National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO
Sichuan Province, Prefectures: Guangyuan, Bazhong, Mianyang, Deyang, Nanchong and Dazhou;
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party
Lying in the South of Daba and Qinling Mountains, Shudao, the ancient road system connecting Central and mountainous Southwest China for more than 2,300 years, is featured by its marvellous paths wriggling in the precipitous mountains in Northern Sichuan. The heritage route system, together with a variety of associative historical towns, Taoism/Buddhism temples, and other cultural relics, are deeply imbedded in the surrounding magnificent hilly landscapes which are also home to extraordinary biodiversity of global significance including giant panda, takin and Chinese Monal, red panda, giant salamander. The property is a reflection of coevolution of Chinese cultures with harsh mountain environment, and a record of people’s adaptation to and interactions with diversified natural systems in thousands of years.
Total area of the property is 3,627 km2, including 2,840 km2 as its buffer zone.
Justification of Outstanding Universal ValueCriterion (ii): An outstanding example of cultural exchange and acculturation between Yangtze and Yellow River civilizations
Over millennia, ShuDao linked China’s two major civilizations: Yangtze Civilization in South and Yellow River Civilization in North, and has witnessed the historical culture and good exchange between China and India, leaving behind exceptional material cultural remains including cliff inscriptions, historical towns, and various ancient buildings which represent a series of cultural development since 4th Century B.C.
Criterion (iii): a distinctive evidence of ancient courier route system
As the most difficult part of ancient China’s courier route system to deliver governmental and civil posts, ShuDao was the major or even the only access to the China’s most remoteness territories in the Southwest, and played crucial role in formation and unification of the nation for over 2300 years. The ancient post pavilions, stores, stations, gate passes of a variety of ages, as well as sections of well-preserved ancient roads constitute a distinctive evidence of the disappeared historical cultural institution-the ancient courier route system of China Empires.
Criterion (iv): a distinguished representative of ancient technologies for road construction in mountain landscapes
The sophisticate road paving in rugged hilly landscapes and the delicate methods in building plank paths along the face of scary cliffs are the remarkable demonstrations of ancient transportation technologies. Along the road are tens of thousands Chinese cypress trees, a sacred and huge plant worshiped by most of Chinese, still shadow the passengers. The cypress corridor spread up on the ridges and down to valleys for over 200km, with many of the trees aged more than 1000 years’ old and trunk diameters over 2m, shaping a distinguished visible cultural landscape characteristic to mountainous rural China.
Criterion (vi): directly and tangibly associated with major historical events, ideas and literature works
ShuDao opened China’s vast mountainous Southwestern territories to outside, where was once isolated and inaccessible due to obstruction of Qinling and Daba Mountains. It directly associated with major historical military, social, cultural and economic events, including the unification wars in Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.) and the Three Kingdoms (220-280 A.D.)，the massive population immigrations in Ming and Qing Dynasty (16th-17th Century A.D.), leaving behind numerous literature works with many of them still eulogized and inscribed in the nation’s collective memories. With these, ShuDao was not just important to the development of China’s civilization, but also contribute to the creation of cultural diversity in modern Asia.
Criterion (vii): contain areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance
The proposed property contains a combination of spectacular natural landscapes of karst, Danxia, graben basin, and anticline landforms. With the ancient routes twists up and down, the cultural elements are subtly integrated in natural beauty. Comparing to the South China Karst, the enormous karst peak clusters and steep U shape valleys in Guangwu are exceptionally covered by dense Fagus forests, together with springs, waterfalls hanging on the sky and the colourful rhododendron flowers in misty landscapes, making the area the world’s most astonishing red leave scene especially in autumn.
Criterion (x): Containing extra-ordinary biodiversity of global significance
The property area has been recognised as the key area for biodiversity conservation with Global significance (i.e., core area of Yangtze River Basin, one of the 200 eco-regions recognised by WWF, Southwest China Mountains Biodiversity Hotspot recognized by CI，and important ecological function zone recognized by China Government). It contains 19 protected areas, and is inhabited by a number of endangered wildlife like giant panda, takin, Chinese Monal, red panda, giant salamander. The population density of wild takin in Tangjiahe is believed to be the highest in the world. In addition, it is also the home of Fagus species of the world, a relic genus once disjunctively distributed around the world. With only one species left in Europe and North America respectively, the property has been the sanctuary of the world’s 45% Fagus species, all of them are endemic to China. It also contains the world’s largest primitive Fagus forest (over 15,000 ha), and is the only habitat of Fagus pashanica dominated forest in the world.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
Major cultural components of the property are national or provincial level “key cultural relics protection unites”, and their authenticity and/or integrity were tested strictly with due criteria. Some of the components were impaired due to the earthquake in 2008, and were then restored under principle of “no change of original status”, with detailed documentation of the methodologies and process.
The property covers an area large enough to include the habitats of endangered species, ecosystems, as well as the catchments/watersheds necessary to sustain the integrity of biological processes and to maintain the values of landscapes.
Comparison with other similar properties
31 mixed heritage sites are inscribed on the World Heritage List, among them, four are in China (Taishan, Huangshan, Emei-Leshan, and Wuyishan), in addition to several other mixed heritage sites around the world which would be comparable to this nominating property such as Kakadu National Park in Australia, Tassili n'Ajjer in desert Algeria, Tikal National Park with ancient Maya civilization in forested Guatemala, Ibiza in Mediterranean Spain. Shudao is special in China as it reflects the acculturation processes of ancient China, and its multi-functions on transportations and cultural exchanges. It contains a series of cultural remains (e.g., ancient courier route system with paths along scary cliffs, historical towns, and pass gates, cultural landscapes, besides the religious temples or statues), which record the minutes of the country’s formation and development over 2,300 years. Situating in the transitional area between subtropical to temperate zones, and between the lowland Eastern to highland Western China, the proposed property is characterised itself by its extremely rich mountain biodiversity, a combination of different mountain landforms, as well as the astonishing beauty of the red leave scene, providing an ideal and outstanding example of people’s interaction and coexistence with their natural environment.