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China Scores Another World Heritage Listing with Yin Ruins
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The 3,300-year-old Yin Ruins located in Anyang City in central China's Henan Province, dubbed the root of Chinese culture, was included on the World Heritage list on July 13 at the 30th Session of the World Heritage Committee (WHC) in Lithuania, a day after the giant panda habitat in Sichuan Province. China now has 33 sites on the list.

It ranks third in the world in terms of number of listed sites, after Italy and Spain.

When Jin Suidong, secretary of the Anyang Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) who is attending the WHC session, announced the good news to anxious Anyang residents by telephone, the entire city erupted into celebrations.

Thousands of people gathered in a downtown square to celebrate with dancing and singing. Top officials from Henan Province and Anyang City attending the celebrations unveiled a set of stamps specially issued for the Yin Ruins.

According to Jin, it took only six minutes for all 21 representatives of the WHC to unanimously agree to include the Yin Ruins to the list after having heard the application report. The WHC spoke very highly of the site and regarded the site as being of "universal value".

"The Yin Ruins are one of China's most significant archeological discoveries. After nearly 80 years of scientific research and excavation, abundant academic results have been achieved," the State Administration of Cultural Heritage said in a letter of congratulations that was sent to Anyang City.

"The Yin Ruins' inclusion on the World Heritage List indicates the international society's acknowledgement of their great historic, scientific and cultural value."

Lying about 2 km northwest of Anyang City, the Yin Ruins cover an area of 30 square km. It was once the capital of the Shang Dynasty empire 3,300 years ago and is the first capital ruins with a historical record confirmed by oracles and archaeological excavations. "Yin" was the ancient name for the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC-1100 BC).

The ruins have been dubbed the "cradle of Chinese archaeology" by archaeologists. Excavations have revealed tombs, foundations of palaces and temples, bronzes, jade carvings, lacquer ware, white carved ceramics, green-glazed ware and oracle bones. One of the most significant discoveries are inscribed animal bones and tortoise shells, known as the oracle bones, which carry the earliest known examples of Chinese characters. Since its excavation in late 19th century, more than 150,000 pieces of animal bones and tortoise shells bearing inscriptions recording harvests, astronomical phenomena, worship rituals and wars have been unearthed here, providing scholars with valuable historic and linguistic information.

The ruins also bear witness to the prime of China's bronze age. The four-legged bronze cauldron Simuwu Ding, measuring 133 cm in height and weighing 875 kg, is the world's biggest bronze ware item ever excavated.

The asymmetric city layout, which has been adopted by many Chinese cities including Beijing for over 3,000 years, also originated from these ruins.

Since July 12, a film that documents the five years that local authorities spent bidding for World Heritage inclusion has been playing on local TV stations. Anyang submitted its application in April 2001 and since then many experts have come to the place to do research and evaluation. As part of protection and conservation efforts, local government invested over 200 million yuan, of which 31 million yuan were donated by local citizens, and 688 households were relocated.

In a speech broadcast live on TV, Li Chengyu, the governor of Henan Province, also expressed his thanks to experts and technicians as well as many ordinary work staff who have been engaged in protecting the Yin Ruins: "The successful inclusion of the Yin Ruins on the World Heritage List signifies that the protection work of the ruins and the development of the cultural industry in Henan Province has entered a new stage. We will spare no effort and continue to protect, display and explore the great value of the Yin Ruins."

The Anyang folk are equally thrilled about the World Heritage listing. Wang Guang, a taxi driver, was very excited to hear the news because he witnessed the work that the local authorities have done to improve the environment: "Most people travel to Anyang to see the Yin Ruins. It takes only 20 minutes now by taxi from downtown Anyang. This World Heritage listing will surely attract more tourists and greatly promote the city's image. September and October are the best times to visit Anyang."

Feng Xi, a junior college student majoring in Chinese culture is more concerned about the protection post-listing: "The value of the Yin Ruins is eternal and can never be denied. The research on and protection of it should never stop. Of course, World Heritage listing will attract more attention from the world, and enable people to better understand the long history of Chinese civilization."

According to local government sources, Anyang has been exploring new methods to better protect cultural relics at the ruins. In cooperation with the Archeology Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, they established an information and archive database for all the cultural relics unearthed in the place and built the Yin Ruins Museum to display them.

Dong Yongan, mayor of Anyang, said that the successful inclusion of the Yin Ruins on the World Heritage List is one of the biggest cultural events in Anyang's history.

"Thanks to the efforts of Anyang's 5.3 million people and the support of experts from all over the country, the Yin Ruins have become the window to a better understanding of Chinese culture and history. The Yin Ruins are not only Anyang's or China's but they also belong to the world."

Dong vowed that local authorities will take this opportunity to further increase awareness of cultural heritage protection.

Related stories:

China Refuses to Give up Claim for Return of Yin Ruins Relics

Giant Panda Habitat Makes World Heritage List

(China.org.cn by staff reporter Wang Qian, July 14, 2006)

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