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Tulin-Guge Scenic and Historic Interest Areas

Date of Submission: 30/01/2015
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
National Commission of the People's Republic of China for UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Zhada County, Ngari Prefecture of Tibet
Coordinates: N31 27 53 E79 40 10
Ref.: 5995
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The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


From natural perspective, in the nominated property there is a specific geomorphology type named “forest soil”, which presents outstanding universal value aesthetically and geologically. The lacustrine sedimentary around Zhada Basin and Sutlej River Basin of the nominated property belongs to the forest soil type but exhibits distinctive features, making a “Guge type”. The “Guge type”, composed of semi-consolidated lacustrine fluvial clay, sand and gravel, taking “pagoda forest” as the basic structural unit, was formed under dry climate, dominated by construction joints, affected by river erosion, rain shower eclipse and freezing weathering. The forest soil around Zhada County is tall and straight, composed of varied types, which shows distinctive aesthetical characteristics against the specific extreme natural environment of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The nominated property shows different hues, bedding structures and physical composition, among which there are a large quantity of fossils, presenting direct or indirect proofs of ancient environmental evolution of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

From cultural perspective, the area around Tulin-Guge cultivated special Guge civilization, with palaces and cave ruins as strong testimony. Guge Kingdom was the most influential kingdom among all the local government in Tibet after the end of Tubo Dynasty. Similar to Pompeii and Maya civilization, Guge Kingdom suddenly came to an end in its highest prosperity. As the origin place of the second bloom of Tibetan Buddhism after the suppression of Buddhism by Lang Darma, Guge relic truly recorded the history of Tibetan Buddhism in the late 10th century AD. Moreover, Guge Art School represents the climax of Tibetan religious art development, which reflected cultural communication between local art and foreign art, as well as between religious culture and secular culture.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Criterion (ii): Guge Art School, centered around Guge relic as a local art school in Tibet, represents a climax of Tibetan religious Art development and reflects the glorious achievments of the cultural communication between local Tibetanvalues and foreign values.

Guge Kingdom,located at the edge of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, with India, Nepal in the south and Kashmir, Iran in the west, was a transportation hub across Eurasia. This specific location endowed evident exotic features and general inclusiveness upon its art school, which can be found on the varied Tibetan Buddhist murals. For example,  The SixteenKing Kong Dancer Diagram  in Tholing Monastery absorbed Indian Gandhara art features ;  The Four Deities Buddha Mother and Dependents  and Baosheng Buddha and his familyin the Guge Castle carry exquisite style of the ancient Persia.

Criterion (iii): The Guge Relic in Tulin-GugeScenic and Historic Interest Areas recorded the disappeared Guge civilization, which is the testimony of Guge kingdom history.

Guge Kingdom,existingfrom the 10th century AD to the 17th century AD, had witnessed 16 hereditary kings.During the reign of Guge Kingdom, there was little wars or disputes, and people lived and worked in peace. As the result, the society, economy and culture reached great prosperity. The highest Tibetan civilizational achievements during the medieval times represented by Guge Kingdom was named by historians “Guge Civilization”. According to Tibetan history records, Guge Kingdom made great contribution to gold and silver manufacturing, smelting, pottery, spinning, carpentry, sewing, printing, andsculpture,etc. There are 445 housing relics, 879 cave structures, 58 fortifications, 32 pagodas and several tunnels, granaries, arsenal, and countless religious murals and figures of Buddha in Guge Relic.

Criterion (v): Tulin-Guge Scenic and Historic Interest Areas is an outstanding example of Tibetan traditional human settlement and land utilization, which represents the interaction between human and environment under transnational cultural communication.

The extreme severe natural environment led to the beliefs such as “animism” and “unity of heaven and man” among Tibetan ancestors. These beliefs were reflected on the buildings in a way that the buildings could adapt itself to the natural environment harmoniously. The relationship between Guge Relics and the soil forest geomorphology is a strong testimony. Guge Relics was a typical mountainous building group located on a low mountain with a relative height of 170m, which fits into the mountain body harmoniously and magnificently, emphasizing the supreme reign status of the kingdom. Meanwhile, Tibetan ancestors made best use of the weak consolidation and loose structure of soil forest and constructed large numbers of cave structures, which represents the adaptation of human to the extreme severe natural environment.

Criterion (vi): The existing building ruins in Guge Relic are the physical form of social class in Guge Kingdom, as well as view of the universe of Tibetan Buddhism.

The relics of Guge were divided into 3 parts from base to the top: cave structures down in the base were for civilians and slaves, temples in the middle were for monks, houses on the top were for the kings and nobles, which is the physical form of social class stratification of Guge civilization. Tholing Monastery in the nominated property and Samye monastery in Shannan prefecture were the earliest two monasteries of Datura type in China, among which the Sakya Hall in Tholing Monastery represented the view of the universe of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism

Criterion (vii)Tulin-Guge can be called a natural wonder, containing outstanding aesthetic values.

The soil forest geomorphology around Guge Relic is rare natural landscape. Affected by the location, occurrence, degree of consolidation and so on, the soil forest exhibits complicated and varied forms, among which some are like persons, some are like other stuffs. Against the specific natural environment of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, with cultural relics such as Guge Palace and Tholing Monastery, Tulin-Guge is a worldwide unique wonder.

Criterion (viii): The geological and geomorphological characteristics of Tulin-Guge reflect the uplifting process of the Himalayas, which is an outstanding testimony of the earth’s evolution history.

The morphological development of Tulin-Gugeis closely related to the uplifting process of the Himalayas and Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The special geomorphological features and geological remains recorded this process, providing materials to the study of the uplifting process of the Himalayas and Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Furthermore, there is rich variety of mammal fossils in the sediments, which is of great scientific value for the research of the origin and evolution of certain species.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Despite the fragility of the palaces, monasteries and murals in the Guge Relic, their form, design, material and maintenance meet the requirements of the authenticity of the World Heritage.

The relics of Guge Kingdom, Tholing Monastery and Piyangdongga are the direct carriers of Tibetan Buddhism. Until now, they are still the holy sites for believers to pay homage to, which meet the requirements of the authenticity of “spirit and feeling”.

The surrounding environment of Guge Relic is rarely changed. There are some inappropriate modern constructions around Tholing Monastery, but they are reversible.

The patterns of single building and building group in Guge Relic are complete. The functional layout of the building group is kept integral, especially the layout structure which reflects the social class stratification of Guge civilization. The integrity is also displayed in its historical and natural environment, as well as regional integrity.

The soil forest geomorphology of Guge completely recorded the Himalayan orogeny process. It contains almost all kinds of soil forest geomorphology and keeps evolving. The most integral and beautiful landscape is in Sangda valley and Zhada valley, which are contained in the nominated property.

The range of the nominated property is wide enough to ensure the integrity of cultural and natural heritage values of Tulin-Guge.