Fujian Tulou, a community of properties featuring mud walls and tiled roofs in the southeastern province, was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List on Sunday, at the 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee in Quebec, Canada.
The 21 members of the committee agreed to inscribe it as a cultural site, bringing the total number of Chinese properties on the list to 36.
Built between the 12th and 20th centuries, tulou are common in the mountainous areas around Fujian, Jiangxi and Guangdong provinces, They are designed to house whole communities and serve as a defense against invasion.
Translated as "earth buildings", tulou typically comprise an outer wall made of earth and an internal wooden framework. The circular design generally surrounds a central shrine, and up to 800 people can live in a single complex.
The buildings are also designed to be in harmony with nature and follow the principles of feng shui.
In 1999, authorities in Fujian launched a project to inscribe the tulou. In 2002, it was added to a tentative list and was officially nominated for this year's conference after a successful field evaluation in October.
News of the addition of the buildings, the signature design of the Hakka people, was applauded in Fujian.
Liao Lituan, head of Yongding county, where the community is located, told China Daily yesterday: "With the inscription comes great responsibility, because now our Hakka tulou buildings belong not only to local people but to people around the world."
New rules will be introduced to protect and manage them, he said.
"Through this invaluable link, we also hope to boost communication between Hakka people around the world," Liao said.
In recommending the tulou for inscription, the evaluation institution of the World Heritage Committee, praised their "breathtaking magnificence", "unique and exquisite style" and "durable and ingenious structure" that have a "universal value".
Three other sites - a former slave hideout in Mauritius, an archeological site in Saudi Arabia and monasteries in Iran - were also inscribed on Sunday.
The World Heritage Committee is currently examining nominations for 47 cultural and natural sites submitted by 41 countries for inscription on the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage List.
UNESCO's 1972 Convention on the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage currently protects 851 properties of "outstanding universal value".
The 32nd session of the World Heritage Committee closes on Thursday.
Xinhua contributed to the story
Source: China Daily