Chinese authorities have taken the rare step of banning tourists from a key protection area of the renowned Mount Wuyi on the World Heritage List to better preserve the environment.
Mount Wuyi, named a World Cultural and Natural Heritage site by UNESCO's World Heritage Committee in 1999, comprises a national nature reserve and a scenic area in Wuyishan City, eastern Fujian Province.
It attracts millions of tourists each year, and the nature reserve, covering one of the world's best preserved subtropical forests, receives tens of thousands of tourists, according to the Wuyishan National Nature Reserve Administration.
"Economically, the growing number of tourists has brought considerable profits for us, but it has put great pressure to us to protect the environment," Zou Xinqiu, a senior administration official, told Xinhua Tuesday.
The administration authorities stopped selling tickets to the reserve on June 1, ending 12 years of paid admission, Zou said.
"We'll continue to receive visitors for the purpose of scientific inspection or research, such as students and scholars," he said.
"Such visitors need to apply for scientific admission and pay a fee. We'll send professional guides to accompany them after they enter the nature reserve," he said.
The tourism ban would not apply to the Wuyishan scenic area, which lies in the outer part of Mount Wuyi, he said.
The official website of the World Heritage Committee describes Mount Wuyi as one of the largest, most representative examples of biodiversity conservation. It is a refuge for a large number of ancient, relict plant species, many of them endemic to China, and contains a large number of reptile, amphibian and insect species.
"Mount Wuyi is a landscape of great beauty that has been protected for more than 12 centuries," according to the website.
It contains a series of exceptional archaeological sites, including the Han City established in the 1st century B.C. and a number of temples and study centers associated with the birth of Neo-Confucianism in the 11th century A.D..