An Outline of Traditional Chinese Culture. World Cultural and Natural Heritages. World Cultural and Natural Heritages in China.
An Outline of Traditional Chinese Culture
World Cultural and Natural Heritages
China has a vast territories, abundant natural resources, with many wonderful landscapes and treasured historic sites. A number of these form part of the World Heritage List, a source of great national pride to the Chinese people.
China started to submit to the World Heritage List in 1987. Up to June 2007, among the over 800 World Heritage Sites listed by UNESCO, China has 35 listed, ranking the third, trailing Spain and Italy.
Mount Taishan was listed in 1987 by UNESCO as a Dual Cultural and Natural Heritage.
China’s spectacular mountain landscapes attract many tourists home and abroad.
Among them, Mount Taishan, Mount Huangshan, Mount Lushan and Mount Wuyi are most worth visiting.
There are five sacred mountains in China:
Mount Taishan (泰山), Mount Huashan (华山), Mount Hengshan (恒山), Mount Hengshan (衡山)， and Mount Songshan (嵩山).
In Mount Taishan, nature and culture penetrate into each other.
It is the symbol of spiritual culture of China.
Mount Taishan’s four spectacular views
the Sunrise in the East
the Sunset in the West
the Yonder Yellow River Resembling a Golden Belt
the Sea of Clouds
like Jade Plates
Mount Huangshan was listed in 1990 by UNESCO as a Dual Cultural and Natural Heritage.
The three main peaks, the Lotus Peak, the Tiandu Peak and the Guangming peak, are about 1,800 metres above sea level.
Three Main Peaks
the Tiandu Peak
the Lotus Peak
the Guangming peak
Mount Lushan was added to the list of World Cultural Heritage in 1996 by UNESCO WHC.
The mountain is a well-known scenic area, summer resort and place for convalescent (恢复期的) patients.
Three Water Falls
Su Dongpo, a brilliant poet of the Song Dynasty, queried in one of his poems:
“How could one tell what Mount Lushan really looks like when one is in the midst of the mountain all along?”
Mount Emei and the Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area were listed in 1996 by UNESCO WHC as a Dual Cultural and Natural Heritage.
The mountain stretches more than 200 km from south to north.
Its main peak, Wanfo Top (万佛顶: the summit of Ten Thousand Buddhas), is about 3,099 metres above sea level.
At the summit of the Mount Emei is the monastery known as the Golden Summit.
Mount Emei is a well-known natural museum with more than 3,000 species of plants and 2,000 types of animals including groups of monkeys that appear on the mountain roads.
The Giant Buddha of Leshan 30 km west of Mount Emei is the largest Buddha in the world.
Mount Wuyi was listed in 1999 by UNESCO WHC as a Dual Cultural and Natural Heritage.
Located south of Wuyishan City, Fujian Province, Mount Wuyi has what is probably the largest, most typical and best-preserved subtropical virgin forests in the world. It is a typical rosy cloud landform (丹霞地貌).
This scenic area includes one stream, seven shoals (滩), nine ponds, 11 ravines (涧), 13 springs, 36 peaks, 61 rocks, 72 caves, 99 cliffs, and 108 scenic spots.
Since the nineties of the last century, there have been four natural sites listed as world natural heritage: Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area, Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area, Huang Long scenic and Historic Interest Area and Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries.
The Wulingyuan Natural Resort of Zhangjiajie city in the northwest of Hunan Province was listed as a world natural Heritage in 1992 by UNESCO.
The area consists of three parts: Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Suoxiyu Natural Resource Reserve and Tianzishan Natural Resource Reserve.
The Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic InterestArea was put on the World Natural Heritages list in 1992 by UNESCO.
The Jiuzhaigou Valley is a narrow strip of lowland, 400 km long, in the Minshan (岷山) Mountain Range in Nanping County in northeast Sichuan Province. It got its name because there are nine Tibetan villages in the valley.
Its six main scenic sites are Long Sea, Sword Rock, Cataract (诺日朗瀑布), Shu Zheng Lakes, Zha Ru Lakes and Black Sea.
Its wonderful scenes of green lakes, overlapping falls, colorful forests, snowy peaks and its Tibetan life are of worldwide renown.
The Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area in Songpan county of Sichuan Province was put on the World Natural Heritage list in 1992 by UNESCO.
Huanglong is famed for its colorful pools, snow-capped mountains, deep forests, waterfalls and diversified cultures.
Huanglong wins its fame for its magic landscape of lime formations, made up of 3,400 multi-coloured ponds, interlaced along the valley.
The Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries was listed to be the world natural heritage in 2006 by UNESCO.
The panda habitat in Sichuan covers 9,245 sq km including Lying-Dragon, Mountain Four Sisters, gold mountain ranges as well as 12 cities and counties.
Thirty percent of the wild pandas in the world are living there, which makes it the largest and most intact wild panda habitat in the world.
Famous Ancient Cities
Yin Xu (Anyang)
With the wide spread of Buddhism in China in the second century, grotto arts were introduced to China from India, and developed rapidly between the second and fourth centuries.
Grottos were carved in cliff faces in various places, particularly in Northern China.
The Yungang Grottos in Shanxi Province, the Dunhuang Caves in Gansu Province and the Longmen Grottos in Henan Province are called the three most important grottos in China.
The Mogao Caves in Dunhuang were put on the list of the World Cultural Heritage in 1987 by UNESCO.
It is the greatest and most consummate (完整的) gallery of Buddhist art in the world.
The Caves each measures 1,600 meters long and 50 meters high, and is close-packed like a beehive (蜂窝). There are 492 caves with the 1,000 year old murals and coloured statues which were completed in different periods such as the South and the North Dynasties, Sui, Tang, the Five Dynasties, Song, West Xia and Yuan Dynasty.
The Longmen Grottos was put on the list of the World Cultural Heritage in 2000 by UNESCO.
The Longmen Grottos are situated on the bank of the Yi River in Luoyang City, Henan Province.
They were carved from the Northern Wei to the Song Dynasty, spanning more than 400 years. There are all together more than 97,000 statues of Buddha, more than 1,300 caves, over 3,600 inscriptions and titled tablets in the site.
The Longmen Grottos is an outdoor art museum of stone carvings and has the highest number of inscribed stone tablets among China’s grottos.
Lushena Buddha (卢舍那佛), the largest of the statues, is 17.14 meters high, and the smallest one is a mere-2-cm-high. Two caves, the Guyang Cave (古阳洞) and the Binyang Cave (宾阳洞), contain the most representative statues.
The Yungang Grottos were put on the list of the World Cultural Heritage in 2001 by UNESCO WHC.
Located 16 km west of Datong City with the northern cliff faces Wuzhou Hills, the Yungang grottos were hewn (凿) out of cliff-sides in a honeycomb pattern, stretching for one km from East to West.
They contain China’s largest and earliest stone sculpture. The sculptural works at Yungang are noted for their fleshy, vigorous features and rich variety.
The biggest one in the grottos is 17 metres high, while the smallest is only several cm. The statues of all kinds are vivid and lifelike.
Old town of Lijiang
Old Town of Lijiang was put on the World Cultural Heritage list by UNESCO in 1997.
Also called Dayan Town, the Old Town of Lijiang is founded in a large Naxi (纳西) settlement first built during the Southern Song Dynasty some eight centuries ago in Yunnan Province.
Lijiang’s fame comes from the Dongba (东巴) culture of Naxi ethnic group and the Mosuo (摩挲) matrilineal family. It is an intact ancient city with a long history, inhabited chiefly by the Naxi ethnic group. It is nicknamed the “Oriental Venice”. Most of the buildings in the town were made of wood and tiles, extremely elegant and comfortable.
Ancient City of Pingyao was put on the World Cultural Heritage list by UNESCO WHC in 1997.
Ping Yao is a small town in central Shanxi Province. It was built in the Zhou Dynasty. There is the most well-preserved ancient city wall which surrounds the town. Pingyao has attracted more and more attention throughout the world. It is the mirror of cities in the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
Ancient villages in southern Anhui—Hongcun and Xidi were put on the World Cultural Heritage list by UNESCO WHC in 2000, 2003 and 2004.
Located 10 km northeast of Yixian County, Anhui Province, Xidi and Hongcun have about 400—500 years of history. The original residential style and features of the Ming and Qing Dynasties were preserved perfectly, reputed as “A Living Ancient Residential Museum” by experts and tourists at home and from abroad.
Xidi and Hongcun are typical representation of the culture of feudal society in the later stage of China—the carrier of Huizhou culture. It has well preserved its dialects, costume, and some local food and drinks.
The 3,300-year-old Yin Xu were put on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2006. It is the key cultural heritage site under the government’s protection. It is located at Anyang, Henan Province. After 60 years of archaeological (考古的) excavations from 1928, the ruins of palaces, temples, workshops, tombs and sacrificial pits have been found there.
With a total area of about 24 sq km, Yin Xu is the capital city’s ruins of the late Shang Dynasty. The excavation of the ruins has provided rich and crucial materials for the study of history of that period.
The unearthed relics include: a large number of oracle bone inscriptions (甲骨文), delicate bronze ware, jade and ivory articles, production tools and articles for daily use.
The most famous among them is the Simuwu Tripod (司母戊方鼎), the largest piece of bronze ware relic of that time ever found in the world. It shows the high level of craftsmanship and economic and cultural development of the late Shang Dynasty.
The World Heritage Committee, under UNESCO, considers each year suggestions for listing as World Heritage sites. All sites on the World Heritage List receive financial and technical aid. In the meantime, they become better known worldwide and are protected by pressure from the international community.
Two major criteria are vital when seeking a World Heritage designation—the site’s value and the state of its preservation.
Nomination and inclusion of natural and cultural properties on the World Heritage List is the final goal of world heritage work. World Heritage conservation is a continuous process.
Listing a site does little good if it subsequently falls into a state of disrepair or if any development project causes the destruction of the qualities that made the site suitable for World Heritage status in the first place.
Cultural and natural heritage is the identity of a nation and the value of a society. Therefore, we must preserve it for future generations.
China has had 35 sites added to the World Heritage List by UNESCO. While being proud of our ancient civilization, we still worry about the overexploitation of some heritage sites. Please discuss and give some good suggestions to deal with possible problems.