China's UNESCO Sites: Cultural and Natural Heritage
On December 12, 1985, China ratified the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, and since then has taken important measures to preserve the country’s environmentally, culturally, and historically significant sights, many of which are valuable tourist resources.
With 50 UNESCO world heritage sites, China ranks second in the world, just behind Italy. Out of these 50 sites, 35 are cultural heritage sites, 11 are natural heritage sites, and four are combined cultural and natural sites.
China's World Cultural & Natural Heritage Sites
Mount Emei Scenic Area, Sichuan
Date of inscription: 1996
Mount Emei has the honor of being the location of the first Buddhist temple in China, built in the 1st century CE. It is one of Buddhism’s holiest sites, and its most famous landmark is the Giant Buddha of Leshan, which was carved out of a hillside in the 8th century and overlooks the confluence of three rivers. The Giant Buddha of Leshan is 71 meters high, which makes it the largest Buddha in the entire world.
There are more than 30 other temples in the area, including the Wannian Temple, established in the 4th century, which contains a 7.58-meter-high Puxian bronze Buddha from the 10th century. The Baoguo Temple, built in the early seventeenth century, and the Ligou Garden add the finishing touches to make Mount Emei one of Buddhism’s holiest sites.
Mount Huangshan, Anhui
Date of inscription: 1990
Known as “the loveliest mountain in China,” Mount Huangshan has long been a favorite of Chinese artists and writers alike. Mount Huangshan has captivated the collective mind since the Tang dynasty (618-907), when a legend from the year 747 claimed that the elixir for immortality could be found there. Mount Huangshan is also credited with being the main source of influence for the Shanshui (mountain and water) school of landscape painting.
Mount Tai, Shandong
Date of inscription: 1987
For nearly 2,000 years, Mount Tai was the object of an imperial cult, and is thus the most sacred mountain in China. It has exceptional historic, aesthetic, cultural, and scientific importance.
Mount Tai is an impressive rock mass that covers 25,000 hectare and rises 1,545 meters above the surrounding plateau. Mount Tai is home to countless treasures, including 12 historically recorded imperial ceremonies to honor Heaven and Earth, 1,800 stone tables and inscriptions, and 22 temples. There are also several significant trees, including six cypresses over 2,100 years old.
The most important monument in Mount Tai is the Temple to the God of Taishan, which contains the painting ¨The God of Taishan Making a Journey”, completed in 1,009 CE.
Mount Wuyi, Fujian
Date of inscription: 1999
Located in southeast China, Mount Wuyi is famous for its biodiversity, and is home to several species endemic to China. It is the most representative, largely intact forest that encompasses the diversity of the Chinese Subtropical Forest and the South Chinese Rainforest.
Mount Wuyi consists of four protected areas: Wuyishan National Nature Reserve in the west, the Nine-Bend Stream Ecological Protection Area in the center, Wuyishan National Scenic Area in the east, and the Protection Area for the Remains of the Ancient Han Dynasty, which is a separate area in the southeast.
The serene scenery of Mount Wuyi offered the perfect setting for neo-Confucianism to develop and spread to other places, and was also an important site for Taoism.
Mount Wuyi’s highlight is the Nine-bend River, which is 60 kilometers long, and meanders among the hills, most of which are made of red sandstone. The hills are steep, and their tops are flat.