There is a long, long way to go for world heritage protection

16:26, August 03, 2010      

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China's historical monuments of Dengfeng in the "Centre of Heaven and Earth" in central China and Danxia landform in southern China proclaimed world heritages on August 1st and 2nd.

The World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has decided at its 34th meeting in Brasilia, capital of Brazil, to add the historical monuments of Dengfeng in central China's Henan province to the World Heritage list. Meanwhile, it has also decided to include southern China's Danxia Landform in the World Heritage list.

Danxia Landform, a unique type of petrographic geomorphology, could be defined as the "landform consists of red bed characterized by steep cliffs." As such, Longhushan-Guifeng has special place in the series of Danxia Landform. The Six Danxia Landform Areas include Mountain Langshan and Mountain Wanfoshan (Hunan province), Mountain Xansiashan (Guangdong province), Taining and Guanzhoushan (Fujian province), Mountain Longhushan and Guifengshan (Jiangxi province) and Fanyan and Mountain Jianglangshan (Zhejiang province).

With the addition, China now boasts 40 sites on the world Heritage List.

I am very happy to learn this news, and it is a joyous event and glad-tidings particularly worth celebrating. Meanwhile, I deem it merely the start and there is a long and protracted way to go for their better protection.

From a perspective of the world heritage reportage, be a natural heritage or a cultural heritage, the most crucial thing is that they are a symbol or testimony of civilizations. People have often seen in recent years some places active when reporting their world heritage and would turn inactive later nevertheless with their success in the reporting and, in some other circumstances, when local authorities fail in a trying attempt, they will soon be disheartened and "drop" to the "freezing point from the boiling point at beginning"

Such phenomena lie mainly with the lack of their awareness about the aim of their world heritage reporting. Why do people report their heritage in the first place? It is because they are of vital importance. So, we should go all out to protect them well and hand them down to our descendents. If we do a good job in reporting or presenting them, they will be undoubtedly famous and popular far and wide, and this is very good. If we keep them in good shape, we would obtain substantial economic gains. This is also good for sure. The most principal purpose, however, is definitely to protect them and keep them intact instead of seeking quick results and instantaneous gains.

As a man who has been busy for relics most of his life, I am gratified with varied achievements China has scored in its heritage protection, but I also become worried about challenges facing the heritage protection. In a given site, a man-made dragon has been built next to the cultural heritage as a "project of political achievements". At the time of reporting the heritage, a group of inspectors or investigators came to take a look at the site and order it removed. This is what we often say to create a sheer fake antique at the cost of genuine priceless cultural relic.

Moreover, in some places, good heritages have been transferred to tourism companies or enterprises for management, and this pose a striking contrast between the top-quality heritage and incompetent management personnel, thus greatly affecting the heritage conservation and sustainable development in this regard.

The sabotages of a construction nature and sabotage of a development nature are nothing new, and all this deserves attention and vigilance with regard to the recent addition of the historical monuments of China's Dengfeng in the "Centre of Heaven and Earth" in central Henan province and Danxia Landform in several southern and eastern Chinese provinces.

Quite a few people have attributed the ineffective world heritages protection to their fund shortage. This is not often the case in my point of view however. With a high ticket income, the money for heritage protection is more than enough. Hence, it is not an issue of money, but a matter of concept.

I have underscored that" the history is the root and the culture is the soul" regarding a nationality. If a nationality forgot its history and tradition, it would go without the root and tradition. So, cultural heritage is a vital, important carrier of the national history and culture. To protect it, it is precisely meant to foster a correct heritage outlook. In so doing, people can say that" we are able to find a way home."

By People's Daily Online, and its author is Xie Chensheng, honorary president of China Cultural Relics Society


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