1.         Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains (China) (C 705)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1994

Criteria  (i)(ii)(vi)

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/705/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/705/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Proposed lift-up project of Yuzhen Palace at the property

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/705/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2014

The State Party submitted a state of conservation report on 31 January 2014, which is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/705/documents. Subsequently, a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM reactive monitoring mission visited the property from 8 – 13 March 2014 (mission report available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/705/documents).

Key issues addressed during the mission and in the State Party report involve a project to raise-up the Yuzhen Palace (one of 62 sites of the serial property) above the level of the new Danjiangkou Reservoir, and the overall management system for the property. 

Project to raise up the Yuzhen Palace: This project was planned in 2007, and implementation began in 2012 without details being presented to the World Heritage Committee in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines. The mission was informed that, in response to the imminent flooding, the State Party had considered three options:

After consideration by a team of Chinese experts, the third scheme was selected and the work carried out beginning in 2012. At the time of the mission, the wooden buildings and archaeological remains had already been dismantled/excavated (documented and numbered) and put into storage near the site. In addition, the three gates had already been lifted, and the work undertaken to construct the earthwork platform. The platform was near completion with only final compacting of the infill to be completed. Once that work has been completed and a number of other details finalized, work will then begin on the re-erection of the wooden palace buildings and the replacement of the archaeological remains.

The mission found that the technical quality of the work carried out was excellent (details can be found in the State Party state of conservation report). The mission noted, however, that the raising up of this palace has necessarily changed the relationship of the palace to its setting. In the case of Yuzhen Palace, the spatial dimension is important, especially the relationship of the complex to the surrounding landscape. In particular, with the change in height, the surrounding hills are less pronounced and less effective in the context of feng shui.

The mission further identified five key issues for the ongoing work:

Management System for the Property: The mission team was presented with the current management system for the property. It was also presented with an outline of the Master Plan on Conservation Management of the Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains which was still under elaboration at the time of the mission. The mission report pointed out four key aspects of the management that need reinforcement as the planning process continues in order for the OUV of the property to be fully sustained. These four issues include:

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

It is regrettable that the project to raise up the Yuzhen Palace was not presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2007 when the idea was first considered. It may have been possible for a solution, other than the three developed by the State Party, to have been considered which could have had less impact on the property. The lack of adequate consultation appears to reflect the lack of an adequate management structure at the property.

It should be acknowledged that the work has been carried out to a high technical quality and with great care, which will allow for the palace buildings to be re-erected once the work on the platform is completed. It is further acknowledged that this extreme solution was taken in response to the flooding that will take place as part of a development project of national importance which will supply drinking water to the Beijing area. It is clear from the results of the mission that the raising up of the Yuzhen Palace has caused a change in the relationship between the palace and its setting and context, both in terms of its relationship to the surrounding hills, and to the agricultural land which will now be submerged by the reservoir. It should be noted that the Yuzhen Palace is one of only 62 component parts of the property which include the Golden Shrine and the Purple Heaven Palace to name a few. It does, however, undoubtedly contribute to the overall OUV of the property, and all components part of the property should be equally safeguarded in the interests of protecting the OUV. 

Nevertheless, taking into consideration all of the factors related to the imminent risk of flooding, the technical aspects of the project, the changes to the context of the component part, and its relationship to the overall property, it is considered, on balance, that while the changes impact on the integrity and authenticity of one component they do not constitute a threat to the OUV of the overall property, as the harmony between the disposition of the Yuzhen Palace and the other serial components within the wider mountain landscape will be maintained. It will be important, however, that the State Party take note of the recommendations made in the mission report, particularly in regard to the final shape of the earthwork platform which should follow a more natural contour of the land rather than creating a more artificial peninsula or island effect. Further consideration must also be given to the final disposition of the archaeological remains that have been excavated from the property, as well as to the eventual landscaping, interpretation, and use of the palace. 

In regard to management, it is recognized that the State Party is carrying out ongoing work to reinforce its management and monitoring framework at the property. There are serious concerns, however, that this framework must take into account the fact that this property is a living heritage site which must incorporate religious leaders and community members into the management system. It is also considered crucial that from a management perspective, the property be treated as a cultural landscape, since the OUV of the 62 individual components cannot be protected without taking into account the entirety of the landscape. For this reason, it will be of utmost importance to ensure that the various tools and plans developed for the World Heritage property, the Wudang Mountains Special Zone and Wudang Mountains National Scenic Zone are harmonized so that a single management system can be put into action. In keeping with this landscape approach, the State Party should also confirm that the buffer zone of the property includes the entire Wudang Mountains National Scenic Zone, as acknowledged at the time of inscription, rather than the 62 component parts with individual buffer zones as submitted during the retrospective inventory exercise. 

Special attention must also be paid within the management system to avoiding the overdevelopment of tourism infrastructure within the property and within its larger cultural landscape. The mission found that tourism development has begun to reach a critical mass which could cause significant changes to the property if not controlled. Further, although the carrying capacity of the individual component parts has been considered, there is a need to enforce these limits, especially at peak tourism periods which occur several times per year. Many of the component parts are very fragile in nature and need constant monitoring and control if they are to be protected.  

Decision Adopted: 38 COM 7B.9

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined document WHC-14/38.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 37 COM 7B.60 adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
  3. Strongly regrets that the project to raise the Yuzhen Palace was not brought to the attention of the World Heritage Committee in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines ;
  4. Takes note of the report of the 2014 joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS/ICCROM reactive monitoring mission to the property and the assessment made that the project, while altering the setting and context of the Yuzhen Palace, does not constitute a threat to the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the overall property;
  5. Notes the recommendations of the mission in regard to the final shape of the earthwork platform, the final disposition of the archaeological remains, and the eventual landscaping, interpretation, and use of the palace, and requests the State Party to implement those recommendations in the final implementation of the project;
  6. Also notes the ongoing work on the finalization of the Master Plan on Conservation Management of the property and also requests that the work on this plan be completed as soon as possible for submission to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  7. Urges the State Party to institute a living heritage approach to the management of the property which ensures that it is managed as a cultural landscape in order to protect the OUV of the 62 component parts within their overall landscape setting and context;
  8. Invites the State Party to clarify with the World Heritage Centre that the buffer zone of the property corresponds to the entirety of the Wudang Mountains National Scenic Area as acknowledged at the time of inscription, and not the 62 individual buffer zones submitted in the framework of the retrospective inventory exercise;
  9. Also urges the State Party to protect against the overdevelopment of tourism at the property, and in particular to enforce rules related to carrying capacity for the more fragile sites that are part of the property;
  10. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 December 2015, a report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.