Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

The Four Sacred Mountains as an Extension of Mt. Taishan

Date of Submission: 07/04/2008
Category: Mixed
Submitted by:
Ministry of Construction of P.R.China
State, Province or Region:
Hunan Provincen, Shaanxi Province, Henan Province and Shanxi Province
Coordinates: N27 02 - 39 40 E109 57 - 113 43
Ref.: 5353

The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.

The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

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


Application of "Four Sacred Mountains as an Extension of Mt. Taishan" is an extension application of Cultural and Natural World Heritages of Mt. Taishan. "The Five Sacred Mountains of China" is a cultural integration with long history. Mt. Taishan of "The Five Sacred Mountains of China" has already been listed on the World Heritages in 1987. And the four nominated sites for application include: the Southern Mt. Hengshan (Hunan Province), Western Mt. Huashan (Shaanxi Province), Centural Mt. Songshan (Henan Province) and Northern Mt. Hengshan (Shanxi Province). The core scenic area of the four nominated sites is 54769 ha, and total buffering area is 44658 ha.

"The Five Sacred Mountains" has been worship for over three thousand years from Neolithic Age due to its unique geographical locations and majesty of relative altitude over a kilometre. In 219 BC, Qin Shihuang (First Emperor of Qin Dynasty) held a ceremony of offering sacrifices on the top Mt. Taishan when special national sacrifice codes and systems originated, which was followed by later emperors to show their imperial power's validity and authority. Offering sacrifices to Five Sacred Mountains was held to make the emperors'' achievements informed to all the people and Five Sacred Mountains were regarded as boundaries of their reign. Therefore, as an integration which cannot be divided, Five Sacred Mountains symbolizes the unification and territory in the era of Chinese agricultural civilization.

The political position of Five Sacred Mountains makes them become the common target to which different nationalities worship and sacrifice and contributes to national fusion and unification. Meanwhile, Five Sacred Mountains have also gained their fame of cultural meanings. Five kinds of cultures are the most prominent ones. Firstly, the culture of "five elements". The "five elements" consisting of "water, fire, wood, gold and earth" are considered as the basic substances composing everything on the earth and are considered to promote the selection and formation of Five Sacred Mountains. Secondly, culture of "universal unity", a political concept which can be traced back to The Spring and Autumn Period and The Warring States Period, have been considered as the ideal state of dynasts. The "universal unity" has two major connotations: territorial and political unity, ritual and cultural unity. The "universal unity" has boosted formation and development of sacrifice culture and political position of Five Sacred Mountains. Thirdly, the culture of sacrifice. Systems of royal inspection, hunting on mountain, burning for sacrifice, distant sacrifice, fete and sacrifice with the representative of Five Sacred Mountains sacrifice have evolved in the feudal Chinese society and "fengshan" (offering sacrifice to gods) gradually evolved to be the most important national sacrifice ceremony of royal ones in feudal ancient China. Fourthly, the culture of religion. As sacred places of Buddhism, the Southern Mt. Hengshan and the Central Mt. Songshan, have witnessed the spread and development of Buddhism in China and imposed great influence on other countries especially Asian ones. Fifthly, the culture of landscape. A rich collection of stone inscription and literature works is precious fortune for both Chinese and world literature and arts. The five kinds of cultures are interrelated to each other, which advance the selection, formation, development and spread of Five Sacred Mountains.

Abundant cultural heritages have been reserved in Four Sacred Mountains due to their long history and concernful position, among which there are 24 cultural relics under the state-level protection. There into, there are both substantial ones (a large number of temples, palaces, religious sculptures, cliff inscriptions, poems, travel notes, etc.) and nonmaterial ones (sacrificing ceremonies, myth and legends, etc.). Thus Four Sacred Mountains are witnesses of the development of feudal Chinese society from Shang Dynasty (17th-11th century BC) till Qing Dynasty (1644- 1912).

The Four Sacred Mountains are all more than 1200 meters above sea level, the relative elevation is more than 1000 meters, which in the Geological structure belong to the mountains with block up-warping. The Southern Mt. Hengshan is composed of granite formed during the Yanshan Period, 180 million years from now. The framework of the Western Mt. Huashan came into being 2.7 to 2.3 years from now. The Northern Mt. Hengshan is composed of Paleozoic erathem stratum. The Central Mt. Songshan reserves clear signs of the configurations created by the three Pre-Cambrian land-forming and mountain-forming activities taking place 2.3 billion, 1.85 billion, and 570 million years respectively from now. So, as witness of crustal movement during different geological ages, the Four Sacred Mountains are typical examplication of the forming and evolution of the basin edge block cordillera.

The Four sacred Mountains locate in different climate zones and vegetation zones in China, which represent the typical habitat characteristics of different areas in China. Each mountain has a large number of wild animal and plant resources, and preserves some precious and special kinds. The Southern Mt. Hengshan has the special kind of GleditsiavestitachunetHowexB.k.Lee, currently, there are only two ones in Guang ji temple of The Southern Mt. Hengshan; The panther oak is the unique precious kind of tree in The Northern Mt. Hengshan with no record of such kind of tree left in history, also there are only small number of panther oaks in Tianfengling and panther oaks valley.

The unique natural landscapes and rich historical culture make the Four Sacred Mountains as the famous tourist destination home and abroad from the ancient times


Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Four Sacred Mountains not only have unique nature, long history and rich culture, but also unique integrity ,continuity, specialties and radiation in Chinese civilization make it take the significant position in world culture, especially in Asia-Pacific culture. The nominated Four Sacred Mountains, together with The Eastern Mt. Taishan has formed the Five Sacred Mountains of China. For 3000 years, they have always been the elite of landscape of China, the representative of national territory, the essence of Chinese culture, and the sign of peace and unification. They synthetically reflect the unique natural and geographical characteristics and brilliant heritage of history and culture in terms of mountain culture, mountain structure, mountain landscapes, and harmony between human and nature. Thus, from the view of history, culture, science, beauty and protection, the nominated sites all have Outstanding Universal Value.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The nominated sites have always been the imperial sacrifice place since the forming of system of The Five Sacred Mountains in Han Dynasty, which is protected by decree and national legal system. Nowadays, all of the four sacred mountains belong to the first batch of national park in China, which is protected by relative laws and rules of the state. There into, 24 historic sites as important symbols and remains of the culture of The Five Sacred Mountains have been listed as national important cultural relics to be protected properly, any remedy of which needs to be approved by national responsible authorities and its historical scene should be preserved, buffer zone of which has been delimitated for protection. Therefore its authenticity can be protected better.

There is core region with clear boundaries and buffer zone with abundant area in the nominated site which contains human landscape, geological features and ecosystem with outstanding universal value and authenticity of various relative factors. Establishment of natural protection region of the Southern Hengshan Mountain make it to be region with evergreen broad-leaved forest and unabridged environment of temperate zone in south China, and establishment of Longshan natural protection region of the Northern Mountain is valid to protect periphery environment of natural zoology and cultural relics. There are valid management organizations and regulations in the nominated sites. Special management organizations have been established in every four scared mountains, which equipped with abundance of special technicians and managers, exercisable management regulations were made based on national laws.

Measures above are valid guarantee to protect authenticity and integrity of nature and cultural heritages in nominated sites.

Comparison with other similar properties

Famous cultural mountains with long history distribute all over the world. There are 25 kop type heritages mixed with nature and culture, there into, seventeen of them are cultural heritages (For example, Japan Kii mountain sites), eight are mixed cultural and natural heritages (For example, Tongariro National Park New Zealand). The main cultural connotation of these kop heritages focus on archaeological sites, religion temples, palaces, sculptures, rock paintings, memorial buildings and indigenous cultures. In 1926, famous travelling expert of USA, member of the Royal Geographic Society William Edgar Geil mentioned "The Five Sacred Mountains of China" in the same breath with Islam Mecca and Christian sacred places Canterbury in his works The Sacred Five of China. But from comparison and analysis, it can be seen that the cultural and natural heritage value which Five Scared Mountains owns is that two sacred lands and other similar heritage sites can not own.

1) The uniqueness of the composition. "The Sacred Five of China" is composed of Four Scared Mountains and Eastern Mt. Taishan that are five mountains in different areas according to the "Five elements" culture idea of "East, south, west, north and middle".

2) The peculiarity of nature. Five Scared Mountains respectively own unique geological structure, excellent zoology, majesty image with a relative altitude over one kilometre and peculiar natural sights.

3) The richness of culture. Each Scared Mountain reserves a great deal of material and non-material cultural heritage such as constructions, stone inscriptions, literature arts, sacrifice system, etc.

4) The continuity of history. Worship of The Five Sacred Mountains has been extended over 3,000 years from the beginning of the Neolithic Age. There into, one as an imperial sacrifice (l7th-11th century BC) has been extended from the Shang Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), and now a mess of folk sacrifice continues.

5) Positional significance. As a synthesis of organic fusion of nature and culture, and harmonious apotheosis between human being and nature, the Five Scared Mountains collectively embodies national sacrifice system in the history of China, becomes a symbol of national territory, as well as representatives of peace, unification, development and progress.

6) The worldwide impact. The instauration system, sacrifice system, religion, culture, philosophy and idea of the Five Scared Mountains influences Asian region and other region all over the world.