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Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian

Factors affecting the property in 1994*
  • Interpretative and visitation facilities
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Other Threats:

    Unstable archaeological strata and cave roof

International Assistance: requests for the property until 1994
Requests approved: 1 (from 1993-1993)
Total amount approved : 26,000 USD
Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in 1994

The site at Zhoukoudian, in the western hills to the south-west of Beijing, is a fossil-rich site which has produced hominid and other fossils of quite exceptional importance. The 0.24 sq. km. core area of the World Heritage site contains ten localities of archaeological interest and is under the direct control of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The buffer zone of 1.7 sq. km. is under the control of the local authority and contains a further sixteen localities. Major archaeological research on the site took place between 1921 and 1937, although further work was carried out in the 1960s.

The principal site of concern has been Locality 1 in the core area. This has produced fossils of Homo erectus pehinensis dating back some 500,000 years. Homo erectus used the former cave on the site for a period of about 200,000 years; the Upper Cave on the site for a period of about 200,000 years. The Upper Cave has produced skeletal remains of palaeolithic Homo sapiens sapiens. As well as human artefacts associated with these remains, the site has been the source of some spectacular remains of animals who also used the cave, such as complete skeletons of cave bear, cave hyaena and (of palaeolithic date) a tiger skeleton.

Although originally a cave, Locality 1 is now a deep trench, with archaeological stratification 46 metres deep. The archaeological strata are unstable, as is the cave roof (consisting of breccia), wherever this still exists. The mission suggested that the trench should be roofed over to prevent further erosion of the sides, with public access being provided via the Upper Cave. The museum display dates from 1972 and does not do justice to the finds. The mission recommended that the master plan of the site should be prepared giving priority to the remodelling of the museum facilities and Locality 1-Upper Cave. To do so, it was recommended that a specialist in museum design be commissioned and it was agreed, in principle, by the Chinese authorities concerned that all the necessary maps, information on the existing buildings will be compiled of the site and a geophysical survey of Locality 1-Upper Cave be completed within a period of six months. If a proper remodelling and upgrading is undertaken, this very important archaeological site could became a living World Heritage site, and attract visitors.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 1994
Great Wall; Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties; Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor; Mogao Caves; Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian (China)

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.

Report year: 1994
Date of Inscription: 1987
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (iii)(vi)
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 18COM (1994)

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.