The Great Wall (China) (C 438)
Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 1987
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/438/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/438/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Previous monitoring missions
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Underround transport infrastructure (Proposed high-speed railway between Beijing and Zhangjiakou, with station at Guntiangou)
- Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
- Interpretative and visitation facilities
- Materials and techniques used in restoration works undertaken in Suizhong County, Liaoning Province (issue resolved)
- Partial collapse of some platforms (issue resolved)
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/438/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2019
On 26 November 2018, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/438/documents/, which provides the following information:
- The legal system for protecting of the property has been improved through the revised Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Cultural Relics, the Regulation on the Protection of the Great Wall, and other documents. Revision of legal protection and management continues at the provincial level;
- The Master Plan of the Great Wall 2018-2035 was finalized in 2018, and has been approved by the State Council and circulated for implementation. Technical Regulations for Implementation of Repair Projects of the Great Wall of China have also been prepared;
- Requirements have been strengthened for Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs), archaeological surveys, landscape assessments and evaluation of the property’s spatial relationship with protected areas;
- An HIA for the Beijing-Zhangjiakou Inter-City Railway concluded that the underground railway and station buildings would have no major impact on the Badaling section of the property and its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV);
- In response to the 2018 floods in China, safety risks have been evaluated in order to eliminate potential threats and avoid damage to the property. Involvement of local-level heritage conservation authorities in this process will increase their capacity;
- There has been further development of approaches to conservation by Chinese cultural heritage conservators, including articulation of a series of five guiding principles for conservation practices at the property;
- Research-oriented conservation and restoration projects, involving plans to explore of the use of artificial intelligence, drones and 3D modelling, were launched at the Ming-Dynasty Jiankou Pass and Xifengkou Pass sections of the Great Wall;
- A number of training and capacity-building activities occurred in 2016 and 2017, targeting conservators, site managers and officials;
- Public/private partnerships and fundraising initiatives are being encouraged for conservation activities, awareness raising and education outreach. The ‘Alliance for the Conservation of the Great Wall’, a coordination body placed under the guidance of the National Cultural Heritage Administration (NCHA), has been established and public fundraising has provided assistance to local communities in Hebei Province;
- A cooperation agreement has been signed with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to share experience and knowledge between the Great Wall of China and Hadrian’s Wall, with a first symposium organized in Newcastle, United Kingdom, in 2018, and a second symposium to be held in China in 2019.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM
Improvements to the legal system and framework for the conservation and management of the Great Wall at the national and local levels are welcome and should continue. In particular, it is recommended that the Committee encourage the State Party to implement the Master Plan of the Great Wall 2018-2035 following approval by the State Council of China.
New regulations concerning impact assessments for projects that may affect the property, which are now to be submitted to NCHA for approval prior to their implementation, are also welcome. However, the 2015 assessment of the Beijing-Zhangjiakou Inter-City Railway does not follow the ICOMOS Guidelines on HIAs, as requested by the Committee. The State Party should ensure that future HIAs follow this model. The implementation of the Beijing-Zhangjiakou Inter-City rail line project occurred before feedback was obtained from the Committee and Advisory Bodies, and it is recommended that the Committee remind the State Party of the prescriptions of Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines and of the need to receive and respond to feedback for projects before any irreversible decision or action occurs.
The reported conservation actions, including the use of appropriate materials and techniques, in accordance with Decision 41 COM 7B.86, are welcome, as is the intention to use new technologies for conservation. Information on these processes and outcomes might be made available as good practice cases, through the World Heritage Centre website. The five guiding principles for conservation and restoration activities at the property (protection of the original state of the Great Wall; minimal intervention; preventive conservation; categorization of heritage; protection by grade according to the state of conservation) should extend to all conservation and training activities.
The training activities and opportunities for different stakeholders who are involved in the conservation and promotion of the Great Wall, including local communities, are to be encouraged. Similarly, programs to increase funding through public/private partnerships and the creation of the Alliance for the Conservation of the Great Wall are positive initiatives. It is recommended that the Committee encourage the State Party to share the overall guiding principles for the conservation and management of the property and user-friendly versions of the legal and management frameworks with stakeholders. The State Party’s efforts toward international cooperation, notably with the United Kingdom, are also welcome and, in due course, examples of such good practices might also be shared online.
The State Party has not provided information in response to the Committee’s request in Decision 41 COM 7B.86 concerning the need for sustainable tourism management. No information has been provided about how the construction of the new railway and station may influence visitor numbers, nor about any measures to address this issue. The 2015 HIA does not adequately address this important question for a property that already suffers from potential over-tourism, nor does it engage directly with concerns expressed in the Statement of OUV, that “the authenticity of the setting of the Great Wall is vulnerable to construction of inappropriate tourism facilities”. In view of the increased influx of tourists foreseen in coming years, it is recommended that the Committee urge the State Party to establish and implement a sustainable tourism management strategy for the property as soon as possible. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies stand ready to support the State Party in this regard, if needed, notably through the Sustainable Tourism Programme.
Decision Adopted: 43 COM 7B.58
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/19/43.COM/7B,
- Recalling Decision 41 COM 7B.86, adopted at its 41st session (Krakow, 2017),
- Commends the State Party’s efforts to update and revise the legal and management frameworks for the property, encourages it to continue this work, to ensure that regulations are implemented harmoniously at all levels, and to implement the Master Plan of the Great Wall 2018-2035 following approval by the State Council of China;
- Welcomes the new regulations concerning impact assessments for projects that may have an impact on the Great Wall and its setting, but regrets that the implementation of the Beijing-Zhangjiakou Inter-City rail line project occurred before feedback was obtained from the World Heritage Committee and Advisory Bodies and without the submission of a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) in keeping with the ICOMOS Guidelines on HIAs for Cultural World Heritage Properties, as requested by the Committee in Decision 41 COM 7B.86;
- Reminds the State Party to comply fully with the prescriptions of Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines and to obtain and respond to feedback for projects before any irreversible decision or action occurs;
- Also welcomes the conservation activities carried out by the State Party and also encourages the State Party to continue its efforts to use appropriate materials and techniques; notes the State Party’s intention to use new technologies for conservation and documentation of the Great Wall and further encourages the State Party to make the information on the processes and outcomes of these activities available as good practice cases, notably through the World Heritage Centre website;
- Further welcomes the State Party’s capacity-building and research efforts and encourages furthermore the State Party to continue providing regular training opportunities to all those involved in the conservation and promotion of the property, including local communities;
- Also notes the State Party’s initiatives to increase funding through public/private partnerships and fundraising for the benefit of the property and encourages moreover the State Party to share the overall guiding principles for the conservation and management of the property, and user-friendly versions of the legal and management frameworks, with all stakeholders involved;
- Welcomes furthermore the State Party’s international cooperation initiatives with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and considers that, in due time, the States Parties involved should share information about this initiative and good practice, including through the World Heritage Centre website;
- Reiterates its concern that the State Party has not provided requested information indicating how the proposed new station at the Badaling section of the Great Wall may affect the already high number of visitors, or what measures are proposed to address this issue, and urges the State Party to:
- Ensure that the potential impacts arising from increased visitation are addressed as part of a sustainable tourism management strategy to be prepared for the property,
- Take all necessary measures to mitigate the impacts of mass tourism on the property,
- Take all necessary measures to minimize the cumulative impacts of tourism infrastructure on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, especially with regard to sight lines to and from the Great Wall;
and further notes that the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies stand ready to support the State Party in this regard, if needed, through the Sustainable Tourism Programme;
- Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2020, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 45th session in 2021.