SanFangQiXiang, the historic district of the Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, is located in Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province in China. It is situated between the Zicheng (a smaller range of city walls) built in the Jin Dynasty (3rd-4th century AD) and the Luocheng (a larger range of city walls) built in the Tang Dynasty (7th-10th century AD). It is faced with the southern border of the Zicheng to its north, the central axis of Fuzhou to the east, the Antai River and the relic walls built in the Tang and the following Five Dynasties (10th century AD) to the west, and the Wushan hill and Yushan hill to its south. In this beautiful city of Fuzhou with a river and the hills, this site has been where the literati and officialdom resided ever since the Tang Dynasty.
SanFangQiXiang as a relatively independent area in the city has maintained its traditional urban fabric of lanes and alleys shaped in the Jin and the Tang Dynasties. With Nanhou Street as the main north-south axis of this area, the Three Lanes of Yijin Lane, Wenru Lane and Guanglu Lane are situated in the west, while the Seven Alleys of Yangqiao Alley (Road), Langguan Alley, Ta Alley, Huang Alley, Anmin Alley, Gong Alley and Jipi Alley (Road) are in the east, which constitute the structure of the main streets in the shape of a fishbone. The names of these lanes and alleys have been rarely changed since the Jin and the Tang Dynasties. The archaeological sites in this area have revealed the stratigraphically corresponding relationships between the current street pattern and the respective street structures in the Tang and subsequent dynasties (7th-20th century AD), which are evidences for the thousand years' history of this area and evolution process of the Lifang System (an urban planning system for residential area), making the SanFangQiXiang the most integrated ancient urban residential area existing in China.Due to the unique geographic location and its special setting, the SanFangQiXiang of Fuzhou City has always been the residential area for the literati, officialdom and the wealthy gentry since the Jin and Tang Dynasties. Celebrities include famous scholars, politicians, military strategists, ideologists, and artists. There are more than 200 historical buildings of the Ming (14th-17th century AD) and the Qing Dynasties (17th-20th century AD) well preserved in this area. Most of them are traditional houses with courtyards or private gardens, while the others include community facilities for education, religion, commerce and patriarchal clan management. All these buildings compose a layered spatial structure from urban area to lanes and alleys, and to individual houses and courtyards in a strict order, which emanates an atmosphere of harmony and calm. Inside the houses, the exquisite details of architecture and gardening are hidden behind a simple appearance, which displays diverse tastes, interests, and the rich cultural deposition of those clans in a unified order and a harmonious atmosphere. The historical relics of SanFangQiXiang in various periods jointly constitute a unique residential urban fabric and the cityscape of a traditional Chinese city, which exhibits the authentic life style of the traditional Chinese literati and officialdom class and their profound culture.
The SanFangQiXiang of Fuzhou is an urban residential area existing for more than one thousand years. Its street pattern is a continuation and development of the traditional Lanes System (an urban planning system evolved from Lifang System), while the well-preserved spatial structure represents an outstanding example of the urban fabric and cityscape of a residential area in ancient China. Evolved from the Lifang System, this urban area is also a place where the literati and officialdom chose to live in the past dynasties. It vividly illustrates the living conditions of this class, and clearly expresses their common idea and value on the state and family, their individual pursuit of moral integrity and self-cultivation, and their intense and profound impact on other classes of the society. The associative relationships between individual houses, the lanes and alleys, the whole area of the nominated property, and the entire city are articulated with clear spatial layers and a well-organized structure, which reflects the rigorous and unified social order that existed in the past feudal dynasties as a unique manifestation of the ethical philosophy and political theory of "cultivating one's morality, regulating the family, managing the country and harmonizing the world" which was proposed by the Confucians in ancient China.
Criterion (iii): Because of the unique geographic location and its history and culture, the site had gradually become a living quarter where the ancient Chinese literati and officialdom class had gathered. The whole area and the various houses and gardens within it exhibit the living conditions of the class as they were when it stepped down the stage of history at the end of the Qing Dynasty. Every place, from the individual living places to the houses and gardens once belonging to those clans, from the lanes and alleys of the whole area and their surroundings, exhibit the common high spiritual and cultural pursuits of the class, and at the same time clearly represent a strict layered spatial order and unity of the place. All these features have a profound influence on other classes of the society living in the area, thus formed the distinct style and the outstanding quality of the area, making it an ideal living place for all the people in the past dynasties. Therefore, as a historical urban residential area, the SanFangQiXiang is an outstanding testimony of how the class of literati and officialdom who deeply rooted with Confucianism, had practiced the Chinese feudal ethical philosophy and political theory of "cultivating one's morality, regulating the family, managing the country and harmonizing the world" for over a thousand years. Therefore, the nominated property justifies Criterion (iii).
Criterion (iv): SanFangQiXiang has preserved the street patterns that have lasted for more than a thousand years, while the relics both on the ground and subterranean reflect the evolution of the urban structure of Fuzhou city from the Lifang System to the Lanes System since the Tang and the Song Dynasties. The close connection of this area with the overall layout of the city, the strictly planned street pattern with evenly distributed blocks, the unified form of the houses but with diverse courtyards and private gardens, the carefully selected materials and well-constructed buildings, and traditional community management system with its text engraved on steles which are placed in the lanes, altogether represent an outstanding example of the urban fabric in the residential area, the features of the cityscape, and the organization and management model of residential area of ancient Chinese cities. Therefore, the nominated property justifies criterion (iv).
The entire layout of the area, the street pattern and the spatial scales of SanFangQiXiang are well preserved in the historical conditions which can be well recognized. The general architectural styles and features and the layout of the houses and courtyards of this area have maintained as they were in the Ming and the Qing Dynasties. The historical backgrounds of the houses and their context since the end of the Qing Dynasty are clear, and are supported by sufficient historical materials. The underground archaeological site exhibits the geographic relationship between SanFangQiXiang and the ancient city, the time when the lanes and alleys took shape, and their layouts existing in the past dynasties, which is an authentic testimony of the long history and continuity of the nominated property through the past dynasties. The function of SanFangQiXiang generally remains residential as before, which still plays an important role in inheriting the traditional Fuzhou culture and demonstrating the essence of the culture. The strong identification with the local culture of the people in this community also helps to preserve the spirit of the place. Therefore, SanFangQiXiang meets the conditions of authenticity.
As for the form of space, the borders and urban fabric of the entire area are almost completely preserved and most of the main and the secondary lanes and alleys are reserved, illustrating the general styles and features of this area in the Ming and the Qing Dynasties and the spatial relationships between the property and Fuzhou City during the development in the past dynasties. In terms of the historical developments, the archaeological site verifies the street structures that existed in the ancient times, while the houses with private gardens of the Ming and the Qing Dynasties bear the memories of the life style of the recent past. All the elements contributing to the Outstanding Universal Values are well preserved with integrity. The pressure and threats of urban development are already taken into consideration. Sufficient effective laws and regulations, urban planning and management plans are all in place. Therefore, the nominated property meets the conditions of integrity.
The SanFangQiXiang falls into the type of Inhabited Urban Areas. There are many properties of this type inscribed on the World Heritage List, most are in Europe. However, because of the difference between the European and the Asian cultures, those urban areas are diverse distinctively in both morphology and cultural background. On the List, only 10 historical cities of this type are from Asia-Pacific, especially in East Asia, amongst which only the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) has a thematic connection with SanFangQiXiang for both are closely related with ancient Chinese urban planning. Compared with the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities), SanFangQiXiang outstandingly manifests the group living space of the traditional Chinese literati and officialdom class and reveals the deep connection between the social orders hidden behind the space sequences and the mainstream social group who constituted those orders, which means SanFangQiXiang differs greatly from the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) that represents the accomplishments of historical architectures, especially the religious ones, and the Japanese landscape gardening.
In terms of the living environment of human being and other concerned cultural themes, SanFangQiXiang can also be compared with such historical urban areas and villages in Asia-Pacific regions on the List as the Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama in Japan, Melaka and George Town: the Historic Cities of the Straits of Malacca in Malaysia, the Historic Villages of Korea: Hahoe and Yangdong, and some other sites from China including the Old Town of Lijiang, the Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui--Xidi and Hongcun, and the Ancient City of Ping Yao. Due to the differences in their surroundings and the social statues of the inhabitants, SanFangQiXiang differs remarkably from those vernacular settlements, commercial towns, and the neoteric historical urban areas mentioned above, no matter in the aspect of traditional urban layouts, architectural styles, or the social and cultural conditions reflected by them. SanFangQiXiang demonstrates the classic Chinese Lanes System and its corresponding management system, intensely and vividly exhibits the living conditions of the literati and officialdom class who had played a central role in the inheritance and developments of ancient Chinese culture, and outstandingly testifies the literati and officialdom's pursuit of the Confucian thoughts "cultivating one's morality, regulating the family, managing the country and harmonizing the world", and their contribution to the traditional Chinese culture, which is reflected by the spatial structure and morphology with a strict order maintained for almost one thousand years physically, by the elegant and delicate living conditions, and by the profound cultural accumulations hidden behind the plain appearances. Although some traditional settlements mentioned above such as the Historic Villages of Korea, the Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui, and other sites also represent the Confucian culture, the theme is not as clearly and comprehensively expressed as it is in SanFangQiXiang. Therefore, the inscription of SanFangQiXiang will contribute to improvement of the framework of the World Heritage List.