Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes
National Commission of the People's Republic of China
Burang County, Ngari Prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region
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Located in Burang County, Ngari Prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region, at an elevation of over 4,500 m, Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes is adjacent to Zanda County, Gar County and Gya'gya County, bordering on India and Nepal. ‘Two peaks perching to the north and south, two lakes reflecting with each other in the east and west’ describes the basic natural landscape features of the property, comprising a fairly compact geomorphology unit of ‘two mountains with two lakes in between’, also resulting in unique landscape composed of glaciers, lakes, wetlands and grasslands in this region. ‘Two mountains’ means the Sacred Mountain of Gang Rinpoche (6,638m) and the Goddess Peak of Naimona'nyi (7,694m), and ‘two lakes’ refers to the Holy Lake of Manasarovar and the Ghost Lake of Lhanag-tso. Unique natural environment has bred particular and rich religions and cultures, which is of world-class Outstanding Universal Value.
From natural perspective, the landform features of Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes have recorded the comprehensive progress of endogenetic force of the collision of the Indian Plate with the Eurasian Plate and exogenic force of glacier and running water. The Gangdisê Mountains, of which Mount Kangrinboqe is the main peak, are distributed in the direction of NW-SE, parallel with the Himalayas, of which Naimona'nyi is one of the peaks. It is faulted basin in between, with several groups of lakes scattered, and the group including Lake Manasarovar and Lhanag-tso Lake is one of them. As the main peak of Gangdisê Mountains, Mount Kangrinboqe is a pyramidal horn which is formed from the famous ‘Kangrinboqe conglomerate’ under the uplift effect of ‘Karakorum Fault’ and the erosion of glacier, grand and vigorous. Gaint U-shaped valleys formed by Quaternary glaciation are distributed around the pyramidal horn of Mount Kangrinboqe, dislocated by ‘Karakorum Fault’, forming beheaded valley/betrunk gully, with moraines, gullies and alluvial fans widespread at mountain foot. Mount Kangrinboqe, called ‘Handle of stone mill’ by local Tibetan people, looks like ‘Pyramid’ with four symmetric sides, and its shape is totally different from the surrounding mountain peaks. Its famous symbol of Buddhist swastika, formed by a vertical giant glacial valley and a lateral stratum, can be observed from the south. Though Mount Kangrinboqe is not the highest mountain in the region, it is the unique mountain peak which is snow-capped all year round. Wreathed by a sea of clouds and fog, it looks magnificent, unconquerable and mysterious under sunshine. Naimona'nyi Peak is a small subrange of the west Himalayas, where the Himalayas and Gangdisê Mountains are so close that Naimona'nyi Peak sits roughly across Lake Manasarowar from the Mount Kangrinboqe. Glaciated peaks and snow-capped ridges form its east and west wings, which constitute a long wall of ice and snow, standing in the Southern margin of Tibetan Plateau. Both sides of mountain peaks of Naimona'nyi Peak are relatively low and away from the lake, protruding its majesty and magnificence. The sedimentary wide valley by glaciers, running water and lakes between Mount Kangrinboqe and Naimona'nyi Peak has developed large area of Alpine Meadow, with abundant water, meadows, and marshlands. Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes, where Holy Lake of Manasarovar (an interior lake with the largest reserves of freshwater at a relatively high elevation, also the most representative lake wetland in Tibetan Plateau), the source of four great rivers in Asia, and the Ghost Lake of Lhanag-tso are distributed, is also the important demarcation point of the internal and external water system in Tibet. Maquan River flows eastwards, developing into the Yalu Zangbo River, the longest river of Tibet, and then flows into Indian, called the Brahmaputra River; Xiangquan River is called Sutlej River when it flows into India; Shiquan River flows northwards, as a major tributary of Indus River; Majia Zangbo River is the upstream of the Karnali River, a tributary of the River Ganga, when it flows into India. To some extent, the influence of sacred mountains and lakes on surrounding regions is propagated by the flowing around of the four rivers which originate from here. At the same time, typical plateau wetland ecosystems are still kept in the park, and precious plateau biological communities are distributed around the lakes, with abundant and valuable wild lives living here. Distinctive characteristics of geology and landform, combined with ecological diversity, have endowed it outstanding scientific and aesthetic value.
From cultural perspective, Mount Kangrinboqe and Lake Manasarovar are regarded as Sacred Mountain and Holy Lake by Native Bon of Tibet, ancient Jain, Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. Mount Kangrinboqe is a sacred mountain which is universally acknowledged and mentioned by a lot of important writings such as the Indian epic poem of Ramayana, Tibetan historical records of Legends of Gangdisê Mountains and Seas, Puranas and Buddhist work of Great Tang Records on the Western Regions and so on. It is held to be the seat of Olmo Lung Ring of Bon by a lot of scholars, which is both the origin and object of worship as well as spiritual home for Bon. It is also the site where the first Jain Tirthankara, Rishabhadeva, attained Nirvana. According to Hinduism, it is the place that Lord Shiva, the Destroyer, resides in. It is also believed to be the Mount Meru, the center of all the physical, metaphysical and spiritual universes, by a great many Tibetan Buddhists. Many eminent Monks have undertaken Sādhana beside the Lake Manasarovar, giving initiations and consecrations for it. Ngari Prefecture, where Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes is located in, is the convergence zone of diversified cultures from ancient times, and it has also produced ‘Zhang Zhung civilization’, which is not only the root of ancient Tibetan Plateau civilizations, what is more, it is one of the origins of Chinese multi-cultures. As the cradle of ‘Zhang Zhung civilization’, Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes has witnessed its generation, development, evolution and decline in the process of communication with other civilizations. Furthermore, Ngari Prefecture is located on the key communication routes between northern India, where Buddhism is prevailing, and Tibetan Empire, and it is the vital region for the spread of Buddhism culture through the ages. For its unique religious status, Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes has witnessed the process of mutual exclusion, influence and penetration between Bon and Tibetan Buddhism. It is said that the grand contest of the 11th century between them happened by Lake Manasarovar, ending up with the victory of Tibetan Buddhism. The four great Gompas in four directions of Mount Kangrinboqe, as well as the four holy bath doors and eight grand Gompas in four directions of Lake Manasarovar, have recorded the historical operation process of different religions and sects, and it is a powerful testimony about mutual exclution as well as promotive effects between different religions and cultures. Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes, together with the magnificent religious buildings, not only reflects the Tibetan customs and cultures, but also bears incomparable religious significance, and it is an important manifestation of Outstanding Universal Value.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
Criterion (iii): Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes is the cradle of ‘Zhang Zhung civilization’ and native Bon of Tibet. Although Bon and the Zhang Zhung civilization gradually declined along with the development of history, its impact on Tibetan Buddhism can hardly be underestimated. As a sacred place for many religions, Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes attracts both domestic and foreign believers all the year round and carries their spiritual beliefs. The tradition of circumambulating Mount Kangrinboqe on foot has continued since its very beginning and thus making Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes the witness of the development of a variety of religions and cultures.
Criterion (v): The severe natural environment of Tibetan Plateau has made the Tibetans believe in "all creatures have spirits and they share the same nature with humankind ". Influenced by this belief, the layout of Tibetan architectures can be flexible according to the surroundings, demonstrating the harmonious coexistence between human and nature. There are eight monasteries around Lake Manasarovar: Sewa Lung Gompa of Drikung Kagyu School in the east, Nye-go Gompa of Sakya School in the southeast, Thrue-go Gompa of Gelug School in the south, Go Tsug Gompa of Bhutan Kagyu School in the southwest, Ja-kyib Gompa built based on the Sādhana caves of five hundred arhats in the Northwest, Jiwu Gompa in the west, Lang-na Gompa of Bhutan Kagyu School in the north, Bon Ri Gompa in the northeast. The buildings in the Gompas are solemn and sacred, setting off with the landscape of mountains and lakes, and constituting unique interpretation of the relationship between human and environment.
Criterion (vi): The religious worship of the sacred mountains and lakes dates back to around 1000 BC. It is also regarded as a sacred place by Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism, Bon and ancient Jainism, and the tradition of circumambulating Mount Kangrinboqe on foot is still kept as a solemn and sacred religious ceremony. In addition, the Mount Kangrinboqe and Lake Manasarovar have been recorded as sacred mountain and lake in many religious classics, such as the Indian epic poem of Ramayana, Tibetan historical records of Legends of Gangdisê Mountains and Seas, Puranas, Buddhist writings of Great Tang Records on the Western Region’. Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes not only associates with religious beliefs directly, but act almost as the carrier of beliefs itself, which is of world-class Outstanding Universal Value.
Criterion (vii): Mount Kangrinboqe is the main peak of Gangdisê Mountains, at an elevation of over 6,638 m, and Lake Manasarovar, located to south of Mount Kangrinboqe, is the lake with the highest transparency in China. Snow mountain and bright lake constitute a magnificent plateau landscape under the blue sky and white clouds, which represents the typical natural landscape features of plateau regions. The landform of‘two mountains with two lakes in between’ on the plateau at such high altitudes is also unique worldwide. Diversification of religious beliefs has added a solemn and mysterious color for Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes. The wonderful fusion of nature and human embodies the unparalleled aesthetic value of Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes .
Criterion (viii): Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes has recorded the evolution process of the Tibetan Plateau, which is of great academic value. Mount Kangrinboqe, which is composed of ‘Kangrinboqe conglomerate’, provides evidence of collision of the Indian Plate with the Eurasian Plate revealed by geological studies, and offers records of the whole process, which is also considered as the ‘window’ and ‘key’ for the study of the evolution of Tibetan Plateau. The ‘Karakorum Fault’ between Mount Kangrinboqe and Naimona'nyi Peak extends from the Kongur Tagh (the extreme northwestern of the Fault) in Tashkurgan Town of Xinjiang to the southeast of Mount Kangrinboqe for 1,200 km, is the most active boundary fault in the southwest of the Tibetan Plateau, which has a far-reaching impact on the landforms within the region, such as the uplift of Mount Kangrinboqe and Naimona'nyi Peak, and the depression of Lake Manasarovar and Lhanag-tso Lake is also controlled by the Fault. The extensive lacustrine strata and fluvial stratigraphy in the valley are rich in the tectonic, climatic and biological information of the Cenozoic Plateau Uplift, which has attracted scholars all over the world. Such as the fossil horses found in Moincêr Village, who lived in 126,000 years ago. Nahumanni peak is the most typical ‘detachment’ of the Tibetan Plateau, which is identified as the key point for geologists to study the uplift of the Himalayas. It is also one of the largest concentrated areas of the Himalayan modern glaciers in the southwest of Tibet, with typical Quaternary glacial landforms and complete glacier series. It is currently the oldest mountain with the most complete glacier series on the plateau, which are of great significance for the study of the ancient climate in Tibetan Plateau.
Criterion (x): Manasarovar Wetland Nature Reserve mainly protect the plateau lake ecosystem, as well as its biodiversity and rare animals. It represents a high level of protection both in China and around the world concerning the comprehensive evaluation about protection area, wetland type, ecosystem biodiversity and altitude and other aspects. The area is rich in wild plants resources such as river wetlands, plateau marsh vegetation, community of Kobresia , which are important habitats of dozens of national first-grade and second-grade protected animals. There are 100 species of vertebrate animals (7 species of fish, 1 species of amphibians, 2 species of reptiles, 65 species of birds, 25 species of mammals and 25 species of mammals. The number of passerine species is as high as 10 families and 26 species, and that of Falconiformes is 10). It is also one of the main corridors for the migration of rare wild animals such as Tibetan antelope and wild yak to the Tibetan Himalayas. From perspectives of both scientific research and conservation cultivation, Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes is a habitat for valuable species that of great Outstanding Universal Value.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes has been in a relatively stable state due to its prominent religious status and special religious characteristics. Human development activities have never been carried out so far, which meets the conditions of authenticity in Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention.
A variety of homage and pilgrimage activities, including ‘circumambulating Mount Kangrinboqe on foot’, have taken place in Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes continuously, constituting an important component of Outstanding Universal Value of the property, and meets the conditions of authenticity.
Some of the temple buildings and religious sites within Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes, although for various natural or human factors, have undergone repairment or reconstruction in varying degrees in history, they still meet the requirement of World Heritage Convention about authenticity in terms of form, design, material and maintenance. The monastic discipline rules have passed down being relatively unchanged, and activities in Gompas have maintained its traditional characteristics, which meets the conditions of authenticity.
Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes completely encloses the natural basement of where the religious sacred place locates and meets the requirement for integrity in terms of religious value. Meanwhile it also satisfies the conditions of integrity in Operational Guidelines in terms of science study because this region has complete geomorphologic types, which fully records and reflects the developmental and evolutionary process of Tibetan Plateau.
The structures of monolithic buildings and architectural complexes of Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes remain intact as well as the functional layout of the complex. The Sacred mountains and lakes, together with the buildings, completely represent the physical bearing of different religious and sectarian development in the area. Architecture complex and religious sites still remain harmony with history and natural environment, showing completeness in regional environment, and satisfies the conditions of integrity in terms of aesthetic and culture value.
In summary, the scope of the nominated property is large enough to include adjacent parts essential to the sacred mountains and lakes, which common embodies the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. All the important, interrelated and interdependent factors that constitute the natural and cultural integrity of Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes are included, which fully reflects the natural and cultural value according to the Criteria for the assessment of Outstanding Universal Value.
Comparison with other similar properties
Located in the Tibetan Plateau, the Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes is the cradle of Bon, as well as the object of worship of Bon, Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism and ancient Jain. The natural environment of over 4500m above sea level endows the region unique aesthetically natural features. According to demonstrations above, Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes meets criteria (iii), (v), (vi), (viii), (viii), and (x) for the assessment of Outstanding Universal Value, in line with the value characteristics of mixed heritage.
On the existing World Heritage List, there are Tongariro National Park in New Zealand, Mount Athos in Greece, Khangchendzonga National Park in India that are associated with the spiritual worship and meanwhile have natural and cultural Outstanding Universal Value. They carry the spiritual worship of local Maori, Orthodox, and Sikkim respectively. There are few properties like the Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes which integrates Bon, Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism and other religious worship together on the existing World Heritage List. In consideration of their important status in the world religion types and system, the prominence of Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes for criterion (vi) is evident.
In addition, believers from all over the world have continued the religious and cultural activities of circumambulating the mount and lake on foot which constitute an integral part of landscape of the property. After the long journey believers from all over the world reach the plateau at an average altitude of over 4500m, and complete the 15-20 days’ pilgrimage of up to 52km long by the spiritual power given by the holy mountains and lakes. The status of Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes is prominent even in heritages of similar kind.
Tibetan Plateau has the reputation of ‘roof of the world’ and ‘the third pole’, and its special natural environment has nurtured unique plateau landscape and biological communities. Tongariro National Park in New Zealand, Mount Athos in Greece, and Khangchendzonga National Park are rich in mountains, primordial forests, streams and grasslands, which constitute varied and beautiful natural ecological landscape. However, there is rare landscape constituted by glaciers, plateau lakes, alpine meadows like Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes in the above-mentioned properties, which generates grand and magnificent atmosphere which is deeply shocking for souls. Therefore, Scenic and historic area of Sacred Mountains and Lakes is irreplaceable on the aesthetic value of the criterion (vii).