On 20 January 2003, a fire broke out in the Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains in Hubei Province, China.

Two-and-a-half hours later, the Yuzhengong Palace was burned to the ground. No one was injured in the fire but many of the structures from the Ming dynasty (14th-17th centuries) were damaged.

Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1994, the Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains represents the highest standards of Chinese art and architecture over a period of nearly 1,000 years. The palaces and temples which form the nucleus of this group of secular and religious buildings exemplify the architectural and artistic achievements of China's Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Situated in the scenic valleys and on the slopes of the Wudang mountains in Hubei Province, the site contains Taoist buildings from as early as the 7th century.

Immediately following news of the fire-damage to the Yuzhen Palace, one of the properties comprising the Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains World Heritage Site in China, the Director of the World Heritage Centre, Mr Francesco Bandarin sent a letter to H. Exc. Mr Zhang Xuezhong, Ambassador for the People's Republic of China to UNESCO expressing his “deepest regret over this disaster and transmit, on behalf of the World Heritage Centre, our solidarity with the victims of this fire which has reportedly caused great loss of property for many individuals in addition to the historic buildings of this World Heritage site.”

“Please be assured,” Mr Bandarin told the Ambassador, “that the UNESCO World Heritage Centre will spare no effort to support the endeavours of the Chinese authorities and the people of China in their rehabilitation and restoration work to safeguard the heritage of humankind.”

The Centre was informed by UNESCO Beijing Office that a site monitoring mission would be arranged by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage of China (SACH) immediately after the Chinese New Year, in mid February. The results of this mission will be reported to the World Heritage Committee at its next session in Suzhou, China in June 2003.