educator of the 6th–5th centuries B.C., are located at Qufu, in Shandong Province. Built to commemorate him in 478 B.C., the temple has been destroyed and reconstructed over the centuries; today it comprises more than 100 buildings. The cemetery contains Confucius’ tomb and the remains of more than 100,000 of his descendants. The small house of the Kong family developed into a gigantic aristocratic residence, of which 152 buildings remain. The Qufu complex of monuments has retained its outstanding artistic and historic character due to the devotion of successive Chinese emperors over more than 2,000 years.
Confucius, a renowned philosopher, politician and educator in ancient China whose system of belief involving philosophy, politics and ethics (subsequently known as Confucianism) has exerted profound influence on Chinese culture, was revered as the Sacred Model Teacher for Ten Thousand Generations by Chinese emperors. Located in his birthplace, Qufu City of Shandong Province, China, the Temple of Confucius was built to commemorate and offer sacrifices to Confucius in 478 BC. Having been destroyed and reconstructed over the centuries, it now covers 14 hectares, with 104 buildings dating from the Jin to Qing dynasties including the Dacheng Hall, Kuiwen Pavilion and Xing Altar, and over 1,250 ancient trees. The Temple houses more than 1,000 stelae made at different times, and precious objects such as Han stone reliefs, carved pictures depicting the life of Confucius, and the stone dragon carvings of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Temple is the prototype and model for all the Confucius temples widely distributed in countries in East Asia and Southeast Asia, particularly in terms of layout and style.
Located 1,100 meters to the north of Qufu City, the Cemetery of Confucius covers an area of 183 hectares. It contains Confucius’ tomb and more than 100,000 graves of his descendants.
Lying to the east of the Temple, the Kong Family Mansion developed from a small family house linked to the temple into an aristocratic mansion in which the male direct descendants of Confucius lived and worked.Following a fire and rebuilding of the temple with an enclosure wall on the model of an imperial palace in the 14th century, the mansion was rebuilt a short distance from the temple. Subsequently expanded, then destroyed again by fire and rebuilt in the late 19th century, it now covers 7 hectares with a total of some 170 buildings. Over 100,000 collections are kept in the Mansion; among them the ten ceremonial utensils of the Shang and Zhou dynasties, the portraits of Confucius made in different periods and clothes and caps dating to the Ming and Qing dynasties are the most famous. Furthermore, the more than 60,000 files and archives of the Ming and Qing dynasties collected in the Mansion not only provide a credible record of all kinds of activities in the Mansion for more than 400 years, but are highly valuable for studying the history of the Ming and Qing period.
The buildings were designed and built with meticulous care according to the ideas of Confucianism regarding the hierarchy of disposition of the various components. In the Ming period many outstanding artists and craftsmen applied their skills in the adornment of the temple, and in the Qing period imperial craftsmen were assigned to build the Dacheng Hall and Gate and the Qin Hall, considered to represent the pinnacle of Qing art and architecture.
Confucianism has exerted a profound influence not only in China but also on the feudal societies of Korea, Japan and Vietnam and had a positive influence on the Enlightenment of 18th century Europe. The Temple of Confucius, the Cemetery of Confucius, and the Kong Family Mansion are not only outstanding representatives of oriental architectural skills, but they also have a deep historical content and are an important part of the cultural heritage of mankind.
15. Lushan National Park (1996)
Mount Lushan, in Jiangxi, is one of the spiritual centres of Chinese civilization. Buddhist and Taoist temples, along with landmarks of Confucianism, where the most eminent masters taught, blend effortlessly into a strikingly beautiful landscape which has inspired countless artists who developed the aesthetic approach to nature found in Chinese culture.
Mount Lushan is located in Jiujiang City, Jiangxi Province. The property area of Lushan National Park occupies a total area of 30,200 hectaresand its highest Peak, Hanyang Peak, is 1,474 meters above sea level. Bordered on the north by the Yangtze River and on the south by Poyang Lake, Mount Lushan presents an integral scene of river, hills and lake, the beauty of which has attracted spiritual leaders, scholars, artists and writers for over 2,000 years. More than 200 historic buildings are located in the Lushan National Park; complexes of prayer halls that have been rebuilt and extended many times to create an ongoing centre for study and religion. These include the Buddhist East Grove Temple complex begun by Huiyuan in 386 CE; the West Grove Pagoda begun around 730 CE; the Temple of Simplicity and Tranquility built during the Tang dynasty as the repository of Taoist scriptures, and the White Deer Cave Academy originally established in 940 CE and revived in the late 12th century during the Song dynasty when Zhu Xi instigated the spread of Confucius’ political and ethical teaching. This complex continued to be extended up to the 19th century to include many temples, study halls and libraries. Other important features include the stone single-span Guan Ying Bridge of 1,015 CE and more than 900 inscriptions on cliffs and stone tablets. In addition there are around 600 villas built by Chinese and foreign visitors in the late 19th and 20th centuries, when the area became a popular resort and was, during the 1930s and 40s the official Summer Capital of the Republic of China. The villas reflect various architectural fashions and are laid out within the landscape in accordance with Western planning concepts prevalent at the time.
Mount Lushan has an important place in Chinese history and culture. It is an outstanding representative of Chinese landscape culture, as well as a remarkable model of Chinese academy-based education, and a focal point for the integration of Chinese and Western cultures, once acting as the cultural center of southern China. The significant cultural developments and political events occurring over the course of Lushan’s history have influenced the course of Chinese history.
The natural beauty of Lushan is perfectly integrated with its historic buildings and features, creating a unique cultural landscape which embodies outstanding aesthetic value powerfully associated with Chinese spiritual and cultural life. Combining nature and culture, Mount Lushan represents the Chinese national spirit and epitomizes its cultural life.
16. Mount Emei Scenic Area, including Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area (1996)
The first Buddhist temple in China was built here in Sichuan Province in the 1st century A.D. in the beautiful surroundings of the summit Mount Emei. The addition of other temples turned the site into one of Buddhism’s holiest sites. Over the centuries, the cultural treasures grew in number. The most remarkable is the Giant Buddha of Leshan, carved out of a hillside in the 8th century and looking down on the confluence of three rivers. At 71 m high, it is the largest Buddha in the world. Mount Emei is also notable for its exceptionally diverse vegetation, ranging from subtropical to subalpine pine forests. Some of the trees there are more than 1,000 years old.
Mount Emei (Emeishan) is an area of exceptional cultural significance as it is the place where Buddhism first became established on Chinese territory and from where it spread widely through the East. The first Buddhist temple in China was built on the summit of Mount Emei in the 1st century CE. It became the Guangxiang Temple, receiving its present royal name of Huazang in 1614. The addition of more than 30 other temples including the Wannian Temple founded in the 4th century containing the 7.85m high Puxian bronze Buddha of the 10th century, and garden temples including the Qingyin Pavilion complex of pavilions, towers and platforms dating from the early 6th century; the early 17th century Baoguo Temple and the Ligou Garden (Fuhu Temple) turned the mountain into one of Buddhism’s holiest sites. The most remarkable manifestation of this is the 71 meter tall Giant Buddha of Leshan. Carved in the 8th century CE on the hillside of Xijuo Peak overlooking the confluence of three rivers, it is the largest Buddhist sculpture in the world. A contemporary account of the creation of the Giant Buddha is preserved in the form of an inscribed tablet. Associated monuments include the 9th century Lingbao Pagoda and the Dafo (Giant Buddha) Temple dating from the early Qing Dynasty. The Wuyu Temple contains two important statues: the 9th century Dashi bronze Buddha and the 11th century Amithabha statue group, cast in iron and gilded. Over five hundred Han Dynasty tombs of the 1st to 4th centuries, notable for their fine carvings and calligraphic inscriptions are located on Mahao Crag.
Mount Emei is an area of striking scenic beauty. It is also of great spiritual and cultural importance because of its role in the introduction of Buddhism into China. The conscious siting of so many of the cultural monuments, particularly of traditional architecture, within the natural environment makes it a cultural landscape of very high order.
Mount Emei is also notable for its exceptionally rich vegetation, ranging from subtropical evergreen forests to subalpine pine forests. Covering an area of 15,400 ha in two discrete areas – the Mount Emei and the Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Areas – the property is an area of natural beauty into which the human element has been integrated with skill and subtlety.
17. Old Town of Lijiang (1997)
The Old Town of Lijiang, which is perfectly adapted to the uneven topography of this key commercial and strategic site, has retained a historic townscape of high quality and authenticity. Its architecture is noteworthy for the blending of elements from several cultures that have come together over many centuries. Lijiang also possesses an ancient water-supply system of great complexity and ingenuity that still functions effectively today.
Lijiang is an exceptional ancient town set in a dramatic landscape which represents the harmonious fusion of different cultural traditions to produce an urban landscape of outstanding quality. In the 13th century AD, during the later Southern Song dynasty, the ancestors of the ruling Mu family moved their main centre from Baisha to the foot of the Shizi Mountains to a new town known as Dayechang (later Dayan), where they began building houses surrounded by a city wall and moat. After Azong Aliang submitted in the 1250s to the authority of the Yuan Emperor Hubilie, Dayechang became an administrative centre. The Lijiang Junmin prefecture was established when the region came under Ming rule in 1382. In 1724 the first non-native prefect began building prefectural offices, barracks and educational facilities at the foot of the Jinhong Mountain. Lijiang County was created as part of Lijiang Junmin Prefecture in 1770. The old town of Lijiang is built on a mountain slope running from north-west to south-east, facing a deep river. The northern part of the city was a commercial district. The main streets in this part of the old town radiate from the broad street known as Sifangjie, which has traditionally been the commercial and trading centre of the north-western part of Yunnan Province. On the west side of the Sifangjie is the imposing three-storeyed Kegongfang (Imperial Examination Archway), which is flanked by the Western and Central rivers.
18. Classical Gardens of Suzhou (1997)
Classical Chinese garden design, which seeks to recreate natural landscapes in miniature, is nowhere better illustrated than in the nine gardens in the historic city of Suzhou. They are generally acknowledged to be masterpieces of the genre. Dating from the 11th-19th century, the gardens reflect the profound metaphysical importance of natural beauty in Chinese culture in their meticulous design.
The classical gardens of Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China date back to the 6th century BCE when the city was founded as the capital of the Wu Kingdom. Inspired by these royal hunting gardens built by the King of the State of Wu, private gardens began emerging around the 4th century and finally reached the climax in the 18th century. Today, more than 50 of these gardens are still in existence, nine of which, namely the Humble Administrator’s Garden, Lingering Garden, Net Master’s Garden, the Mountain Villa with Embracing Beauty, the Canglang Pavilion, the Lion Grove Garden, the Garden of Cultivation, the Couple’s Garden Retreat, and the Retreat & Reflection Garden, are regarded as the finest embodiments of Chinese “Mountain and Water” gardens. The earliest of these, the Canglang Pavilionwas built in the early 11th century on the site of an earlier, destroyed garden. Conceived and built under the influence of the unconstrained poetic freehand style originally seen in traditional Chinese landscape paintings, they are noted for their profound merging of exquisite craftsmanship, artistic elegance and rich cultural implications. These gardens lend insight into how ancient Chinese intellectuals harmonized conceptions of aestheticism in a culture of reclusion within an urban living environment.
Garden masters from each dynasty adapted various techniques to artfully simulate nature by skillfully adapting and utilizing only the physical space available to them. Limited to the space within a single residence, classical Suzhou gardens are intended to be a microcosm of the natural world, incorporating basic elements such as water, stones, plants, and various types of buildings of literary and poetic significance. These exquisite gardens are a testament to the superior craftsmanship of the garden masters of the time. These unique designs that have been inspired but are not limited by concepts of nature have had profound influence on the evolution of both Eastern and Western garden art. These garden ensembles of buildings, rock formations, calligraphy, furniture, and decorative artistic pieces serve as showcases of the paramount artistic achievements of the East Yangtze Delta region; they are in essence the embodiment of the connotations of traditional Chinese culture.
19. Ancient City of Ping Yao (1997)
Ping Yao is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a traditional Han Chinese city, founded in the 14th century. Its urban fabric shows the evolution of architectural styles and town planning in Imperial China over five centuries. Of special interest are the imposing buildings associated with banking, for which Ping Yao was the major centre for the whole of China in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Ancient City of Ping Yao is a well-preserved ancient county-level city in China. Located in Ping Yao County, central Shanxi Province, the property includes three parts: the entire area within the walls of Ping Yao, Shuanglin Temple 6 kilometers southwest of the county seat, and Zhenguo Temple 12 kilometers northeast of the county seat. The Ancient City of Ping Yao well retains the historic form of the county-level cities of the Han people in Central China from the 14th to 20th century.
Founded in the 14th century and covering an area of 225 hectares, the Ancient City of Ping Yao is a complete building complex including ancient walls, streets and lanes, shops, dwellings and temples. Its layout reflects perfectly the developments in architectural style and urban planning of the Han cities over more than five centuries. Particularly, from the 19th century to the early 20th century, the Ancient City of Ping Yao was a financial center for the whole of China. The nearly 4,000 existing shops and traditional dwellings in the town which are grand in form and exquisite in ornament bear witness to Ping Yao’s economic prosperity over a century. With more than 2,000 existing painted sculptures made in the Ming and Qing dynasties, Shuanglin Temple has been reputed as an “oriental art gallery of painted sculptures”. Wanfo Shrine, the main shrine of Zhenguo Temple, dating back to the Five Dynasties, is one of China’s earliest and most precious timber structure buildings in existence.
The Ancient City of Ping Yao is an outstanding example of Han cities in the Ming and Qing dynasties (from the 14th to 20th century). It retains all the Han city features, provides a complete picture of the cultural, social, economic and religious development in Chinese history, and it is of great value for studying the social form, economic structure, military defense, religious belief, traditional thinking, traditional ethics and dwelling form.
20. Summer Palace, an Imperial Garden in Beijing (1998)
The Summer Palace in Beijing – first built in 1750, largely destroyed in the war of 1860 and restored on its original foundations in 1886 – is a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value.
The Summer Palace in Beijing integrates numerous traditional halls and pavilions into the Imperial Garden conceived by the Qing emperor Qianlong between 1750 and 1764 as the Garden of Clear Ripples. Using Kunming Lake, the former reservoir of the Yuan dynasty’s capital and Longevity Hill as the basic framework, the Summer Palace combined political and administrative, residential, spiritual, and recreational functions within a landscape of lakes and mountains, in accordance with the Chinese philosophy of balancing the works of man with nature. Destroyed during the Second Opium War of the 1850s, it was reconstructed by Emperor Guangxu for use by Empress Dowager Cixi and renamed the Summer Palace. Although damaged again during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 it was restored and has been a public park since 1924. The central feature of the Administrative area, the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity is approached through the monumental East Palace Gate. The connecting Residential area comprises three building complexes: the Halls of Happiness in Longevity, Jade Ripples and Yiyun, all built up against the Hill of Longevity, with fine views over the lake. These are linked by roofed corridors which connect to the Great Stage to the east and the Long Corridor to the West. In front of the Hall of Happiness in Longevity a wooden quay gave access by water for the Imperial family to their quarters.
The remaining 90% of the garden provides areas for enjoying views and spiritual contemplation and is embellished with garden buildings including the Tower of the Fragrance of Buddha, the Tower of the Revolving Archive, Wu Fang Pavilion, the Baoyun Bronze Pavilion, and the Hall that Dispels the Clouds. Kunming Lake contains three large islands, corresponding to the traditional Chinese symbolic mountain garden element, the southern of which is linked to the East Dike by the Seventeen Arch Bridge. An essential feature is the West Dike with six bridges in different styles along its length. Other important features include temples and monasteries in Han and Tibetan style located on the north side of the Hill of Longevity and the Garden of Harmonious Pleasure to the north-east.
As the culmination of several hundred years of Imperial garden design, the Summer Palace has had a major influence on subsequent oriental garden art and culture.
21. Temple of Heaven: an Imperial Sacrificial Altar in Beijing (1998)
The Temple of Heaven, founded in the first half of the 15th century, is a dignified complex of fine cult buildings set in gardens and surrounded by historic pine woods. In its overall layout and that of its individual buildings, it symbolizes the relationship between earth and heaven – the human world and God’s world – which stands at the heart of Chinese cosmogony, and also the special role played by the emperors within that relationship.
The Temple of Heaven is an axial arrangement of Circular Mound Altar to the south open to the sky with the conically roofed Imperial Vault of Heaven immediately to its north. This is linked by a raised sacred way to the circular, three-tiered, conically roofed Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests further to the north. Here at these places the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties as interlocutors between humankind and the celestial realm offered sacrifice to heaven and prayed for bumper harvests. To the west is the Hall of Abstinence where the emperor fasted after making sacrifice. The whole is surrounded by a double-walled, pine-treed enclosure. Between the inner and outer walls to the west are the Divine Music Administration hall and the building that was the Stables for Sacrificial Animals. Within the complex there are a total of 92 ancient buildings with 600 rooms. It is the most complete existing imperial sacrificial building complex in China and the world’s largest existing building complex for offering sacrifice to heaven.
Located south of the Forbidden City on the east side of Yongnei Dajie, the original Altar of Heaven and Earth was completed together with the Forbidden City in 1420, the eighteenth year of the reign of the Ming Emperor Yongle. In the ninth year of the reign of Emperor Jiajing (1530) the decision was taken to offer separate sacrifices to heaven and earth, and so the Circular Mound Altar was built to the south of the main hall for sacrifices particularly to heaven. The Altar of Heaven and Earth was thereby renamed the Temple of Heaven in the thirteenth year of the reign of Emperor Jiajing (1534). The current arrangement of the Temple of Heaven complex covering 273ha was formed by 1749 after reconstruction by the Qing emperors Qianlong and Guangxu.
The siting, planning, and architectural design of the Temple of Heaven as well as the sacrificial ceremony and associated music were based on ancient tenets relating numbers and spatial organisation to beliefs about heaven and its relationship to people on earth, mediated by the emperor as the ‘Son of Heaven’. Other dynasties built altars for the worship of heaven but the Temple of Heaven in Beijing is a masterpiece of ancient Chinese culture and is the most representative work of numerous sacrificial buildings in China.
22. Mount Wuyi (1999)
Mount Wuyi is the most outstanding area for biodiversity conservation in south-east China and a refuge for a large number of ancient, relict species, many of them endemic to China. The serene beauty of the dramatic gorges of the Nine Bend River, with its numerous temples and monasteries, many now in ruins, provided the setting for the development and spread of neo-Confucianism, which has been influential in the cultures of East Asia since the 11th century. In the 1st century B.C. a large administrative capital was built at nearby Chengcun by the Han dynasty rulers. Its massive walls enclose an archaeological site of great significance.
Mount Wuyi, located in China’s south-east province of Fujian, contains the largest, most representative example of a largely intact forest encompassing the diversity of the Chinese Subtropical Forest and the South Chinese Rainforest. Of enormous importance for biodiversity conservation, the property acts as a refuge for an important number of ancient, relict plant species, many of them endemic to China, and contains an extremely rich flora and fauna, including significant numbers of reptile, amphibian and insect species.
The serene beauty of the dramatic gorges of the Nine-Bend River is of exceptional scenic quality in its juxtaposition of smooth rock cliffs with clear, deep water. Situated along this river are numerous temples and monasteries, many now in ruins, which provided the setting for the development and spread of Neo-Confucianism, a political philosophy which has been very influential in the cultures of East Asia since the 11th century. In particular there are no fewer than 35 ancient Confucian academies dating from the Northern Song to Qing Dynasties (10th to 19th centuries CE). In addition the area contains tombs, inscriptions and rock shelters with wooden boat coffins dating back to the Shang Dynasty (2nd century BCE), and the remains of more than 60 Taoist temples and monasteries.
In the 1st century BCE a large administrative capital was built at nearby Chengcun by the Han Dynasty rulers. Its massive walls enclose an archaeological site of great significance.
The property consists of four protected areas: Wuyishan National Nature Reserve (56,527 ha) in the west, Nine-Bend Stream Ecological Protection Area (36,400 ha) in the centre and Wuyishan National Scenic Area (7,000 ha) in the east are contiguous, and the Protection Area for the Remains of Ancient Han Dynasty (48 ha) is a separate area, about 15km to the south-east. Totalling 99,975 ha, the property is surrounded by a buffer zone of 27,888 ha and has been inscribed for cultural as well as scenic and biodiversity values.
23. Dazu Rock Carvings (1999)
The steep hillsides of the Dazu area contain an exceptional series of rock carvings dating from the 9th to the 13th century. They are remarkable for their aesthetic quality, their rich diversity of subject matter, both secular and religious, and the light that they shed on everyday life in China during this period. They provide outstanding evidence of the harmonious synthesis of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.
The steep hillsides in the Dazu area near Chongqing, contain an exceptional series of five clusters of rock carvings dating from the 9th to 13th centuries. The largest cluster at Beishan contains two groups along a cliff face 7-10m high stretching for around 300m. There are more than 10,000 carvings dating from the late 9th to the mid-12th century which depict themes of Tantric Buddhism and Taoism. Inscriptions give insight to the history, religious beliefs, dating and the identification of historical figures. The late 11thcentury Song dynasty carvings at Shizhuanshan extend over 130m and depict Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian images in a rare tripartite arrangement. The Song dynasty carvings at Shimenshan dating from the first half of the 12th century extend along 72m and integrate Buddhist and Taoist subjects. At Nanshan the Song dynasty carvings of the 12th century extend over a length of 86m and depict mostly Taoist subjects. The culmination in terms of expression of Tantric Buddhism is found in the U shaped gorge at Baodingshan which contains two groups of carvings dating from the late 12th to the mid-13th century near the Holy Longevity Monastery. The very large group to the west stretches for about 500 metres and comprises 31 groups of carved figures depicting themes from Tantric Buddhism as well scenes of herdsmen and ordinary life.
The carvings are known for their grand scale, aesthetic quality and rich diversity of subject matter as well as for being well preserved. Standing as an example of the highest level of Chinese cave temple art dating from the 9th to 13th centuries, the Dazu Rock Carvings not only underline the harmonious coexistence in China of three different religions, namely Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, but also provide material proof that cave temple art has increasingly shed light on everyday life. Large numbers of carvings and written historical materials within the heritage site show the great changes in and development of cave temple art and religious beliefs in China during that period.
24. Mount Qingcheng and the Dujiangyan Irrigation System (2000)
Construction of the Dujiangyan irrigation system began in the 3rd century B.C. This system still controls the waters of the Minjiang River and distributes it to the fertile farmland of the Chengdu plains. Mount Qingcheng was the birthplace of Taoism, which is celebrated in a series of ancient temples.
The Dujiangyan irrigation system, located in the western portion of the Chengdu flatlands at the junction between the Sichuan basin and the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, is an ecological engineering feat originally constructed around 256 BC. Modified and enlarged during the Tang, Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties, it uses natural topographic and hydrological features to solve problems of diverting water for irrigation, draining sediment, flood control, and flow control without the use of dams. Today the system comprises two parts: the Weir Works, located at an altitude of 726m, the highest point of the Chengdu plain 1km from Dujiangyan City, and the irrigated area. Three key components of the Weir Works control the water from the upper valley of the Minjiang River: the Yuzui Bypass Dike, the Feishayan Floodgate, and the Baopingkou Diversion Passage. Together with ancillary embankments and watercourses including the Baizhang Dike, the Erwang Temple Watercourse and the V-Shaped Dike, these structures ensure a regular supply of water to the Chengdu plains. The system has produced comprehensive benefits in flood control, irrigation, water transport and general water consumption. Begun over 2,250 years ago, it now irrigates 668,700 hectares of farmland.
Mount Qingcheng, dominating the Chengdu plains to the south of the Dujiangyan Irrigation System, is a mountain famous in Chinese history as the place where in 142 CE the philosopher Zhang Ling founded the doctrine of Chinese Taoism. Most of the essential elements of Taoism culture are embodied in the teachings of Taoism that emanated from the temples that were subsequently built on the mountain during the Jin and Tang dynasties. The mountain resumed its role as the intellectual and spiritual centre of Taoism in the 17th century. The eleven important Taoist temples on the mountain reflect the traditional architecture of western Sichuan and include the Erwang Temple, the Fulong Temple, the Changdao Temple built over the place where Zhang Ling preached his doctrines, and the Jianfu Palace (formerly the Zhangren Temple).
25. Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui – Xidi and Hongcun (2000)
The two traditional villages of Xidi and Hongcun preserve to a remarkable extent the appearance of non-urban settlements of a type that largely disappeared or was transformed during the last century. Their street plan, their architecture and decoration, and the integration of houses with comprehensive water systems are unique surviving examples.
Xidi and Hongcun are two outstanding traditional villages, located in Yi County, Huangshan City in south Anhui Province, with commercial activities as their primary source of income, family and clan-based social organization, and well known for their regional culture. The overall layout, landscape, architectural form, decoration, and construction techniques all retain the original features of Anhui villages between the 14th and 20th centuries.
Deeply influenced by the traditional culture of pre-modern Anhui Province, these two villages, Xidi and Hongcun, were built by successful officials or merchants returning home from official appointments and business, and gradually developed into models of conventional Chinese village construction. Xidi is surrounded by mountains and built along and between three streams running east-west, which converge at the Huiyuan Bridge to the south. Hongcun is located at the foot of a hill next to a stream which forms two pools, the Moon Pond in the centre of the village and the other to the south. Characterised by rhythmic space variation and tranquil alleyways; and with water originating from a picturesque garden, the whole reflects the pursuit of coexistence, unity and the harmony of man and nature. The unique and exquisite style of Anhui buildings is conveyed in plain and elegant colors, their gables decorated with delicate and elegant carvings, their interiors filled with tasteful furnishings. The rigid patriarchal system together with gentle and sincere folk customs reflects the cultural ideas of scholar-bureaucrats in feudal society who paid special respect to Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism. These surviving villages bear scientific, cultural and aesthetic values with their 600-plus-year history. They are rich sources for the study of regional histories and cultures.
26. Longmen Grottoes (2000)
The grottoes and niches of Longmen contain the largest and most impressive collection of Chinese art of the late Northern Wei and Tang Dynasties (316-907). These works, entirely devoted to the Buddhist religion, represent the high point of Chinese stone carving.
The Longmen Grottoes, located on bothsides of the Yi River to the south of the ancient capital of Luoyang, Henan province, comprise more than 2,300 caves and niches carved into the steep limestone cliffs over a 1km long stretch. These contain almost 110,000 Buddhist stone statues, more than 60 stupas and 2,800 inscriptions carved on steles. Luoyang was the capital during the late Northern Wei Dynasty and early Tang Dynasty, and the most intensive period of carving dates from the end of the 5th century to the mid-8th century. The earliest caves to be carved in the late 5th and early 6th centuries in the West Hill cliffs include Guyangdong and the Three Binyang Caves, all containing large Buddha figures. Yaofangdong Cave contains 140 inscription recording treatments for various diseases and illnesses. Work on the sculpture in this cave continued over a 150 year period, illustrating changes in artistic style. The sculptural styles discovered in the Buddhist caves of the Tang Dynasty in the 7th and 8th centuries, particularly the giant sculptures in the Fengxiansi Cave are the most fully representative examples of the Royal Cave Temples’ art, which has been imitated by artists from various regions. The two sculptural art styles, the earlier “Central China Style” and the later “Great Tang Style” had great influence within the country and throughout the world, and have made important contributions to the development of the sculptural arts in other Asian countries.
27. Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (2000)
It represents the addition of three Imperial Tombs of the Qing Dynasty in Liaoning to the Ming tombs inscribed in 2000 and 2003. The Three Imperial Tombs of the Qing Dynasty in Liaoning Province include the Yongling Tomb, the Fuling Tomb, and the Zhaoling Tomb, all built in the 17th century. Constructed for the founding emperors of the Qing Dynasty and their ancestors, the tombs follow the precepts of traditional Chinese geomancy and fengshui theory. They feature rich decoration of stone statues and carvings and tiles with dragon motifs, illustrating the development of the funerary architecture of the Qing Dynasty. The three tomb complexes, and their numerous edifices, combine traditions inherited from previous dynasties and new features of Manchu civilization.
The Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties were built between 1368 and 1915 AD in Beijing Municipality, Hebei Province, Hubei Province, Jiangsu Province and Liaoning Province of China. They comprise of the Xianling Tombs of the Ming Dynasty and the Eastern and Western Qing Tombs inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2000; the Xiaoling Tomb of the Ming Dynasty and the Ming Tombs in Beijing added to the inscription in 2003, and the Three Imperial Tombs of Shenyang, Liaoning Province (Yongling Tomb, Fuling Tomb, and Zhaoling Tomb, all of the Qing Dynasty) added in 2004.
The Ming and Qing imperial tombs are located in topographical settings carefully chosen according to principles of geomancy (Fengshui) and comprise numerous buildings of traditional architectural design and decoration. The tombs and buildings are laid out according to Chinese hierarchical rules and incorporate sacred ways lined with stone monuments and sculptures designed to accommodate ongoing royal ceremonies as well as the passage of the spirits of the dead. They illustrate the great importance attached by the Ming and Qing rulers over five centuries to the building of imposing mausolea, reflecting not only the general belief in an afterlife but also an affirmation of authority.
The tomb of the first Ming Emperor, the Xiaoling Tomb broke with the past and established the basic design for those that followed in Beijing, and also the Xianling Tomb of the Ming Dynasty in Zhongxiang, the Western Qing Tombs and the Eastern Qing Tombs. The Three Imperial Tombs of the Qing Dynasty in Liaoning Province (Yongling Tomb, Fuling Tomb, and Zhaoling Tomb) were all built in the 17th century for the founding emperors of the Qing Dynasty and their ancestors, integrating the tradition inherited from previous dynasties with new features from the Manchu civilization.
The Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties are masterpieces of human creative genius by reason of their organic integration into nature, and a unique testimony to the cultural and architectural traditions of the last two feudal dynasties (Ming and Qing) in the history of China between the 14th and 20th centuries. They are fine works combining the architectural arts of the Han and Manchu civilizations. Their siting, planning and design reflect both the philosophical idea of “harmony between man and nature” according to Fengshui principles and the rules of social hierarchy, and illustrate the conception of the world and power prevalent in the later period of the ancient society of China.
28. Yungang Grottoes (2001)
The Yungang Grottoes, in Datong city, Shanxi Province, with their 252 caves and 51,000 statues, represent the outstanding achievement of Buddhist cave art in China in the 5th and 6th centuries. The Five Caves created by Tan Yao, with their strict unity of layout and design, constitute a classical masterpiece of the first peak of Chinese Buddhist art.
The Buddhist tradition of religious cave art achieved its first major impact at Yungang, where it developed its own distinct character and artistic power. The Yungang cave art represents the successful fusion of Buddhist religious symbolic art from south and central Asia with Chinese cultural traditions, starting in the 5th century AD under imperial auspices. At the same time it vividly illustrates the power and endurance of Buddhist belief in China.
Datong, known as Pingcheng in ancient times, became the capital of the Northern Wei dynasty between 398 and 494, and thus the political, economic and cultural centre of their kingdom. It kept its importance until 523, when it was deserted following a revolt. The statues of the Yungang Grottoes were completed in sixty years (460-525); this period marks the peak of development in Buddhist cave art of the Northern Wei dynasty. When the first emperor assumed the throne, Buddhism flourished and in 460 the monk Tan Yao started the carving of the Five Caves; since then, these grottoes have become the centre of Buddhist art in North China.
By 525 the initial project, sponsored by the court, was mostly completed, but low ranking officials and monks continued to dig more caves and carve statues. During the Liao dynasty, wooden shelter structures were built in front of the caves, turning the grottoes into temple buildings, such as the Ten Famous Temples. In 1122 these temples were destroyed in a war.
29. Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas (2003)
Consisting of eight geographical clusters of protected areas within the boundaries of the Three Parallel Rivers National Park, in the mountainous north-west of Yunnan Province, the 1.7 million hectare site features sections of the upper reaches of three of the great rivers of Asia: the Yangtze (Jinsha), Mekong and Salween run roughly parallel, north to south, through steep gorges which, in places, are 3,000 m deep and are bordered by glaciated peaks more than 6,000 m high. The site is an epicentre of Chinese biodiversity. It is also one of the richest temperate regions of the world in terms of biodiversity.
Located in the mountainous north-west of Yunnan Province in China, the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas is a natural serial property consisting of 15 protected areas, grouped into eight clusters. The Property contains an outstanding diversity of landscapes, such as deep-incised river gorges, luxuriant forests, towering snow-clad mountains, glaciers, and alpine karst, reddish sandstone landforms (Danxia）, lakes and meadows over vast vistas. The 1.7 million hectare site features sections of the upper reaches of three of the great rivers of Asia: the Yangtze (Jinsha), Mekong and Salween which run approximately parallel, north to south, through steep gorges which, in places, are 3,000 m deep and are bordered by glaciated peaks more than 6,000 m high. The property spans a large portion of the Hengduan Mountains, which is the major arc curving into Indochina from the eastern end of the Himalayas. Being located in the convergent regions of the three world’s major biogeographic realms, the property is in an epicentre of Chinese biodiversity. It may also harbour the richest biodiversity among the temperate areas of the world.
30. Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom (2004)
The site includes archaeological remains of three cities and 40 tombs: Wunu Mountain City, Guonei City and Wandu Mountain City, 14 tombs are imperial, 26 of nobles. All belong to the Koguryo culture, named after the dynasty that ruled over parts of northern China and the northern half of the Korean Peninsula from 277 BC to AD 668. Wunu Mountain City is only partly excavated. Guonei City, within the modern city of Ji’an, played the role of a ‘supporting capital’ after the main Koguryo capital moved to Pyongyang. Wandu Mountain City, one of the capitals of the Koguryo Kingdom, contains many vestiges including a large palace and 37 tombs. Some of the tombs show great ingenuity in their elaborate ceilings, designed to roof wide spaces without columns and carry the heavy load of a stone or earth tumulus (mound), which was placed above them.
The World Heritage site represents exceptional testimony to the vanished Koguryo civilization. The Capital Cities of the Koguryo Kingdom are an early example of mountain cities, later to be imitated by neighbouring cultures. The tombs, particularly the important stele and a long inscription in one of the tombs, show the impact of Chinese culture on the Koguryo (who did not develop their own form of writing). The paintings in the tombs, while showing artistic skills and specific style, are also an example of the strong impact from other cultures.
The system of capital cities represented by Guonei City and Wandu Mountain City also influenced the construction of later capitals built by the Koguryo regime. The Koguryo tombs provide outstanding examples of the evolution of piled-stone and earthen tomb construction.
The site includes archaeological remains of three cities (Wunu Mountain City (only partly excavated), Guonei City and Wandu Mountain City) and 40 tombs, 14 of which are imperial and 26 of nobles. All belong to the Koguryo culture, named after the dynasty that ruled over parts of northern China and the northern half of the Korean Peninsula from 37 BC to AD 668.
31. Historic Centre of Macao (2005)
Macao, a lucrative port of strategic importance in the development of international trade, was under Portuguese administration from the mid-16th century until 1999, when it came under Chinese sovereignty. With its historic street, residential, religious and public Portuguese and Chinese buildings, the historic centre of Macao provides a unique testimony to the meeting of aesthetic, cultural, architectural and technological influences from East and West. The site also contains a fortress and a lighthouse, the oldest in China. It bears witness to one of the earliest and longest-lasting encounters between China and the West, based on the vibrancy of international trade.
Macao, a lucrative port of strategic importance in the development of international trade in Chinese territory, became a Portuguese settlement in the mid-16th century and returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1999. The inscribed property presents a group of 22 principal buildings and public spaces that enable a clear understanding of the structure of the old trading port city. With its historic streets, residential, religious and public Portuguese and Chinese buildings, the Historic Centre of Macao provides a unique testimony to the meeting of aesthetic, cultural, religious, architectural and technological influences from East and West. It bears witness to the first and most enduring encounter between China and the West, based on the vibrancy of international trade. As a gateway between China and the western world, Macao played a strategic role in world trade. Different nationalities settled in this hub of a complex maritime trading network, along with missionaries who brought with them religious and cultural influences, as illustrated by the introduction of foreign building types (China’s first western-style theatre, university, hospital, churches and fortresses), many still in use. Macao’s unique multicultural identity can be read in the dynamic presence of Western and Chinese architectural heritage standing side by side in the city and the same dynamics often exist in individual building designs, adapting Chinese design features in western style buildings and vice versa, such as the incorporation of Chinese characters as decorative ornaments on the baroque-mannerist church façade of St. Paul’s Ruins. Typical European port city characteristics can also be seen in the urban fabric structure of the settlement with public squares blending into the densely packed lots along narrow, meandering streets, whilst accumulating experiences from other Portuguese settlements, seen in the concept of “Rua Direita” that links the port with old citadel. Visual connections between the property and seascape are attributes that reflect Macao’s origin as a trading port city; the Inner Harbour used over centuries and still functioning today adds to that testimony. Intangible influences of the historic encounter have permeated the lifestyles of the local people, affecting religion, education, medicine, charities, language and cuisine. The core value of the historic centre is not solely its architecture, the urban structure, the people or their customs, but a mixture of all these. The coexistence of cultural sediments of eastern and western origin, along with their living traditions, defines the essence of the historic centre.
32. Yin Xu (2006)
The archaeological site of Yin Xu, close to Anyang City, some 500 km south of Beijing, is an ancient capital city of the late Shang Dynasty (1300 – 1046 BC). It testifies to the golden age of early Chinese culture, crafts and sciences, a time of great prosperity of the Chinese Bronze Age. A number of royal tombs and palaces, prototypes of later Chinese architecture, have been unearthed on the site, including the Palace and Royal Ancestral Shrines Area, with more than 80 house foundations, and the only tomb of a member of the royal family of the Shang Dynasty to have remained intact, the Tomb of Fu Hao. The large number and superb craftsmanship of the burial accessories found there bear testimony to the advanced level of Shang crafts industry. Inscriptions on oracle bones found in Yin Xu bear invaluable testimony to the development of one of the world’s oldest writing systems, ancient beliefs and social systems.
Situated on both banks of the Huanhe River to the northwest of the nationally famous historic and cultural city Anyang, in Henan Province of central China, the archaeological remains of Yin Xu dated from 1,300 BCE and comprise two sites: the Palace and Royal Ancestral Shrines Area and the Royal Tombs Area covering a total 414 hectares with an enclosing buffer zone of 720 hectares. Yin Xu has been confirmed by historic documents, oracle bone inscriptions and archaeological excavations as the first site of a capital in Chinese history. The twentieth king of the Shang Dynasty Pan Geng, moved his capital from Yan to Yin (the area around Xiaotun Village of present Anyang) around 1,300 BC, and established a lasting and stable capital. It spanned 255 years with 12 kings and 8 generations and created the splendid and brilliant Yin-Shang Civilization, which is of priceless value in terms of history, art and science.
Yin Xu was the earliest site to possess the elements of civilization, including more than 80 house foundations of rammed earth with remains of timber structures, ancestral shrines and altars enclosed within a defensive ditch which also functioned as a flood-control system. Numerous pits within the Palace area contained inscribed oracle bones considered to carry the earliest evidence of the Chinese written language. The Royal Tombs area on higher ground includes sacrificial pits containing chariots and human remains considered to have been sacrificial victims. Burial goods included decorated bronze ritual vessels, jade and bone carvings and ceramics.
Being one of the most important capital sites in early China, its planning and layout had an important influence on the construction and development of subsequent capitals of China. The Royal Tomb Area of Yin Xu is the earliest large-scale royal graveyard in China and the source of China’s system of royal and imperial mausoleums;oracle bone inscriptions are the earliest known mature writing in China and constitute evidence for the history of the Shang Dynasty in China, helping to track recorded Chinese history nearly one thousand years earlier, and the Site of Yin Xu conveys the social life of the late Shang Dynasty, reflecting highly developed science and architectural technology including bronze casting and a calendar system.
33. Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries – Wolong, Mt Siguniang and Jiajin Mountains (2006)
Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, home to more than 30% of the world’s pandas which are classed as highly endangered, covers 924,500 ha with seven nature reserves and nine scenic parks in the Qionglai and Jiajin Mountains. The sanctuaries constitute the largest remaining contiguous habitat of the giant panda, a relict from the paleo-tropic forests of the Tertiary Era. It is also the species’ most important site for captive breeding. The sanctuaries are home to other globally endangered animals such as the red panda, the snow leopard and clouded leopard. They are among the botanically richest sites of any region in the world outside the tropical rainforests, with between 5,000 and 6,000 species of flora in over 1,000 genera.
Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries – Wolong, Mt Siguniang and Jiajin Mountains is principally renowned for its importance for the conservation of the giant panda, recognized as a “National Treasure” in China and as a flagship for global conservation efforts. The property is the largest and most significant remaining contiguous area of panda habitat in China and thus the world. It is also the most important source of giant panda for establishing the captive breeding population of the species.
In addition to the giant panda, the property features a great number of endemic and threatened species of plants and animals, including other iconic mammal species such as the red panda, snow leopard and clouded leopard among the 109 species of mammals recorded (more than 20% of all Chinese mammals). The property is an important centre of endemism for some bird taxa with 365 bird species recorded, 300 of which breed locally. However the property is particularly important for flora, being one of the botanically richest sites of any temperate region in the world with some 5,000 – 6,000 species recorded. Many species are relicts, such as the dove tree, and there is significant diversity in groups such as magnolias, bamboos, rhododendrons, and orchids. The property is a major source and gene pool for hundreds of traditional medicinal plants, many now under threat.
Located in China’s southeast province of Sichuan in the Qionglai and Jiajin Mountains between the Chengdu Plateau and the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, the property includes seven nature reserves and eleven scenic parks in four prefectures or cities. It covers a total area of 924,500 ha surrounded by a buffer zone of 527,100 ha.
34. Kaiping Diaolou and Villages (2007)
Kaiping Diaolou and Villages feature the Diaolou, multi-storeyed defensive village houses in Kaiping, which display a complex and flamboyant fusion of Chinese and Western structural and decorative forms. They reflect the significant role of émigré Kaiping people in the development of several countries in South Asia, Australasia and North America, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There are four groups of Diaolou and twenty of the most symbolic ones are inscribed on the List. These buildings take three forms: communal towers built by several families and used as temporary refuge, residential towers built by individual rich families and used as fortified residences, and watch towers. Built of stone, pise , brick or concrete, these buildings represent a complex and confident fusion between Chinese and Western architectural styles. Retaining a harmonious relationship with the surrounding landscape, the Diaolou testify to the final flowering of local building traditions that started in the Ming period in response to local banditry.
The Diaolou and their surrounding villages demonstrate Outstanding Universal Value for their complex and confident fusion between Chinese and western architectural styles, for their final flowering of local tower building traditions, for their completeness and unaltered state resulting from their short life span as fortified dwellings and their comparative abandonment and for harmonious relationship with their agricultural landscape.
35. South China Karst (2007)
South China Karst is one of the world’s most spectacular examples of humid tropical to subtropical karst landscapes. It is a serial site spread over the provinces of Guizhou, Guangxi, Yunnan and Chongqing and covers 176,228 hectares. It contains the most significant types of karst landforms, including tower karst, pinnacle karst and cone karst formations, along with other spectacular characteristics such as natural bridges, gorges and large cave systems. The stone forests of Shilin are considered superlative natural phenomena and a world reference. The cone and tower karsts of Libo, also considered the world reference site for these types of karst, form a distinctive and beautiful landscape. Wulong Karst has been inscribed for its giant dolines (sinkholes), natural bridges and caves.
The huge karst area of South China is about 550,000 km2 in extent. The karst terrain displays a geomorphic transition as the terrain gradually descends about 2000 meters over 700 kilometers from the western Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau (averaging 2100 meters elevation) to the eastern Guangxi Basin (averaging 110 meters elevation). The region is recognized as the world’s type area for karst landform development in the humid tropics and subtropics.
The World Heritage Property of South China Karst is a serial property that includes seven karst clusters in four Provinces: Shilin Karst, Libo Karst, Wulong Karst, Guilin Karst, Shibing Karst, Jinfoshan Karst, and Huanjiang Karst. The total area is 97,125 hectares, with a buffer zone of 176,228 hectares. The property was inscribed in two phases.
Phase I inscribed in 2007, include three clusters totalling 47,588 hectares, with buffer zones totalling 98,428 hectares. The Shilin Karst component is in Yunnan province and contains stone forests with sculpted pinnacle columns and is considered the world reference site for pinnacle karst. Shilin Karst consists of two core areas surrounded by a common buffer zone. The area is 12,070 hectares with a buffer zone of 22,930 hectares. The buffer zone is designated as a UNESCO Geopark. The Libo Karst component is in Guizhou province and includes high conical karst peaks, intervening deep enclosed depressions (cockpits), sinking streams and long underground caves. The area is considered a world reference site for cone karst. The property consists of two core areas surrounded by a common buffer. The area is 29,518 hectares with a buffer zone of 43,498 hectares. One of the components is a national nature reserve. The Wulong Karst component is in Chongqing province and consists of high inland karst plateaux that have experienced considerable uplift. Its giant dolines and bridges are representative of South China’s tiankeng (giant collapse depression) landscapes, and provide the evidence for the history of one of the world’s great river systems, the Yangtze and its tributaries. The Wulong Karst component is a cluster of three core zones, each with a separate buffer zone. The areas total 6,000 hectares with buffer zones of 32,000 hectares.
Phase II inscribed in 2014 includes four clusters totaling 49,537 hectares, and buffer zones totaling 77,800 hectares. The Guilin Karst component in Guangxi province is located within Lijiang National Park and contains fenglin (tower) and fengcong (cone) karst formations. Guilin Karst is divided into two sections: the Putao Section with an area of 2,840 hectares and a buffer zone of 21,610 hectares and the Lijiang Section with an area of 22,544 hectares and a buffer zone of 23,070 hectares. The Shibing Karst component in Guizhou province includes dolomitic karst formations and is located within Wuyanghe National Park. Shibing Karst has an area of 10,280 hectares and a buffer zone of 18,015 hectares. The Jinfoshan Karst component is a unique karst table mountain surrounded by towering cliffs. Jinfoshan Karst is located in Chongqing province within the boundaries of the Jinfoshan National Nature Reserve and Jinfoshan National Park. The Jinfoshan component has an area of 6,744 hectares and a buffer zone of 10,675 hectares. The Huanjiang Karst component is a cone karst area located in Guangxi Province within the boundaries of the Mulun National Nature Reserve. The Huanjiang Component has an area of 7,129 hectares and a buffer zone of 4,430 hectares.
The South China Karst World Heritage property protects a diversity of spectacular and iconic continental karst landscapes, including tower karst (fenglin), pinnacle karst (shilin) and cone karst (fengcong), as well as other karst phenomena such as Tiankeng karst (giant dolines), table mountains and gorges. The property also includes many large cave systems with rich speleothem deposits. The karst features and geomorphological diversity of the South China Karst are widely recognized as among the best in the world. The region can be considered the global type-site for three karst landform styles: fenglin (tower karst), fengcong (cone karst), and shilin (stone forest or pinnacle karst).The landscape also retains most of its natural vegetation, which results in seasonal variations and adds to the outstanding aesthetic value of the area.
The property contains the most spectacular, scientifically significant and representative series of karst landforms and landscapes of South China from interior high plateau to lowland plains and constitutes the world’s premier example of humid tropical to subtropical karst: one of our planet’s great landscapes. It complements sites that are also present in neighbouring countries, including Viet Nam, where several World Heritage properties also exhibit karst formations.
36. Fujian Tulou (2008)
Fujian Tulou is a property of 46 buildings constructed between the 15th and 20th centuries over 120 km in south-west of Fujian province, inland from the Taiwan Strait. Set amongst rice, tea and tobacco fields the Tulou are earthen houses. Several storeys high, they are built along an inward-looking, circular or square floor plan as housing for up to 800 people each. They were built for defence purposes around a central open courtyard with only one entrance and windows to the outside only above the first floor. Housing a whole clan, the houses functioned as village units and were known as “a little kingdom for the family” or “bustling small city.” They feature tall fortified mud walls capped by tiled roofs with wide over-hanging eaves. The most elaborate structures date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The buildings were divided vertically between families with each disposing of two or three rooms on each floor. In contrast with their plain exterior, the inside of the tulou were built for comfort and were often highly decorated. They are inscribed as exceptional examples of a building tradition and function exemplifying a particular type of communal living and defensive organization, and, in terms of their harmonious relationship with their environment, an outstanding example of human settlement.
The Fujian Tulou are the most representative and best preserved examples of the tulou of the mountainous regions of south-eastern China. The large, technically sophisticated and dramatic earthen defensive buildings, built between the 13th and 20th centuries, in their highly sensitive setting in fertile mountain valleys, are an extraordinary reflection of a communal response to settlement which has persisted over time. The tulou, and their extensive associated documentary archives, reflect the emergence, innovation, and development of an outstanding art of earthen building over seven centuries. The elaborate compartmentalised interiors, some with highly decorated surfaces, met both their communities’ physical and spiritual needs and reflect in an extraordinary way the development of a sophisticated society in a remote and potentially hostile environment. The relationship of the massive buildings to their landscape embodies both Feng Shui principles and ideas of landscape beauty and harmony.
37. Mount Sanqingshan National Park (2008)
Mount Sanqingshan National Park, a 22,950 ha property located in the west of the Huyaiyu mountain range in the northeast of Jiangxi Province (in the east of central China) has been inscribed for its exceptional scenic quality, marked by the concentration of fantastically shaped pillars and peaks: 48 granite peaks and 89 granite pillars, many of which resemble human or animal silhouettes. The natural beauty of the 1,817 metre high Mount Huaiyu is further enhanced by the juxtaposition of granite features with the vegetation and particular meteorological conditions which make for an ever-changing and arresting landscape with bright halos on clouds and white rainbows. The area is subject to a combination of subtropical monsoonal and maritime influences and forms an island of temperate forest above the surrounding subtropical landscape. It also features forests and numerous waterfalls, some of them 60 metres in height, lakes and springs.
Mount Sanqingshan National Park displays a unique array of forested, fantastically shaped granite pillars and peaks concentrated in a relatively small area. The looming, intricate rock formations intermixed with delicate forest cover and combined with ever-shifting weather patterns create a landscape of arresting beauty.
38. Mount Wutai (2009)
With its five flat peaks, Mount Wutai is a sacred Buddhist mountain. The cultural landscape is home to forty-one monasteries and includes the East Main Hall of Foguang Temple, the highest surviving timber building of the Tang dynasty, with life-size clay sculptures. It also features the Ming dynasty Shuxiang Temple with a huge complex of 500 statues representing Buddhist stories woven into three-dimensional pictures of mountains and water. Overall, the buildings on the site catalogue the way in which Buddhist architecture developed and influenced palace building in China for over a millennium. Mount Wutai, literally, ‘the five terrace mountain’, is the highest in Northern China and is remarkable for its morphology of precipitous slopes with five open treeless peaks. Temples have been built on this site from the 1st century AD to the early 20th century.
Mount Wutai with its five flat peaks is one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains in China. It is seen as the global centre for Buddhist Manjusri worship. Its fifty-three monasteries, include the East Main Hall of Foguang Temple, with life size clay sculptures, the highest ranking timber building to survive from the Tang Dynasty, and the Ming Dynasty Shuxiang Temple with a huge complex of 500 ‘suspension’ statues, representing Buddhist stories woven into three dimensional pictures of mountains and water. The temples are inseparable from their mountain landscape. With its high peaks, snow covered for much of the year, thick forests of vertical pines, firs, poplar and willow trees and lush grassland, the beauty of the landscape has been celebrated by artists since at least the Tang Dynasty – including in the Dunhuang caves. Two millennia of temple building have delivered an assembly of temples that present a catalogue of the way Buddhist architecture developed and influenced palace building over a wide part of China and part of Asia. For a thousand years from the Northern Wei period (471-499) nine Emperors made 18 pilgrimages to pay tribute to the bodhisattvas, commemorated in stele and inscriptions. Started by the Emperors, the tradition of pilgrimage to the five peaks is still very much alive. With the extensive library of books collected by Emperors and scholars, the monasteries of Mount Wutai remain an important repository of Buddhist culture, and attract pilgrims from across a wide part of Asia.
39. Historic Monuments of Dengfeng in “The Centre of Heaven and Earth” (2010)
Mount Songshang is considered to be the central sacred mountain of China. At the foot of this 1500 metre high mountain, close to the city of Dengfeng in Henan province and spread over a 40 square-kilometre circle, stand eight clusters of buildings and sites, including three Han Que gates – remains of the oldest religious edifices in China -, temples, the Zhougong Sundial Platform and the Dengfeng Observatory. Constructed over the course of nine dynasties, these buildings are reflections of different ways of perceiving the centre of heaven and earth and the power of the mountain as a centre for religious devotion. The historical monuments of Dengfeng include some of the best examples of ancient Chinese buildings devoted to ritual, science, technology and education.
For many centuries Dengfeng, one of the early capitals of China whose precise location is unknown, but whose name is now associated with an area to the south of Mount Shaoshi and Mount Taishi, two peaks of Mount Songshan, came to be associated with the concept of the centre of heaven and earth – the only point where astronomical observations were considered to be accurate. The natural attribute of the centre of heaven and earth was seen to be Mount Songshan and worship of Mount Songshan was used by the Emperors as a way of reinforcing their power.
The three ideas do therefore converge to some extent: the centre of heaven and earth in astronomical terms is used as a propitious place for a capital of terrestrial power, and Mount Songshan as the natural symbol of the centre of heaven and earth is used as the focus for sacred rituals that reinforce that earthly power. The buildings that clustered around Dengfeng were of the highest architectural standards when built and many were commissioned by Emperors. They thus reinforced the influence of the Dengfeng area.
Some of the sites in the nominated area relate closely to the mountain (Zhongyue Temple, Taishi Que and Shaoshi Que); the Observatory is very clearly associated with the astronomical observations made at the centre of heaven and earth, while the remainder of the buildings were built in the area perceived to be the centre of heaven and earth – for the status that this conferred.
40. China Danxia (2010)
China Danxia is the name given in China to landscapes developed on continental red terrigenous sedimentary beds influenced by endogenous forces (including uplift) and exogenous forces (including weathering and erosion). The inscribed site comprises six areas found in the sub-tropical zone of south-west China. They are characterized by spectacular red cliffs and a range of erosional landforms, including dramatic natural pillars, towers, ravines, valleys and waterfalls. These rugged landscapes have helped to conserve sub-tropical broad-leaved evergreen forests, and host many species of flora and fauna, about 400 of which are considered rare or threatened.
China Danxia is a serial property comprising six component parts (Chishui, Taining, Langshan, Danxiashan, Longhushan, and Jianglangshan) found in the sub-tropical zone of south-eastern China within approximately 1700 km crescent shaped arc from Guizhou Province in the west to Zhejiang Province in the east.
China Danxia is the name given in China to landscapes developed on continental red terrigenous sedimentary beds influenced by endogenous forces (including uplift) and exogenous forces (including weathering and erosion). It is characterised by spectacular red cliffs and a range of erosional landforms, including dramatic natural pillars, towers, ravines, valleys and waterfalls. The process of its development is characterised by a particular rock sequence, tectonic background, climatic conditions, erosional processes and landforms and these processes have been presented as an interim model.
Due to the combined endogenic (tectonic uplift) and exogenic (climatic, erosion, weathering) forces, and other factors, the Danxia landforms have been developed in red sedimentary sequences continuously from the Neogene until the present. The six component parts represent the most important examples of “least eroded” to “most eroded” Danxia landforms, providing a range of different aspects of the phenomenon, and illustrate both the range of landforms in relation to the forces and processes that formed them, together with a range of associated landscapes.
41. West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou (2011)
The West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou, comprising the West Lake and the hills surrounding its three sides, has inspired famous poets, scholars and artists since the 9th century. It comprises numerous temples, pagodas, pavilions, gardens and ornamental trees, as well as causeways and artificial islands. These additions have been made to improve the landscape west of the city of Hangzhou to the south of the Yangtze river. The West Lake has influenced garden design in the rest of China as well as Japan and Korea over the centuries and bears an exceptional testimony to the cultural tradition of improving landscapes to create a series of vistas reflecting an idealised fusion between humans and nature.
West Lake is surrounded on three sides by ‘cloud-capped hills’ and on the fourth by the city of Hangzhou. Its beauty has been celebrated by writers and artists since the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). In order to make it more beautiful, its islands, causeways and the lower slopes of its hills have been ‘improved’ by the addition of numerous temples, pagodas, pavilions, gardens and ornamental trees which merge with farmed landscape. The main artificial elements of the lake, two causeways and three islands, were created from repeated dredgings between the 9th and 12th centuries. Since the Southern Song Dynasty (thirteenth century) ten poetically named scenic places have been identified as embodying idealised, classic landscapes – that manifest the perfect fusion between man and nature. West Lake is an outstanding example of a cultural landscape that display with great clarity the ideals of Chinese landscape aesthetics, as expounded by writers and scholars in Tang and Song Dynasties. The landscape of West Lake had a profound impact on the design of gardens not only in China but further afield, where lakes and causeways imitated the harmony and beauty of West Lake. The key components of West Lake still allow it to inspire people to ‘project feelings onto the landscape’. The visual parameters of this vast landscape garden are clearly defined, rising to the ridges of the surrounding hills as viewed from Hangzhou.
42. Chengjiang Fossil Site (2012)
A hilly 512 ha site in Yunnan province, Chengjiang’s fossils present the most complete record of an early Cambrian marine community with exceptionally preserved biota, displaying the anatomy of hard and soft tissues in a very wide variety of organisms, invertebrate and vertebrate. They record the early establishment of a complex marine ecosystem. The site documents at least sixteen phyla and a variety of enigmatic groups as well as about 196 species, presenting exceptional testimony to the rapid diversification of life on Earth 530 million years ago, when almost all of today’s major animal groups emerged. It opens a palaeobiological window of great significance to scholarship.
The Chengjiang Fossil Site, located in the Province of Yunnan, China, conserves fossil remains which are of exceptional significance. The rocks and fossils of the Chengjiang Fossil Site present an outstanding and extraordinarily preserved record that testifies to the rapid diversification of life on Earth during the early Cambrian period, 530 million years before present. In this geologically short interval, almost all major groups of animals had their origins. The diverse geological evidence from the Chengjiang Fossil Site presents fossil remains of the highest quality of preservation and conveys a complete record of an early Cambrian marine community. It is one of the earliest records of a complex marine ecosystem and a unique window of understanding into the structure of early Cambrian communities.
Original Decision Document
Context of Decision:
- Chengjiang Fossil Site (China). http://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/4780/
- Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet Muenchen (LMU). “Chengjiang biota: Bringing fossils into focus.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 August 2015. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150818112617.htm
- Liu, Y., Scholtz, G., & Hou, X. (2015). When a 520 million-year-old Chengjiang fossil meets a modern micro-CT – a case study. Scientific Reports, 5, 12802. doi:10.1038/srep12802
43. Site of Xanadu (2012)
North of the Great Wall, the Site of Xanadu encompasses the remains of Kublai Khan’s legendary capital city, designed by the Mongol ruler’s Chinese advisor Liu Bingzhdong in 1256. Over a surface area of 25,000 ha, the site was a unique attempt to assimilate the nomadic Mongolian and Han Chinese cultures. From this base, Kublai Khan established the Yuan dynasty that ruled China over a century, extending its boundaries across Asia. The religious debate that took place here resulted in the dissemination of Tibetan Buddhism over north-east Asia, a cultural and religious tradition still practised in many areas today. The site was planned according to traditional Chinese feng shui in relation to the nearby mountains and river. It features the remains of the city, including temples, palaces, tombs, nomadic encampments and the Tiefan’gang Canal, along with other waterworks.
The Site of Xanadu is the site of a grassland capital characteristic of cultural fusion, witnessing clashes and mutual assimilation between the nomadic and agrarian civilisations in northern Asia. Located on the southeast edge of the Mongolian plateau, it was the first capital (1263-1273) of Kublai Khan and later the summer capital (1274-1364) of the Yuan Dynasty. The city site and associated tombs are located on the grassland steppe with a north south axis determined by traditional Chinese feng shui principles, backed by mountains to the north and a river to the south.
From Xanadu, the mounted warriors of Kublai Khan unified the agrarian civilisations of China, and partly assimilated to the latter’s culture, while extending the Yuan empire right across North Asia. The plan of Xanadu, with Palace and Imperial cities enclosed partly by the Outer City containing evidence of the nomadic encampments and royal hunting enclosure, comprises a unique example of this cultural fusion. Evidence of large water control works instigated to protect the city exists in the form of remains of the Tiefan’gan Canal. As the place where Kublai Khan rose to power, hosted religious debates and entertained foreign travellers whose writings gave inspiration down the centuries, it has achieved legendary status in the rest of the world and is the place from where Tibetan Buddhism expanded.
44. Cultural Landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces (2013)
The Cultural Landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, China covers 16,603-hectares in Southern Yunnan. It is marked by spectacular terraces that cascade down the slopes of the towering Ailao Mountains to the banks of the Hong River. Over the past 1,300 years, the Hani people have developed a complex system of channels to bring water from the forested mountaintops to the terraces. They have also created an integrated farming system that involves buffalos, cattle, ducks, fish and eel and supports the production of red rice, the area’s primary crop. The inhabitants worship the sun, moon, mountains, rivers, forests and other natural phenomena including fire. They live in 82 villages situated between the mountaintop forests and the terraces. The villages feature traditional thatched “mushroom” houses. The resilient land management system of the rice terraces demonstrates extraordinary harmony between people and their environment, both visually and ecologically, based on exceptional and long-standing social and religious structures.
On the south banks of the Hong River in the mountainous terrain of southern Yunnan, the Honghe Hani Rice terraces cascade down the towering slopes of the Ailao mountains. Carved out of dense forest over the past 1,300 years by Hani people who migrated here from further to the north-west, the irrigated terraces support paddy fields overlooking narrow valleys. In some places there are as many as 3,000 terraces between the lower edges of the forest and the valley floor.
Responding to the difficulties and opportunities of their environment of high mountains, narrow valleys criss-crossed by ravines, extremely high rainfall (around 1400mm) and sub-tropical valley climate, the Hani people have created out of dense forest an extraordinarily complex system of irrigated rice terraces that flows around the contours of the mountains.
The property extends across an area of some 1,000 square kilometres. Three areas of terraces, Bada, Duoyishu and Laohuzui, within three river basins, Malizhai, Dawazhe and Amengkong-Geta, reflect differing underlying geological characteristics. The gradient of the terraces in Bada is gentle, in Douyishu steeper, and in Laohuzui very steep.
The landscape reflects an integrated four-fold system of forests, water supply, terraces and houses. The mountain top forests are the lifeblood of the terraces in capturing and sustaining the water needed for the irrigation. There are four types of forests, the ancient ‘water recharge’ forest, sacred forest, consolidation forests, and village forests for the provision of timber for building, food and firewood. The sacred forests still have strong connotations. Above the village are places for the Village God “Angma” (the soul of the village) and for the Land Protection God “Misong”, where villagers pray for peace, health and prosperity.
Clefts in the rocks channel the rain, and sandstone beneath the granite mountains traps the water and then later releases it as springs. A complex system of channels has been developed to spread this water around the terraces in and between different valleys. Four trunk canals and 392 branch ditches which in length total 445.83km are maintained communally.
Eighty-two relatively small villages with between 50 and 100 households are constructed above the terraces just below the mountain top forests. The traditional vernacular buildings have walls built of rammed earth, of adobe bricks or of earth and stone under a tall, hipped, roof thatched with straw that gives the houses a distinctive ‘mushroom’ shape. At least half the houses in the villages are mainly or partly of traditional materials.
Each household farms one or two ‘plots’ of the rice terraces. Red rice is produced on the basis of a complex and integrated farming and breeding system involving buffalos, cattle, ducks, fish and eels. This system is under pinned by long-standing traditional social and religious structures, based on symbiotic relationships between plants and animals that reinforce communal obligations and the sacredness of nature and reflect a duality of approach between the individual and the community, and between people and gods, one reinforcing the other.
The Honghe Hani rice terraces are an exceptional reflection of a resilient land management system that optimises social and environmental resources, demonstrates an extraordinary harmony between people and their environment in spiritual, ecological and visual terms, and is based on a spiritual respect for nature and respect for both the individual and the community, through a system of dual interdependence known as the ‘Man-God Unity social system’.
45. Xinjiang Tianshan (2013)
Xinjiang Tianshan comprises four components—Tomur, Kalajun-Kuerdening, Bayinbukuke and Bogda— that total 606,833 hectares. They are part of the Tianshan mountain system of Central Asia, one of the largest mountain ranges in the world. Xinjiang Tianshan presents unique physical geographic features and scenically beautiful areas including spectacular snow and snowy mountains glacier-capped peaks, undisturbed forests and meadows, clear rivers and lakes and red bed canyons. These landscapes contrast with the vast adjacent desert landscapes, creating a striking visual contrast between hot and cold environments, dry and wet, desolate and luxuriant. The landforms and ecosystems of the site have been preserved since the Pliocene epoch and present an outstanding example of ongoing biological and ecological evolutionary processes. The site also extends into the Taklimakan Desert, one of the world’s largest and highest deserts, known for its large dune forms and great dust storms. Xinjiang Tianshan is moreover an important habitat for endemic and relic flora species, some rare and endangered.
Xinjiang Tianshan is a serial property consisting of four components totaling 606,833 hectares, with buffer zones totaling 491,103 hectares located in the People’s Republic of China in the Xinjiang Tianshan, the eastern portion of the Tianshan mountain range. The four components are located along the 1,760 kilometers of the Xinjiang Tianshan, a temperate arid zone surrounded by Central Asian deserts. The property was nominated under criterion (vii) for its outstanding beauty and superlative natural features and criterion (ix) for capturing a range of biological and ecological processes.
The property has outstanding scenic values and many superlative natural features – from red bed canyons to high peaks and glaciers to beautiful wetlands, meadows and steppe. The visual impact of these features is magnified by the stark contrasts between the mountain areas and vast Central Asian deserts, and between the dry south slopes and the much wetter north slope. Xinjiang Tianshan is also an outstanding example of ongoing biological and ecological evolutionary process in a temperate arid zone. Altitudinal vegetation distributions, significant differences between north and south slopes, and diversity of flora, all illustrate the biological and ecological evolution of the Pamir-Tian Shan Highlands. Xinjiang Tianshan has outstanding biodiversity and is important habitat for relic species, and numerous rare and endangered species, as well as endemic species. It provides an excellent example of the gradual replacement of the original warm and wet flora by modern xeric Mediterranean flora.
46. Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan Corridor (2014)
This property is a 5,000 km section of the extensive Silk Roads network, stretching from Chang’an/Luoyang, the central capital of China in the Han and Tang dynasties, to the Zhetysu region of Central Asia. It took shape between the 2nd century BC and 1st century AD and remained in use until the 16th century, linking multiple civilizations and facilitating far-reaching exchanges of activities in trade, religious beliefs, scientific knowledge, technological innovation, cultural practices and the arts. The thirty-three components included in the routes network include capital cities and palace complexes of various empires and Khan kingdoms, trading settlements, Buddhist cave temples, ancient paths, posthouses, passes, beacon towers, sections of The Great Wall, fortifications, tombs and religious buildings.
The Silk Roads were an interconnected web of routes linking the ancient societies of Asia, the Subcontinent, Central Asia, Western Asia and the Near East, and contributed to the development of many of the world’s great civilizations. They represent one of the world’s preeminent long-distance communication networks stretching as the crow flies to around 7,500 km but extending to in excess of 35,000 km along specific routes. While some of these routes had been in use for millennia, by the 2nd century BC the volume of exchange had increased substantially, as had the long distance trade between east and west in high value goods, and the political, social and cultural impacts of these movements had far-reaching consequences upon all the societies that encountered them.
The routes served principally to transfer raw materials, foodstuffs, and luxury goods. Some areas had a monopoly on certain materials or goods: notably China, who supplied Central Asia, the Subcontinent, West Asia and the Mediterranean world with silk. Many of the high value trade goods were transported over vast distances – by pack animals and river craft – and probably by a string of different merchants.
The Tian-shan corridor is one section or corridor of this extensive overall Silk Roads network. Extending across a distance of around 5,000 km, it encompassed a complex network of trade routes extending to some 8,700 km that developed to link Chang’an in central China with the heartland of Central Asia between the 2nd century BC and 1st century AD, when long distance trade in high value goods, particularly silk, started to expand between the Chinese and Roman Empires. It flourished between the 6th and 14th century AD and remained in use as a major trade route until the 16th century.
The extremes of geography along the routes graphically illustrate the challenges of this long distance trade. Falling to 154 metres below sea level and rising to 7,400 metres above sea level, the routes touch great rivers, alpine lakes, crusty salt flats, vast deserts, snow-capped mountains and ‘fecund’ prairies. The climate varies from extreme drought to semi-humid; while vegetation covers temperate forests, temperate deserts, temperate steppes, alpine steppes and oases.
Starting on the Loess plateau at Chang’an, the central capital of China in the Han and Tang Dynasties, the routes of the Tian-shan corridor passed westwards through the Hosi Corridor across the Qin and Qilian Mountains to the Yumen Pass of Dunhuang. From Loulan/Hami, they continued along the northern and southern flanks of the Tian-shan Mountain and then through passes to reach the Ili, Chuy and Talas valleys in the Zhetysu Region of Central Asia, linking two of the great power centres that drove the Silk Roads trade.
Thirty-three sites along the corridor include capital cities palace complexes of various empires and Khan Kingdoms, trading settlements, Buddhist cave temples, ancient paths, posthouses, passes, beacon towers, sections of the Great Wall, fortifications, tombs and religious buildings. The formal system of posthouses and beacon towers provided by the Chinese Empire facilitated trade, as did the system of forts, caravanserai and way stations operated by states in the Zhetysu region. In and around Chang’an, a succession of palaces reflect the power centre of the Chinese Empire over 1,200 years; while the cities of the Chuy valley are witness to the power centre of the Zhetysu region from the 9th to the 14th centuries and their organisation of the long distance trade.
The series of Buddhist pagodas and large, elaborate cave temples extending from Kucha (now Kuqa County) in the west to Luoyong in the east, record the eastward transmission of Buddhism from India via Karakorum, and demonstrate an evolution in the design of stupas as local ideas were absorbed. Their elaboration reflects the sponsorship of local authorities and the central Chinese imperial government as well as donations of wealthy merchants, and the influence of monks that travelled the routes, many of whose journeys were documented from 2nd century BC onwards. Other religious buildings reflect the co-existence of many religions (as well as many ethnic groups) along the corridor including Zoroastrianism, the main religion of the Sogdians of Zhetysu region, Manichaeism in the Chuy and Talas valleys and in Qocho city and Luoyong, Nestorian Christianity also in Qocho city, around Xinjiang and in Chang’an, and Islam in Burana.
The massive scale of the trading activities fostered large, prosperous and thriving towns and cities that also reflect the interface between settled and nomadic communities in a variety of ways: the mutual inter-dependence of nomads and farmers and different peoples such as between Turks and Sogdians in the Zhetysu region; the transformation of nomadic communities to settled communities in the Tian-shan mountains, resulting in highly distinctive construction and planning such as semi-underground buildings; and in the Hosi corridor the planned agricultural expansion of the 1,000 mile corridor after the 1st century BC as an agricultural garrison and its transformation to settled agricultural communities. Diverse and large scale water management systems were essential to facilitate the growth of towns, trading settlements, forts, and caravanserai and the agriculture necessary to support them, such as the extensive Karez underground water channels of the extremely arid Turpan basin, many still in use, that supplied water to Qocho city, and were supplemented by deep wells inside Yar city; the grand scale of the network of open canals and ditches along the Hosi corridor that drew river water to the settlements, 90 km of which survive around Suoyang city; and in the Zhetsyu region, river water distribution through canals and pipes and collection in reservoirs.
As well as conduits for goods and people, the routes allowed the exceptional flow of ideas, beliefs and technological innovations such as those related to architecture and town planning that shaped the urban spaces and peoples’ lives in many fundamental ways.
47. The Grand Canal (2014)
The Grand Canal is a vast waterway system in the north-eastern and central-eastern plains of China, running from Beijing in the north to Zhejiang province in the south. Constructed in sections from the 5th century BC onwards, it was conceived as a unified means of communication for the Empire for the first time in the 7th century AD (Sui dynasty). This led to a series of gigantic construction sites, creating the world’s largest and most extensive civil engineering project prior to the Industrial Revolution. It formed the backbone of the Empire’s inland communication system, transporting grain and strategic raw materials, and supplying rice to feed the population. By the 13th century it consisted of more than 2,000 km of artificial waterways, linking five of China’s main river basins. It has played an important role in ensuring the country’s economic prosperity and stability and is still in use today as a major means of communication.
The Grand Canal forms a vast inland waterway system in the north-eastern and central eastern plains of China, passing through eight of the country’s present-day provinces. It runs from the capital Beijing in the north to Zhejiang Province in the south. Constructed in sections from the 5th century BC onwards, it was conceived as a unified means of communication for the Empire for the first time in the 7th century AD (Sui Dynasty). This led to a series of gigantic worksites, creating the world’s largest and most extensive civil engineering project ensemble prior to the Industrial Revolution. Completed and maintained by successive dynasties, it formed the backbone of the Empire’s inland communications system. Its management was made possible over a long period by means of the Caoyun system, the imperial monopoly for the transport of grain and strategic raw materials, and for the taxation and control of traffic. The system enabled the supply of rice to feed the population, the unified administration of the territory, and the transport of troops. The Grand Canal reached a new peak in the 13th century (Yuan Dynasty), providing a unified inland navigation network consisting of more than 2,000 km of artificial waterways, linking five of the most important river basins in China, including the Yellow River and the Yangtze. Still a major means of internal communication today, it has played an important role in ensuring the economic prosperity and stability of China over the ages.
48. Tusi Sites (2015)
Located in the mountainous areas of south-west China, this property encompasses remains of several tribal domains whose chiefs were appointed by the central government as ‘Tusi’, hereditary rulers from the 13th to the early 20thcentury. The Tusi system arose from the ethnic minorities’ dynastic systems of government dating back to the 3rd century BCE. Its purpose was to unify national administration, while allowing ethnic minorities to retain their customs and way of life. The sites of Laosicheng, Tangya and Hailongtun Fortress that make up the site bear exceptional testimony to this form of governance, which derived from the Chinese civilization of the Yuan and Ming periods.
Distributed around the mountainous areas of south-west China are the remains of tribal domains whose leaders were appointed by the central government as ‘Tusi’, hereditary rulers of their regions from the 13th to the early 20th century. This system of administrative government was aimed at unifying national administration while simultaneously allowing ethnic minorities to retain their customs and way of life. The three sites of Laosicheng, Tangya and the Hailongtun Fortress combine as a serial property to represent this system of governance. The archaeological sites and standing remains of Laosicheng Tusi Domain and Hailongtun Fortress represent domains of highest ranking Tusi; the Memorial Archway and remains of the Administration Area, boundary walls, drainage ditches and tombs at Tangya Tusi Domain represent the domain of a lower ranked Tusi. Their combinations of local ethnic and central Chinese features exhibit an interchange of values and testify to imperial Chinese administrative methods, while retaining their association with the living cultural traditions of the ethnic minority groups represented by the cultural traditions and practices of the Tujia communities at Laosicheng.
- List of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in China
- Major Historical and Cultural Sites Protected at the National Level
- Cultural heritage of China
- Principles for the Conservation of Heritage Sites in China
- List of World Heritage Sites in Asia (see template below for more regions)
- Table of World Heritage Sites by country
- UNESCO World Heritage Site
- World Heritage Committee
- Liu, Y., Scholtz, G., & Hou, X. (2015). When a 520 million-year-old Chengjiang fossil meets a modern micro-CT – a case study. Scientific Reports, 5, 12802. doi:10.1038/srep12802