China's world heritage sites

China, an ancient country with millennia long civilization, is abundant in cultural and natural heritage. It entered into the World Heritage Convention in November 1985 and has been a participating state ever since. Up to 2003, there are 29 sites in China inscribed on the World Heritage List, 21 of which are cultural sites, four are natural sites (one is to be approved) and four both cultural and natural sites.

The Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties

Date of Inscription: 1987

Also called the Forbidden City, the palace was China's supreme seat of power for over five centuries. With its landscaped gardens and nearly 10,000 rooms containing furniture and works of art, it constitutes a priceless testimony to Chinese civilization during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.

The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian

Date of Inscription: 1987

Discovered in 1921, the site lies 42 km southwest of Beijing. It has led to the discovery of the remains of Sinanthropus (Peking man), who lived in the Middle Pleistocene 500,000 years ago. The site is not only an exceptional reminder of the pre-historical human societies in Asia, but also illustrates the process of evolution.

Mount Taishan

Date of Inscription: 1987

Located in the central part of Shandong Province, Mount Taishan ("shan" means "mountain") is close to the Yellow Sea on the east and the Yellow River on the west. 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. Moreover, it symbolizes ancient Chinese civilizations and beliefs.

The Great Wall

Date of Inscription: 1987

Constructed from the seventh century B.C., the Great Wall is one of the most brilliant feats of engineering in history. Sections of earlier fortifications were joined together to form a united defense system against invasions from the north and construction continued up to the Ming Dynasty. The Great Wall passes through nine provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions with a total length of 6,700 km.

The Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor and Terra-cotta Warriors

Date of Inscription: 1987

Located near Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province, the site was discovered in 1974. It was the first emperor's mausoleum in Chinese history. Emperor Qinshihuang [the First Emperor of Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.)] was buried here, surrounded by the famous terra-cotta warriors. The figures are all different, with their horses, chariots and weapons. They are masterpieces of realism and of great historical interest, also known as the eighth wonder of the world.

The Mogao Caves

Date of Inscription: 1987

Situated at a strategic point along the Silk Road, present Dunhuang in Gansu Province, the 735 grottoes in Mogao are famous for their statues and wall paintings, spanning 1,000 years of Buddhist art from the fourth to the 14th century.

Mount Huangshan

Date of Inscription: 1990

Located in the southern part of Anhui Province, Mount Huangshan is also called "No.1 Wonderful Mountain." it has over 400 scenic spots and is celebrated for the fantastic pines, grotesque rock formations, sea of clouds, hot springs and snow. Today it holds the same fascination for visitors, poets, painters and photographers who come on pilgrimage to the site for its magnificent scenery.

Jiuzhaigou Valley Scenic and Historic Interest Area

Date of Inscription: 1992

Covering over 1,320 square km in the northern part of Sichuan Province, the jagged valley goes through forests, valleys and snow-capped mountains, thus comprising a series of diverse forest ecosystems. Its superb landscapes are particularly interesting for their series of narrow conic karst landforms and spectacular waterfalls. Some 2,400 plant species and 17 rare species of animals inhabit the valley, including the giant panda and the Sichuan takin.

Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area

Date of Inscription: 1992

Situated in the northwest of Sichuan Province, the area is made up of snowcapped peaks and glaciers that are well preserved, 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.

Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area

Date of Inscription: 1992

A spectacular area covering over 396.8 square km in Hunan Province, the site is noted for its grotesque peaks, tranquil ravines, beautiful watercourses, dense forests and mystic caves. Its peculiar arenaceous quartz sandstone peaks are hard to find elsewhere in the world. In addition to the striking beauty of its landscape, the region is also noted for being home to a number of endangered plant and animal species.

The Mountain Resort and Outlying Temples

Date of Inscription: 1994

The Mountain Resort (the Qing Dynasty's summer palace) in Chengde, Hebei Province, was built between 1703 and 1792 and covers 5.64 square km. 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. Moreover, the Mountain Resort is a historic vestige of the final development of Chinese feudal society.

The Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu

Date of Inscription: 1994

Located in Qufu, Shandong Province, the site was built to commemorate Confucius, the great philosopher, politician and educator (551-479 B.C.). Today it comprises more than 1,300 buildings, 5,000 stelae and 1,700 age-old trees. The temple was built in 478 B.C. and has been destroyed and reconstructed over the centuries. The cemetery contains Confucius' tomb and the remains of more than 100,000 of his descendants over 2,500 years. The small house of the Kong family developed into a gigantic aristocratic residence. Due to the devotion of successive Chinese emperors over 2,000 years, the complex of monuments retained its outstanding artistic and historic character.

Ancient Buildings Complex in the Wudang Mountains

Date of Inscription: 1994

Situated in the scenic valleys and on the slopes of the Wudang Mountains in Hubei Province, the site contains 20,000 rooms and is a typical example of Taoist architecture in China. The construction started from the Tang Dynasty (seventh century) and continued to the Yuan (1279-1368), Ming and Qing dynasties. It represents the highest standards of Chinese art and architecture over a period of nearly 1,000 years.

Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace, Lhasa

Date of Inscription: 1994

Extension: 2000 and 2001

The complex, comprising the White and Red Palaces with their ancillary buildings, is built on Red Mountain in the center of Lhasa, Tibet, at an elevation of 3,700 meters. The Potala Palace, Winter Palace of the Dalai Lama since the seventh century, symbolizes Tibetan Buddhism and its central role in the traditional administration of Tibet. Also founded in the seventh century, the Jokhang Monastery is an exceptional Buddhist complex. Norbu Lingka, the Dalai Lama's former Summer Palace, constructed in the 18th century, is a masterpiece of Tibetan art. These three buildings represent Tibetan architecture with their high cultural and artistic value.

Lushan National Park

Date of Inscription: 1996

Lushan Mountain, lying in the north of Jiangxi Province, is one of the spiritual centers of Chinese civilization. It is close to the Yangtze River and Poyanghu Lake, covering 302 square km. Buddhist and Taoist temples, along with landmarks of Confucianism, blend effortlessly into a strikingly beautiful landscape.

Mount Emei and Leshan Giant Buddha

Date of Inscription: 1996

Mount Emei in Sichuan Province is one of Buddhism's four holiest mountains in China. Over the centuries, the cultural treasures grew in number. The most remarkable is the Leshan Giant Buddha, which was carved out of a hillside in the eighth century and looked down on the confluence of three rivers. It is the largest Buddha in the world, 71 meters high. 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.

The Old Town of Lijiang

Date of Inscription: 1997

The Old Town of Lijiang, which is perfectly adapted to the uneven topography of this key commercial site, has a history of more than 800 years and covers 380,000 square km. Its architecture is noteworthy for the blending of elements from several cultures that have come together over many centuries. It also possesses an ancient watersupply system of great complexity and ingenuity that still functions effectively today.

The Ancient City of Pingyao

Date of Inscription: 1997

Lying in central Shanxi Province and covering 2.25 square km, Pingyao is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a traditional Han Chinese city. Its urban fabric shows the evolution of architectural styles and town planning in the Ming and Qing dynasties. It is enclosed with a wall of 6.16 km long and boasts more than 100 streets and alleyways. Of special interest are the imposing buildings associated with banking, for which Pingyao was the major center for the whole country in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Classical Gardens of Suzhou

Date of Inscription: 1997

Extension: 2000

Early from the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420), builders had begun the construction of gardens in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province. Classical Chinese garden design, which seeks to recreate natural landscapes in miniature, is nowhere better illustrated than in the nine gardens in this historic city. Dating from the 11th-19th century, replicas of natural scenery were built on a small scale in urban areas, combining beautiful architecture, nature, arts and literary culture into a whole.

The Summer Palace

Date of Inscription: 1998

Located in northwest Beijing, the Summer Palace covers an area of 2.9 square km, three quarters of which are a lake. It is the largest royal garden in China that is best preserved. First built in 1750 in the late Qing, the palace was largely destroyed in a war of 1860 and restored on its original foundations in 1886. 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 Temple of Heaven

Date of Inscription: 1998

Built in 1420, the Temple of Heaven in Beijing covers 2.73 square km. It is a place where emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties performed ceremonies of worshipping heaven and praying for good harvests each year. 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, and also the special rote of the emperors within that relationship.

Mount Wuyi

Date of Inscription: 1999

Lying in northwest Fujian Province, Mount Wuyi possesses typical red gritstone geomorphic features as well as a complete and best-preserved ecological system of China's subtropics. There exist remains of a Han City dating back to the first century and boat coffins suspended inside the wall of gullies. They are the oldest coffins of this sort in the world.

Dazu Rock Carvings

Date of Inscription: 1999

The steep hillsides in Dazu County in Chongqing contain an exceptional series of rock carvings dating back to the ninth-13th centuries. The earliest carvings were made in 650. There are more than 50,000 statues located at 75 places. They provide outstanding evidence of the synthesis of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.

Mount Qingcheng and the Dujiangyan Irrigation System

Date of Inscription: 2000

Located in Sichuan Province, Dujiangyan irrigation system is the earliest irrigation project in existence, built early in 256 B.C. This system still controls the waters of the Minjiang River and distributes it to the fertile farmland of the Chengdu Plain. Mount Qingcheng was the birthplace of Taoism, which is celebrated in a series of ancient temples.

Longmen Grottoes

Date of Inscription: 2000

Lying in Luoyang, Henan Province, the grottoes contain the largest and most impressive collection of Chinese art in a period of economic prosperity and cultural attainments. They were made from the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534) and flourished during the fifth-eighth centuries. There are 2,345 grottoes of various sizes, 110,000 statues of Buddhist Deities, 2,840 stelae and inscriptions and over 70 stone pagodas. These works, entirely devoted to Buddhism, represent the high point of Chinese stone carving.

Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties

Date of Inscription: 2000

Located in Beijing and the provinces of Hebei, Liaoning, Anhui, Jiangsu and Hubei, the tombs, designed in keeping with the Chinese principles of geomancy (feng-shui), provide outstanding evidence of Chinese beliefs and traditions from the 14th century onwards and are significant examples of architecture and applied arts from that period.

Ancient Villages in South Anhui Xidi and Hongcun

Date of Inscription: 2000

The two traditional villages of Xidi and Hongcun, founded in the 11th and 12th centuries, preserve to a remarkable extent the appearance of non-urban settlements of a type that largely disappeared or was transformed during the last century. The street plan, architecture and decoration, and the integration of houses with comprehensive water systems are unique surviving examples.

Yungang Grottoes

Date of Inscription: 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 fifth and sixth centuries. The Five Caves created by Tan Yao, with the strict unity of layout and design, constitute a classical masterpiece of the first peak of Chinese Buddhist art.

Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas

Date of Inscription: 2003

Situated in the northwest of Yunnan Province, the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas consist of the Nujiang River (the upstream of the Sa'erwen River), the Lancangjiang River (the upstream of the Mekong River) and the Jinshajiang River (the upstream of the Yangtze River), which run roughly parallel, north to south, through steep gorges. The areas cover an area of 41,000 square km and the elevation difference between the rivers and the mountaintop is close to 6,000 meters. It is one of the richest temperate regions of the world in terms of biodiversity. With 16 ethnic groups living there, it is also an area with many languages, many religious beliefs and many folk customs.

Source: Yearbook 2004