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Slender West Lake and Historic Urban Area in Yangzhou

Date of Submission: 28/03/2008
Criteria: (iii)(iv)(v)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
State Administration of Cultural Heritage
State, Province or Region:
Yangzhou City, Jiangsu Province
Coordinates: N32.25 E119
Ref.: 5327

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Slender West Lake, formerly Baozhang Lake, is located in the northwest of Yangzhou City, Jiangsu Province, covering an area of two square kilometers. In the mid-18th century, the moats and a large number of suburban villas of salt traders along the moats built in different locations and in different historical period (Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties) were connected elaborately and delicately to welcome the south inspection of Emperor Qianlong, thus forming a beautiful belt of the lake with garden scenery combining natural and human landscapes characterized by the most famous 24 scenes of "rolling stone archway, winding water in west park, spring pillow on the long bank, bright cloud in white pagoda" etc. The typical layout of Chinese scroll-type picture was recorded by royal painters and filed in imperial storehouse due to its unique aesthetic value. Thanks to the impact of the south inspections by Emperor Qianlong and the support of its salt economy, Yangzhou had became the garden-building centre in China, represented by classical garden cluster around the Slender West Lake. As well-known as "Yangzhou Gardens is second to none in South China" and "Yangzhou Gardens is the best in China", it embodies the most advanced art in terms of layout, architecture, stone laying, water conservation, plant arrangement, etc. As a masterpiece in garden-building after Yuanmingyuan Park during the reign of Emperor Kangxi in the Qing Dynasty, a lot of experiences can be drawn from it in the construction of the Chengde Mountain Resort.

The historic urban area in Yangzhou refers to the Yangzhou City built on the basis of Luocheng City of the Tang Dynasty and Dacheng City of the Song Dynasty in the Ming and Qing dynasties covering an area of 5.09 square kilometers which made great contributions to the economic, political and cultural development of Chinese feudal society and had a significant impact on world culture. Relying on its highly developed salt economy, Yangzhou still kept strong vitality and had a great influence in the Ming and Qing dynasties. The original city layout, streets and lanes, water system, and ancient and elegant city landscape embody the characteristics and styles of water city in South China. A large number of ancient cultural heritages, such as residential houses, gardens, temples, government offices, old stores, ancient bridges, ancient wells and famous trees that are well preserved in the historic urban area display the city's solid cultural background. Till today, quite a few residents in the area are still engaging in the traditional handicraft production and commercial activities, including lacquer, jade ware, paper-cut, etc. Such handicraft as Yangzhou lacquer and Yangzhou jade ware, and such popular entertainment as Yangzhou Ditty, Yangzhou storytelling, Yangzhou puppet show, etc, have been listed as intangible cultural heritage at national level and have been regarded as precious treasures of Chinese nation.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

As for the criterion (iii):

Slender West Lake in Yangzhou is a typical demonstration of Chinese traditional public tourism destination, representing the taste and life style in Chinese traditional society. He Gar-den and Ge Garden illustrate the changes on people's taste and way of life in the revolutionary phase of China society from feudal to modern times.

As for the criterion (iv):

He Garden and Ge Garden are the representative works and outstanding example of Chinese art of garden design. Slender West Lake is an excellence of the design of Chinese ancient cities.

As for the criterion (v):

Historic Urban Area in Yangzhou shows the principles and thoughts of Chinese city plan and construction, as well as the special way of development of Chinese old commercial cities. Slender West Lake represents the relationship between nature and human within Chinese traditional city, as well as cultural landscape and natural environment.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The long and good traditions of Yangzhou people to built gardens can be traced back to the Western Han Dynasty. According to historical literature, gardens had been built around the Slender West Lake since the Southern Dynasties, and the scale had been gradually expanded since the Tang and Song dynasties. The remained classical gardens are all private gardens built by wealthy salt traders and famous men of scholars in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Detailed record of Slender West Lake Gardens can be found in the historical literature of the Qing Dynasty and during Republic of China period, such as Collection of Yangzhou Painted Boat, Collection of Yangzhou Places of Interests, and in various inscriptions, stone-carving, tablets, paintings, etc. To keep its original landscape, the government has paid great attention to its maintaining and repairing, consolidating rockeries, cleaning water system as well as landscaping.

Since Yangzhou was listed as a historical and cultural city in 1982, the government, together with the coordination and cooperation of the departments concerned such as city planning, construction, heritage conservation, etc., has been actively restoring and preserving the historic urban areas built in the Ming and Qing dynasties. They successively compiled Special Plan for the Protection of the Historical and Cultural City of Yangzhou, Detailed Control Plan of the Historic Urban Area of Yongzhou Built in the Ming and Qing Dynastis, cleared the moat and inner river course in the historic urban area to guarantee their functions of water supply, flood discharge and tourism, restored the streets and lanes in the historic urban area, keeping the residing functions of the well-preserved historical blocks such as Dongguan Street, Nanhexia and Renfengli, etc., and evacuated population as planned to increase their vitality. Up to now, over 20 classical gardens have been restored and open to the public for the purpose of bringing their social effects into full play. Such old and famous shops as Fuchun Teahouse, Lvyang Travel Agency, Yangzhou Bathroom, etc, stick to the manual production mode in their traditional site, and carry forward their typical cultural atmosphere. After repairing, various museums have been established on the site of traditional buildings to publicize, inherit and promote Yangzhou's traditional culture. In addition, the cultural heritages, such as city walls of different dynasties, city gates, etc, and former residence of historical celebrities are effectively interpreted to ensure the consistence of Yangzhou culture.

Comparison with other similar properties

As the masterpiece of Yangzhou classical gardens, Slender West Lake is an organic combination of imperial gardens in the north and private gardens in the south of Yangtze River. This is different from Suzhou Gardens listed in the World Heritage List, which are typical private gardens in the south of Yangtze River. Due to the discrepancy in terms of location and cultural background, the difference between these two still lies in: Firstly, Yangzhou lies in the convergence of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal and the Yangtze River, and had been the most important distributing center of goods along the coast in Southeast China and a key economic town for a long time. Developed economy brings prosperous culture. Yangzhou not only became an important place for Chinese men of letter to exchange ideas, but gathered many scholar officials, such as Du Mu, Ouyang Xiu, Su Dongpo, Wang Yuyang, etc., and Cui Zhiyuan, Puhaddin, Marco Polo forged an indissoluble bond with Yangzhou as well. As a result, Yangzhou was developed into a city with cultural diversity and laid the spiritual foundation for the forming of Yangzhou classical gardens. Secondly, convenient transport created conditions for the exchanges of garden designers and craftsmen all over China, thus determining the regional style of Yangzhou gardens characterized by combining "the grandeur of North China" and "the delicacy of South China". Thirdly, most of the owners of Suzhou gardens were government officials; while those of Yangzhou gardens were mostly wealthy salt merchants. Accordingly, the former longed for delicate and complicated layout and elegant style; while the latter paid more attention to open space and personal style. Fourthly, Suzhou gardens can be classified as urban private gardens; while the Slender West Lake be suburban gardens of imperial grandeur.

Compared with Pingyao County of Shanxi Province which has been listed in the World Heritage List, we can find some generalities between Pingyao County and the historic urban area in Yangzhou. For example, both are comparatively developed industrial and commercial cities in Chinese feudal society, whose strong economic strength backed the city's development. However, their differences are more obvious: First, Pingyao was a local city with developed industry and commerce in the middle of Shanxi area; while Yangzhou was a commercial metropolis which affected the economic, political and cultural development of Chinese feudal society. The latter's influence is much more significant than the former. Second, since it is situated in the south of the Yangtze River, Yangzhou is characterized by delicate, elegant and water-friendly features, typical of water cities in South China. The Pingyao City located in North China, however, is more primitive and imposing. Third, as a place with long cultural traditions and attracting a large number of great men of letters, Yangzhou's influence in terms of culture far exceeds that of Pingyao.