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Tusi regions named China's 48th World Heritage Site

By Wang Kaihao and Zhao Xinying | China Daily | Updated: 2015-07-06 07:28

China gained its 48th World Heritage Site on Saturday when the 39th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, meeting in Bonn, Germany, added the Tusi Chieftain Sites to the coveted list.

China now has the world's second-most UNESCO World Heritage sites, trailing only Italy.

Tusi refers to the tribal chieftains who governed non-Han ethnic groups in southwest China appointed by the central government from the 13th century to the mid-20th century. The Tusi system reached its zenith during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Most of the listed Tusi structures were built during the Ming Dynasty in three locations: the Laosicheng Site in Youngshun county, Hunan province; the Hailongtun Site in Zunyi, Guizhou province; and the Tangyacheng Site in Hubei province's Xianfeng county.

"The three are the most representative among more than 100 Tusi relics in China," said Tong Mingkang, deputy director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage.

"They are less affected by modern changes around them, and stand out in evaluation and analysis by various professionals in different fields," he said.

Different types of relics - such as manors, government offices, judicial courts and forts - are located in the World Heritage protection zone.

According to Tong, complete chieftains' family trees and local chronicles of the three sites are also well-preserved, proving their role in official historic records and helping people understand the development of their political, economic and military systems.

Tong said the successful bid for the World Heritage designation will help establish an international framework for additional academic work, as further study on Tusi sites is still needed.

"Overdevelopment exists widely among World Heritage Sites, including the Chinese ones," Tong said. "Some local authorities are actually making a great deal of money by, for example, transforming historical sites into luxury hotels and letting in too many visitors."

For local governments that applied for the World Heritage listing, Tong said the State Administration of Cultural Heritage stressed to them that being listed would not necessarily bring an increase in the number of visitors.

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