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Mogao Caves

Mogao Caves, proposed by China as a best practice, is interesting as a case study for the following aspects: research, visitors capacity study and booking system, policies to educate local community, conservation master plan, special protection regulations, entrance fee back into site, yearly training staff, pro-active education and dissemination activities.

Summary provided by State Party

The Dunhuang Academy has through many years of trial and error adopted an effective conservation methodology to conserve the Mogao Grottoes. We have been able to guarantee that within the parameters of the site that there has been no damage to the heritage components and the cliff face. The landscape and setting within the site parameters as officially demarcated along with the buffer zone are compatible with the site itself. We have used real time monitoring and preventative control technology to check any factors that may negatively impact on the site as well as put into place conservation measures in a timely manner. We have adopted many ways and means to educate the public on the site’s values, conservation and management. We have basically completed a Site Carrying Capacity Study and have drawn up appropriate visitation plans for different circumstances. We have also introduced a new interpretive model with digital technology to interpret the site.

We have a significant number of highly-qualified professionals that guarantee that the conservation of the site is based upon modern concepts and methodologies. We have a high quality team of site narrators who are able to accurately and faithfully tell the story of the site values as well as the site’s conservation and management. Our professionals and site narrators continue to raise their professional standards through various forms of training. We have drawn up conservation and management rules and regulations for the site that conform to international conventions and charters on the conservation of cultural heritage and sit comfortably within China’s legal framework while drawing on our own unique realities. Through various media we educate the public about the laws and regulations on cultural heritage as well as general knowledge on the conservation and management of a heritage site. Due to these efforts we have been successful in gaining the understanding and support of the local community in observing these rules and regulations.

National and local governments, community organizations and individuals attach a great deal of importance to the conservation of the Mogao Grottoes. Ticket/gate income is our main source of revenue. We also receive funding from central and provincial governments as well as funding from foundations. These sources of funding provide us with sufficient and sustainable funding for the conservation of the site. The Dunhuang Academy attaches a great deal of importance in obtaining a good balance between conservation and use. We have always given priority to conservation over use and will long allow visitation in a way that does not impact on the conservation of the site. When opening up the site to visitation we pay a great deal of attention to conservation thereby guaranteeing the site’s sustainability.

We believe that the conservation and management experience we have gained working at the site is worthy of other sites drawing on. We have undertaken a systemic analysis of the various threats facing the preservation of the site. We have set up a comprehensive monitoring system and undertake preventative conservation. We work together with international partners to draw on advanced conservation notions and technology thereby improving our overall level of conservation. We train our personnel in many ways and in many disciplines. We have various channels of raising funds and undertake academic research. We have tried to interpret all values at the site and have created new ways and means of opening up the site to the public. We have introduced digital storage and interpreting technology so that we are able to interpret the outstanding and universal values of the site in a comprehensive and multi-layered manner.

One-off Initiative for the recognition of best practices

The World Heritage Capacity Building Strategy, adopted by the World Heritage Committee in 2011, responds to the identified needs of a diverse and growing audience for capacity building for World Heritage conservation and management activities. Development of resource materials such as best practice case studies and communication tools are among the activities foreseen by the strategy to improve these capacities.

An example of an innovative capacity building initiative is the recently concluded Recognition of Best Practice in World Heritage Management. This initiative, requested by the World Heritage Committee and carried out within the framework of the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention in 2012, solicited applications from World Heritage properties which had demonstrated new and creative ways of managing their sites. Twenty-three submissions were received and evaluated by a 10-member international selection committee which included the representatives of the Convention’s Advisory Bodies, ICCROM, ICOMOS and IUCN. The Historic Town of Vigan in the Philippines was chosen as a best practice achieved with relatively limited resources, a good integration of the local community in many aspects of the sustainable conservation and management of the property and with an interesting multi-faceted approach to the protection of the site.

Management practices recognized as being successful and sustainable can include everything from involving local people in site management, to creating innovative policies and regulating tourism. There are sites that include students from local schools in the management of the site (Slovenia), train local inhabitants as tour guides (Peru), or even put up nylon fences to protect villagers from straying tigers from the Sundarbans National Park (India). Sharing these practices helps other sites find solutions that work.

This initiative provides incentives for States Parties and site managers to reflect on their management practices and explore improvement possibilities.