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Silk Road Sitea Aim at UNESCO World Heritage Listing
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China and central Asian countries on Friday made a blueprint to jointly apply for listing of historical sites along the ancient Silk Road in UNESCO's world cultural heritage list in the next three to five years.

Archeologists and cultural officials at an ongoing multinational application convention in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region reached the agreement entitled "Action Plan for Multinational Application for Silk Road in UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List."

"The action plan will be the initial step of the multinational application," said Gu Yucai, director of cultural relics protection department under the State Cultural Heritage Administration.

Under the plan, countries along the Silk Road would take measures to protect cultural relics, improve the environment at sites, and carry out promotional campaigns, said Gu.

The protection would focus on substantial relics such as ruins and tombs, as well as valuable non-material relics, such as traditional ballads and dances still performed along the route.

The 2,000-year-old Silk Road was mainly a trade route linking Asia and Europe. It extended from the city of Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, to Europe via south and central Asia countries. It was 7,000 kilometers long, more than half of which is in China.

Along this road, gunpowder, papermaking and printing technologies were sent to the West, while Western mathematics and medicine came to China.

In 1987, the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes, also known as the Caves of 1,000 Buddhas in northwest China's Gansu Province, were listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

But in 1994, China had to withdraw its application for the world heritage listing of the ancient Jiaohe City, a cultural relics site along the Silk Road in Xinjiang, because of inadequate preparation.

In the 1990s, countries along the ancient Silk Road began to seek a multinational world heritage application for historical sites along the route, said Tong.

Also in the early 1990s, UNESCO carried out three major inspections of historical sites along the route.

In 2003 and 2004, the UNESCO organized two teams of experts to conduct inspections of the cultural relics sites on Silk Road in China.

Six historical sites in five central Asian countries have been listed separately as world heritage sites, each with its own specialties, according to the UNESCO World Heritage Center's Asia-Pacific Region Program.

"A multinational application will be a better choice if we want to present the whole historical culture of the ancient Silk Road," said Jing Feng, an official with the program.

China began this year a comprehensive protection plan for more than 20 key historical sites along sections of the Silk Road in Xinjiang. Investment for these projects is estimated at 420 million yuan (US$52 million).

Reinforcement of a 3,000-year-old city in Turpan, Xinjiang, started on Wednesday, marking the beginning of the comprehensive project.

The convention, held in Turpan from Wednesday to Saturday, has attracted more than 50 experts and heritage officials from UNESCO and China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan which are expected to make the joint application.

(Xinhua News Agency August 5, 2006)
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