China is backing a unique multinational bid to add the famous Silk Road to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.
Along with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, Chinese officials will submit the first-ever joint "cultural route" request to UNESCO for special status in 2011.
"A multinational application is the better choice if we want to aptly present the historical culture of the ancient Silk Road for such status," said Jing Feng, an official with the UNESCO World Heritage Center's Asia- Pacific Region Program.
If the unprecedented six-nation bid is successful, the 2000-year-old famous trade route will be afforded the same global protection as other world famous cultural sites, including the Great Wall, the Giza Pyramids in Egypt and Stonehenge in the United Kingdom.
"The Silk Road has had a great influence in the world, and China is the starting and end point and with destinations worldwide. It is a good choice for China to unite with other Silk Road countries to jointly apply for World Cultural Heritage status," said Qiao Ran, vice director of The Silk Road Team from the National Tourism Administration of The People's Republic of China.
The Silk Road (Xinhua Photo)
Once a major trade arteries linking Asia and Europe, the 6,500-kilometer Silk Routes – known collectively as the "Silk Road" – extended from the Chinese city of Xi'an in northwest Shaanxi Province to Europe via south and central Asia countries.
Along them traveled luxury goods, technologies, slaves, rare foods and plants, ideas, cultures and diseases.
Chinese officials and culture experts have selected an initial list of 48 historical sites along the country's section of the Silk Road for the joint application temples, burial sites and remains of ancient cities.
"The Silk Road in China spans thousands of kilometers and links 5000-year history of Chinese civilization. It is full of Chinese culture," said Shan Jixiang, president of China State Administration of Cultural Heritage.
The illustration of the Silk Road both on the land and sea. (Xinhua Photo)
"We have been preparing to apply for several years, and the conditions are now right to start the process," said Yang Lian, an archeologist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
China is also applying to UNESCO to include an old sea-going trade route that once hugged its shores for similar status.
Some claim the so-called "Silk Road on the Sea" is older than its overland namesake, following the discovery of shipwrecks and other finds in recent decades.
The recovery of the Nanhai 1 in late 2007 in South China Sea – a Song Dynasty wreck that had been buried underwater for 800 years – initiated the recent application.
The ship is believed to have plied the navigation, which began in southern China and hugged the coast of Indochina, passed through the Strait of Malacca where it entered the Indian Ocean and navigated the coast to the Persian Gulf.
Guangdong Province in Southern China has earmarked 150 million yuan ($ 20.3 million) to build a Maritime Silk Road Museum – to be opened this year – to preserve the salvaged ship.Source: The Global Times