1.         Mogao Caves (China) (C 440)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1987

Criteria  (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)(v)(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/440/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1993-1993)
Total amount approved: USD 40,000
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/440/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions


Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/440/

Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in 1994

The mission spent two days at the Mogao Caves and discussed their conservation with the staff of the Institute there, as well as the proposed symposium on this subject which is to be held with World Heritage Fund assistance. A small reforestation project was also visited, following the felling of some trees which required replacing.

Concern has been expressed about deterioration of the mural paintings in the caves, for which salt migration is partially responsible. The mission felt that the large amount of cement used in the concrete access galleries, erected before the site's inscription, might be a contributory cause.

The three monasteries at the foot of the cliff are derelict. They should be repaired rather than rebuilt. The residential caves, at the northern end of the site, are not at present open to the public. If displayed in the future, access should be provided by a more discrete means than the heavy concrete galleries which have been built in front of the painted caves. The three security lamp posts in front of the residential caves should be replaced by less obtrusive lights at ground level.

The modern blockhouse on top of the cliff, into which the caves are cut, spoils a skyline otherwise only broken by two mud stupas. It was recommended that this should be demolished and rebuilt in a less prominent position, back from the face of the cliff.

The mission also visited the new Exhibition Centre, which is on the point of completion. Although the main body of this is skilfully concealed within the slope of the hillside, the entrance consists of a large and sterile area of brick paving, dominated on one side by a concrete-and-brick tower in Han-dynasty style. This tower is linked to the Exhibition Centre by a high wall of grey bricks. These features have no connection with the site and detract from the mud chorten which are a feature of the eastern banks of the river. It is recommended that the tower should be demolished, the wall lowered to the height required for it to act as a retaining wall only and the stark area of paving reduced in size or landscaped with trees.

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 1994


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


Decision Adopted: 18 BUR VI.B

The Bureau was informed about the results of a World Heritage Centre monitoring mission to the existing five cultural World Heritage Sites in China, namely the Great Wall, the Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor, the Mogao Caves and the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian. The mission had been generally impressed with the standard of maintenance of Chinese World Heritage sites and the professionalism of the staff responsible for them. Nevertheless, the mission had been able to raise specific technical issues with the State Bureau of Cultural Relics and other responsible authorities in China, in particular the need for training in techniques for the conservation of ruined stonework, the conservation of earthen structures, the conservation of marble, new jointing techniques for timber conservation, the conservation of wall paintings, computer-assisted recording of standing monuments and geophysical archaeological recording techniques. The mission had pointed out that monitoring was a two-way process and that the representatives of the state party whose sites were being monitored could often provide invaluable technical information which was relevant to World Heritage sites in other countries. With regard to the management of World Heritage sites in China, the report dealt with tourist facilities, visitor pressures and intrusive structures in the World Heritage sites, a number of them erected since inscription.

The Representative of China expressed his thanks for the work of the mission and explained that a number of the technical points raised by the mission had also been matters of concern for Chinese experts, about which the State Bureau of Cultural Relics was already in contact with provincial and other responsible authorities. China was attempting to ensure that conservation work conformed to accepted international standards. He said that cultural heritage was of increasing public interest in China, which made the work of the mission particularly useful. He welcomed the fact that the mission had been able to clear up a number of misunderstandings about plans for the Mogao Caves, for which there had been concern both within and without China. He looked forward to the results of the mission being made available in the form of a written report.

In response to a request made by the Representative of Thailand, the Director of the World Heritage Centre stated that he would liaise with the Chinese authorities and the members of the mission in the hope that its results could be made available in time for the next meeting of the Bureau. He looked forward to a follow up in the form of further liaison between the Centre and the Chinese authorities and reported that he had already received requests for technical assistance in connection with the training needs identified by the mission.