With changes taking place in social and economic conditions, a growing number of ancient ethnic traditions, cultures, customs, modes of living and environments are suffering from increasing serious threats of destruction. It is detrimental not only to unique and precious cultural heritage but also to the historical, social and psychology dignity of local nationalities.
On November 6, 1972, the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at its 17th session adopted the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. In 1976, UNESCO set up the World Heritage Committee, an inter-governmental cooperative body, under the Convention. The committee is responsible for including cultural and natural treasures of outstanding universal value on the World Heritage List.
World heritage is divided into three types: natural, cultural (including cultural sites) and the combination of natural and cultural heritage. All sites on the World Heritage List receive financial and technical aid. In the meantime, they become better known worldwide and are protected by pressure from the international community.
China ratified the Convention in 1985, becoming a contracting party, and became a member state of the World Heritage Committee on October 29, 1999. In 1986, China began to identify and nominate sites on its national territory to be considered for inscription on the World Heritage List. So far, the number of its sites on the List has reached 35.
Nomination and inclusion of natural and cultural properties on the World Heritage List is nonetheless the final goal of world heritage work. World Heritage conservation is a continuous process. Listing a site does little good if it subsequently falls into a state of disrepair or if a development project risks destroying the qualities that made the site suitable for World Heritage status in the first place. The final goal of highlighting those most valuable representatives and carriers of information and beauty throughout history and in our natural environment arouses mankind's attention to protect and preserve them for future generations.
(China.org.cn July 29, 2007)