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Jinci Temple Seeks World Heritage Status
After centuries of restoration and additions, Jinci Temple at the foot of Xuanweng Mountain in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province is a garden and architectural complex that was granted national protection by the State Council in 1961 and designated an AAAA scenic area by the State Tourism Administration at January 2001. Now to further protect its gardens, sculptures, steles and ancient trees Jinci Temple seeks a further distinction: World Heritage Site.

Jinci Temple is among 50 other cultural and natural sites listed on the China's "World Heritage Candidate List" -- the first step in applying for World Heritage status. In Shanxi Province alone, three other sites are on the list: Dingcu Village Relics, Ying Country Wooden Pagoda, and the Eternal Joy Temple. Given increasing world-wide competition for World Heritage status, the Chinese government decided not to report this year any heritage sites to the World Heritage Center of UNESCO, waiting instead until next year when the 27th Session of the World Heritage Committee will be held in Beijing. Next year will also be the 2,500th anniversary of the founding of Taiyuan City.

World-wide 690 cultural and natural preservation sites are on the World Heritage list which was created in 1972 when UNESCO's 17th Meeting passed a "World Cultural and Natural Heritage Preservation Treaty" in Paris. China joined and became a signatory state to the treaty on November 22, 1985 ratified by the 13th Session of the Standing Committee of the Sixth National People's Congress. In 1987 the first World Heritage were designated in China: The Great Wall, the Palace Museum, the Zhoukoudian Home of Peking Man, the Mogao Grottoes, the Mausoleum of the First Emperor of Qin in Xi'an and the Terracotta Warriors and Horses. China now has 28 cultural and natural relics on the World Heritage list, ranking third in the world after Spain and Italy.

Each application for World Heritage site designation can promote public awareness about history and civilization. While increasing the cohesiveness of a whole city, the application can have a huge social and economic impact. The most important impact is the better protection of precious historical natural sites. However, designation as a World Heritage site has proved to be a boon for tourism. For example, the year after the Chengde Mountain Resort to Escape the Heat was listed as a World Heritage site, the number of tourists there increased 10 percent. As for Pingyao City in Shanxi, tourism noticeably increased after its World Cultural Heritage site designation.

In the case of Jinci, the process of application began in September 2001 when experts gathered from the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, the Ministry of Construction, the Chinese Academy of Engineering, Tsinghua University, Peking University, Beijing Forestry University and the Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau to make a feasibility study. These experts agreed that the architecture, sculpture, gardens and steles in Jinci Temple do meet the criteria of the World Cultural Heritage in historical, scientific and arts value.

On March 21, 2002, the 28th Session of the Standing Committee of the Ninth Shanxi Provincial People's Congress ratified and promulgated a "regulation on protection of Jinci Temple of Taiyuan," and renovation projects have started according to the "Jinci Temple Preservation Planning."

Taiyuan city in Western Zhou Dynasty (1600-1100BC) was the territory of Tang regime, conferred by Chengwang to his younger brother Shuyu. Shuyu's son changed Tang to Jin because of the Jinhe River flowing across Taiyuan. Descendants built a memorial temple and other architectures in commemoration of Shuyu and his mother, which was called Jinci Temple. The exact date of construction is not known, but according to historical documents, Jinci Temple has a history of at least 1,500 years.

(By Zhang Tingting, china.org.cn staff reporter, June 13, 2002)

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