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Baiheliang Ancient Hydrological Inscription

Date of Submission: 28/03/2008
Criteria: (iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
State Administration of Cultural Heritage
State, Province or Region:
Fuling District of Chongqing City
Ref.: 5341
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

Baiheliang (White Crane Ridge) is located in middle of the Changjiang River north to Fuling City, Chongqing. The name comes from cranes which used to gather on the stone ridge in the past. The stone ridge is 1600 m long and about 25 m wide, approximately parallel to the south bank. It is submerged under the water all year round and only appears during the low water season of the river in winter. The stone ridge has a leucocratic sandstone surface which is rather flat with a 14.5°northward obliquity. Lying on the main traffic route of the Changjiang River the ridge provides a very good location for inscription.

With the large number of underwater inscriptions, long history, authentic and detailed water level records, rich inscription contents, diversified forms and perfect integration with the Changjiang River and the environment, Baiheliang is called a great underwater wonder.

In 1988, the State Council of the People's Republic of China listed Baiheliang ancient hydrological inscriptions as Key Cultural Relic under State-level Protection. The launch of the Three Gorges Project causes the stone ridge to be submerged under the water surface of the reservoir. To protect this valuable cultural relic and enable the public to see this historical landscape, the authorities concerned have designed Baiheliang site underwater protection project and the plan has been approved. The protection project was launched in 2003. The sectional reinforcement of the carvings and the prevention of the rock from breaking off, as well as accurate mapping, replication and rubbing works have already been accomplished.

Ancient Chinese had used inscriptions to record the water level changes of the Changjiang River in low water seasons over the past one thousand years, and provided a very sound standard for the study of the low water changes of the Changjiang water level. The ridge is divided into the upper, middle and lower sections and the inscriptions concentrate on the 220m-long middle section, especially the eastern part of the middle section. Since the first year of Guangde period of the Tang Dynasty (763 AD), people had started to carve stone fish on this natural stone ridge to record the lowest water level in the year. It was believed that when the water receded and the stone fish appeared the next year would see bumper crops as the saying predicted "out of the water appear the rock fish, out of the field come rich crops." People of different dynasties carved onto the stone ridge the time of the appearance of the stone fish, the distance from the stone fish to the low water line as well as the observers' name and the scene in the form of poems. 

According to incomplete statistics: literal inscriptions total more than 160 sections and more than 30,000 words among which 98 sections are inscriptions of the Song Dynasty, five of the Yuan Dynasty, 16 of the Ming Dynasty, 23 of the Qing Dynasty, 14 of the Republic of China, and still there are a few segments with years unknown. There are 18 rock fish carvings, one in relieve, two in bass-relief, and 15 in line engraving. It has recorded the low water level data of the Changjiang River in 72 low water years over about 1200 years since the first year of Guangde period in the Tang Dynasty to the early years of this century.

Since the Tang Dynasty when men of letters, officials, and merchants of different ages traveled via Fuling and the stone fish happened to appear, they would come to the stone ridge by boat, lingering there and writing poems to be inscribed in the middle of the river. There are more than 300 names which could be identified on the stone. Among them people like Huang Tingjian, Zhu Ang, Qin Jiushao, Liu Jia, Huang Shou, Wang Shizhen, Gong Wu etc had all enjoyed the honor of having biographies in official historical records. The inscriptions exhibit a full spectrum of different schools and styles in calligraphic art covering seal, official, running, cursive, and regular scripts, and styles of Yan Zhenqing, Liu Gongquan, Ouyang Xun, and Su Shi. The inscriptions are in Chinese and Mongolian. In particular, the inscription left by Huang Tingjian, the literary master of the Song Dynasty, when he was demoted and transferred to Fuzhou Prefecture is the most famous. It reads "Old man from Fuling visits here in the Gengchen year of Yuanfu Period (1100 AD)." Though several words, they have passed on the easiness and graceful bearing of the poet.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

As for the criterion (iii):

Baiheliang is the earliest low water hydrological inscriptions to be found in China and in the whole world, it also has the longest history of continuity and largest number of records. The accomplishment of the T hree Gorges Dam has ended this cultural tradition of inscription records. Baiheliang ancient hydrological inscriptions have provided a very special testimony of the disappeared cultural tradition. 

As for the criterion (iv):

Baiheliang ancient hydrological stone inscription has recorded low water level data of the Changjiang River of 72 low water years over about 1200 years since the first year of Guangde period in the Tang Dynasty (763 AD) to the early years of this century. With the large number of underwater inscriptions, long history, authentic and detailed water level records, rich inscription contents, diversified forms and perfect integration with the Changjiang River and the environment, Baiheliang is an outstanding example of the underwater landscape.

Boasting authentic and detailed water level records, rich inscription contents and diversified forms as well as perfect fusion with the Changjiang River and its environment, Baiheliang ancient hydrological inscription has outstanding universal value. The underwater protection project of Baiheliang ancient Hydrological inscriptions will be a pioneering work in the world in terms of preservation and exhibition methods and it will also become an outstanding example of special landscape.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Baiheliang is the earliest low water hydrological inscriptions to be found in China and in the whole world, it also has the longest history of continuity and largest number of records. It is of great scientific value for the study of the comprehensive development of the Changjiang River drainage area, inland river navigation, farmland irrigation, bridge construction and city water supply. The hydrological data on Baiheliang have been consulted during the design of Gezhouba Hydropower Plant and the Three Gorges Project. In 1974, Chinese representatives introduced Baiheliang ancient hydrological inscriptions on the international hydrological conference held by the UNESCO in Paris. This introduction has aroused great interests among the experts and scholars.

The authenticity of Baiheliang ancient hydrological inscriptions has been recognized by international hydrologists.

Integrity: Baiheliang is divided into the upper, middle and lower sections. The inscriptions concentrate on the 200m-long middle section of the stone ridge, especially the eastern part of the middle section. The integrity of inscriptions in this section is reflected somewhat in the integration of the heritage itself, the environment and the cultural content. 

Comparison with other similar properties

Baiheliang is the earliest low water hydrological inscriptions to be found in China and in the whole world, it also has the longest history of continuity and largest number of records. Similar hydrological stone carvings have also been found in Nile of Egypt but the total number is far behind that of Baiheliang.