UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee added China’s Xinjiang Tianshan and the cultural landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces to the prestigious World Heritage List in June, bringing China’s total World Heritage Sites to 45, second globally only to Italy.
Xinjiang Tianshan includes unique physical geographic features and visually stunning areas characterized by spectacular snow and glaciercapped peaks, untouched forests and meadows, crystal clear rivers and lakes and brick-red canyons. These landscapes contrast with adjacent vast desert landscapes, creating striking juxtapositions between hot and cold, dry and wet, and desolate and lush.
The rice terraces are found in the Honghe Hani and Yi Autonomous Prefecture of southwest China’s Yunnan Province. “Its terraced landscape exceptionally reflects a singular human relationship with the environment characterized by integrated farming and water-management systems, underpinned by socioeconomic-religious systems which embody the dualistic relationships between people and gods, and between individuals and a community – a system which has persisted for at least a millennium, as evidenced by extensive archival sources,” noted the International Council on Monuments and Sites.
China joined the World Heritage Convention in 1985 and began applying for World Heritage recognition a year later.