1.         Temple of Heaven: an Imperial Sacrificial Altar in Beijing (China) (C 881)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1998

Criteria  (i)(ii)(iii)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/881/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/881/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions

Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission in October 2005. 

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Urban development pressure;

b) Tourism pressure;

c) Lack of documentary evidence and clearly formulated principles to guide the conservation works. 

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/881/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2007

On 30 January 2007, the World Heritage Centre received the state of conservation reports of the World Cultural Heritage properties of the Imperial Palace in Beijing, the Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace from China’s State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH). The report provides updated information on the significant progress made in the renovation and conservation of the Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties and other cultural heritage properties in Beijing. In particular, the report includes:

a) Information explaining the philosophical framework being used for conservation decisions for the Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing;

b) Information clarifying the documentary evidence on which is based the restoration of coloured paintings (polychromy) within the three World Heritage properties;

c) The status of major restoration/maintenance projects being carried out at the Temple of Heaven (the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest) and the Summer Palace (Long Corridor);

d) A report on the protection of colour paintings in the Summer Palace.

Attached to the report, the State Party also submitted a feasibility report on the restoration of the Altar of Harvest Prayers at the Temple of Heaven. The State Party report does not provide information on the development of conservation master plans for the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace.

In response to Decision 30 COM 7B.63,the report by the State Party contains some reference to the general principles applied for the renovation of the cultural heritage properties in Beijing, which is “not to change the original state of cultural heritage”, according to the Law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage in China. The aim of protection and renovation is to “treat disease and extend longevity, to recover the healthy shape and condition of ancient architecture”. The report stresses also the importance of maintaining or recovering the original “materials, techniques… and settings” of the architecture, which are identified through careful documentation, research and study. A publication entitled “Veritable Records of the Palace Museum’s Renovation” will be published following the completion of the conservation works to document the entire process.

Regarding the evidence on which the restoration of polychromic painting is carried out, the report by the State Party refers generally to historical records, portions of coloured painting that still exist in the inner eaves… some old pictures, but does not provide specific documentary or bibliographic reference concerning any of these. Information is provided, on the other hand, on the different treatments applied to internal and external surfaces, depending also on age and state of conservation.

Regarding the Committee Decision on the integration of risk-preparedness and tourism management with the Conservation Master Plan for the Imperial Palace, the State Party is reviewing the current Plan with a view to incorporating these two aspects.

At the Temple of Heaven, the scope of the on-going restoration includes the overhaul of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, whose design and planning was based on detailed survey of historic records. Upon experts’ advice (and based on pre-1935 photographs), it was decided that the inappropriate restoration carried out in the 1970s at the courtyard of the Hall of Prayer should be corrected and the colour paintings should be carefully restored to their “original features” of Qing period. Meanwhile, the overhaul project covered other buildings such as the Altar for Harvest Prayers, the Qinian Gate, the Huangqian Hall and the east and west side halls. The total floor area covered is 39,694 square metres and the total construction/restoration area is 3,876 square metres. In the process of restoration, concrete made tiles are being replaced by traditional fired ones. Ruins and cracks in the timber structure are being repaired. To keep a complete record, pictures have been taken for the restoration of colour paintings. Improvements have also been made to the sewage and fire fighting systems, security and monitoring systems.

The report submitted by the Summer Palace Administrative Office provides detailed information on the methodology used for the restoration of polychromic painting at the World Heritage property, carried out between 2005 and 2006. A comprehensive survey of over 70,000 square metres of painting was carried out, including data on the history, type, significance and state of conservation of the colour paintings, as well as information on previous conservation work. Following this survey, a detailed archival research was carried out. The paintings were thus classified according to their period, style, theme and latest conservation intervention. It appeared that all paintings have been renovated or painted anew between the 1950s and the present time. Based on this documentation, restorers developed a new methodology of intervention. Again, the concepts of “no change to the original status” and “maximum preservation and minimum interference” are mentioned as guiding principles, but a case by case approach seems to be applied. In any case, all painted surface is carefully documented before intervention. The report includes a case presentation of the restoration work undertaken at the Long Corridor of Summer Palace to introduce the protection measures and conservation process.

In response to the Committee Decision (30 COM 7B. 63), the State Party is organizing, in co-operation with the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM, an International Symposium on Concepts and Practices of Conservation and Restoration of Historical Buildings in East Asia which will take place in Beijing, China from 24 to 28 May 2007. The result of this meeting will be presented to the Committee during its 31st session in 2007.

The World Heritage Centre considers that the above-mentioned Symposium will be of great importance to assist the Chinese authorities in adopting the appropriate approaches to the conservation of the World Heritage properties of Beijing, notably when adequate documentary evidence of a presumed earlier state of the monument, which the restoration intervention intends to re-establish, appear to be not available. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM


Decision Adopted: 31 COM 7B.78

The World Heritage Committee,

1.       Having examined Document WHC-07/31.COM/7B.Add,

2.       Recalling Decision 30 COM 7B.63, adopted at its 30th session (Vinius, 2006),

3.       Notes the State Party’s great efforts towards the restoration and enhancement of the World Heritage properties in Beijing, as well as for the organization of a Regional Symposium on Concepts and Practices of Conservation and Restoration of Historical Buildings in East Asia;

4.       Expresses the wish that the outcome of the Symposium might contribute to strengthening the theoretical framework on which are based conservation decisions, notably as regards issues of authenticity, at the World Heritage properties;  

5.       Reiterates its request to the State Party to implement the recommendations made by the reactive monitoring mission of October 2005, and in particular to:

a)      Develop appropriate Conservation Master Plans, in close consultation with the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM, integrating components on risk-preparedness and tourism management, for the World Heritage properties of the Temple of Heaven and the SummerPalace in Beijing,

b)      Carry out a comparative study on the restoration of polychromy and ways to ensure its authenticity within East Asia in collaboration with countries such as Japan, Korea and Vietnam;

6.       Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2009, a detailed report on the state of conservation of the World Heritage properties in Beijing, including information on the progress made in the implementation of the recommendations mentioned in paragraph 5 above, for examination by the Committee at its 33rd session in 2009.