China's world heritage sites over-exploited

Updated: 2006-12-22 16:51

BEIJING -- Some of China's world heritage sites are poorly managed, China's Minister of Culture Sun Jiazheng admitted at a recent conference.

At the national conference on world heritage protection, Sun said some local governments that make applications for world heritage status are aimed purely at tourism and economy development.

"Their aim is understandable. But they have not grasped the meaning of world heritage. Their ignorance may end up causing damage to the cultural heritage," Sun said.

Some local governments have been busy developing installations at world heritage sites, but show little interest in protecting, managing and carrying out maintenance at the site, Sun said.

"It is an honour and a responsibility for local governments to have a world heritage site under their administration," he said.

A number of accidents have been reported at heritage sites in China in recent years. Wudang Mountain in central China's Hubei Province, declared a World Heritage site in 1994, saw its 600-year-old Yuzhengong Palace burn to ashes in 2003 in a fire caused by a careless employee of a martial arts school.

Some stone inscriptions were stolen from the Dazu Rock Carvings in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality. The site, which has more than 50,000 Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian rock carvings and 100,000 characters of inscriptions, dates back more than 1,000 years and was included on the World Heritage List in 1999.

China now has 33 sites on the World Heritage List. China hopes to add Diaolou buildings (military watchtowers) in Kaiping in south China's Guangdong Province to the list next year.

A total of 35 relic sites and ancient buildings including the Silk Road, the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal and ancient breweries are waiting to be listed as world heritage sites, according to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH).

Tong Mingkang, deputy director of SACH, said China will pay more attention to protecting and managing heritage sites and try to prevent excessive tourism.

Site with serious management problems or which fail to prevent damage to their cultural relics will be struck from the waiting list, Tong said.

Gu Yucai, director of the cultural relics protection department under the SACH, said China's central government invested 149 million yuan (18.63 million U.S. dollars) in protecting the sites on the World Heritage list in 2006, including 50 million yuan to survey and repair the Great Wall.

Top China News  
Today's Top News  
Most Commented/Read Stories in 48 Hours