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Ancient sites link with future

BY :China Daily

UPDATED :2023-12-18

It's an oft-repeated phrase that "China has a 5,000-year-old civilization". Thanks to a myriad of heritage sites, which still remain standing above ground across the country, psychological bonds may emerge connecting modern visitors' minds and the distant past.
 
Through communication and integration, cultures appeared, evolved and merged. Time takes a toll on the appearances of these monuments, but it has not wiped out the clear, uninterrupted lineage of the Chinese civilization that has created them.
 
China now has 56 entries on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. President Xi Jinping has visited various sites or offered key guidance on the protection of the nation's historical legacies on various occasions in recent years.
 
June 10 was China's annual Cultural and Natural Heritage Day. On this special occasion, let's take a look at some of the nation's heritage highlights.


Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City


Dating back 5,300 to 4,300 years, this 3-square-kilometer site in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, is famed for its exquisite jade artifacts and magnificent water conservancy system. It is the legacy of a regional state, theocracy and rice-growing culture, and is hailed as a key stage in early Chinese civilization.
 
In 2016, remarking on Liangzhu seeking World Heritage Site status, Xi urged that the protection of such ancient ruins be strengthened and systematic archaeological excavations be conducted to deepen the understanding of the long history and precious values of Chinese civilization.
 
Yinxu Ruins


Located in Anyang, Henan province, the 3,300-year-old ruins of the last capital city of the Shang Dynasty (16th-11th century B.C.) elevated the dynasty from a legend into actual history through a rich reservoir of relics. It is globally famous as the home of the oracle bone inscriptions, the oldest-known, fully developed Chinese writing system whose lineage is the same as the Chinese characters used today.
 
When visiting the site in 2022, Xi noted that the Chinese characters are extraordinary and serve to tie together the development of the Chinese nation, and he praised the archaeologists for doing a great job in this regard. He said that more archaeological research efforts should be made to carry forward the project of tracing the origins of the Chinese civilization.
 
The Great Wall


Constructed from the 3rd century B.C. to the 17th century, the Great Wall extends more than 21,000 kilometers. This includes about 8,800 kilometers constructed during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), in 15 provincial-level administrative regions in North China. This national defense infrastructure also reflects exchanges between agricultural and nomadic civilizations in ancient China.
 
In 2019, on Jiayu Pass in Gansu province, the westernmost Ming section of the Great Wall, Xi called for sound efforts to preserve the Great Wall so as to promote the ethos of the Chinese nation.


Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu


Located in Qufu, Shandong province, the hometown of the great educator and philosopher Confucius is a complex of monuments. These have been rebuilt many times in history, but have retained their outstanding artistic and historical character due to the devotion of successive ancient Chinese rulers over more than 2,000 years. It is widely revered as a place that carries the continuous lineage of Chinese civilization.
 
During Xi's visit to the site in 2013, he noted that the strength of a nation is always supported by cultural prosperity, and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation needs a booming development of culture.
 
Mount Wuyi


An outstanding area for biodiversity conservation, the region is also home to the ruins of numerous temples and monasteries, as well as other cultural heritages. The Confucian academies in the area are particularly important, as they were the cradle of Neo-Confucianism in the 11th century, a doctrine that played a dominant role in Eastern and Southeastern Asia for centuries and that has influenced philosophy and governance across the world.
 
In 2021, Xi visited the site and emphasized the importance of mixing the essence of fine traditional culture and tenets of Marxism, and thus contribute to the socialist path featuring Chinese characteristics.
 
Mogao Caves


Over 700 caves were carved into the cliffs in Dunhuang, Gansu province, a Silk Road crossroads, between the 4th and 14th centuries. The site is renowned for its rich reservoir of murals and painted sculptures that are testament to the frequent cultural exchanges among various civilizations along the Eurasian trade routes. The discovery of the Dunhuang Manuscripts in the Library Cave at the site also provides invaluable reference materials for studies of ancient China and Central Asia.
 
On visiting the site in 2019, Xi said that the sound protection of Mogao Caves and inheritance of Dunhuang culture is a responsibility that is held by the Chinese nation for the advancement of the world's civilization. He also emphasized the importance of strengthening academic studies surrounding Dunhuang.
 
Yungang Grottoes


In Datong, Shanxi province, this massive complex of 252 caves and 51,000 statues represents the outstanding achievement of cave art in China in the 5th and 6th centuries. It is generally hailed as the first peak of Chinese Buddhist art. Absorbing elements from Central and South Asia, the grottoes interpreted Buddhism with distinctive Chinese characteristics and local spirit.
 
Xi visited the site in 2020 and stressed the protection of the Yungang Grottoes as they are a "treasure of human civilization". He also emphasized the fact that historical cultural heritage assets are nonrenewable and irreplaceable resources and that protection should be a top priority. The visit launched nationwide, comprehensive programs on conservation of grotto temples.
 
The Grand Canal


Running from Beijing to Zhejiang province, the approximately 2,000-kilometer-long waterway, whose oldest section dates to the 5th century B.C., links five major river basins in China and in olden times acted as an artery to ensure the country's economic prosperity. This gigantic network was the world's largest and most extensive civil-engineering project before the Industrial Revolution, and is still used as a key channel of communication today.
 
Xi said on construction of a cultural belt along the canal in 2017 that the Grand Canal is a precious legacy and he urged the utmost protection and utilization of the waterway.


Ancient City of Pingyao


As an excellent example of a traditional Chinese city, the walls and urban fabric of Pingyao, in Shanxi province, were formed in the 14th century and show the evolution of architectural styles in the following five centuries. Its major buildings associated with banking and numerous dwellings are testimony to a commercial hub with a wide business network. Shuanglin Temple is known for its collection of more than 2,000 decorated clay statues.
 
Xi visited the ancient city in 2022, and emphasized the importance of preserving cultural relics and upholding cultural confidence. He then said cultural heritage belongs to not only this generation, but also the generations to come.
 
The Forbidden City


Spreading across 720,000 square meters in the heart of Beijing, the Forbidden City, China's former imperial palace from 1420 to 1911, represents the pinnacle of traditional Chinese architecture and remains the world's largest architectural complex made of wood. Also known as the Palace Museum today, it is home to 1.86 million cultural relics.
 
On a group study session of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee in 2013, Xi said: "Efforts should be made to sort out traditional cultural resources and bring back to life relics sleeping in closed palaces, legacies of the vast land of China and records in ancient books."
 
Mountain Resort and Its Outlying Temples, Chengde


As the summer palace of the royals of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the resort in Chengde, Hebei province, was built in the 18th century as a large complex of palaces and ceremonial buildings. It also functioned as a political hub for emperors to handle national affairs. The site together with its outlying temples also witnessed the Manchu rulers holding autumn hunting based on their nomadic tradition and how they maintained close connection with leaders of various ethnic groups.
 
When visiting the site in 2021, Xi urged a further exploration of its rich spiritual legacy to consolidate cultural confidence and ethnic unity.
 
Gulangyu (Kulangsu)


The island off the coast of Xiamen, Fujian province, is a famed historical international settlement that developed from the late 19th to the early 20th century. It became an important window for Sino-foreign cultural exchanges and fusion, and its architectural legacy combines styles from the East and the West.
 
In 2017, after the site was inscribed onto the World Heritage Site list, Xi urged the building of a long-term mechanism to safeguard cultural relics that pass the historical lineage of the nation from generation to generation.


Source & Photos: China Daily

Editor: Pauline