The ancient Silk Road is once again to be the focus of international cooperation as China seeks to have the 2,000 year-old trade route listed as a World Heritage site.
Speaking during the 15th General Assembly and Scientific Symposium of International Council on Monuments and Sites in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, Shan Jixiang, director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, revealed the scheme.
"We plan to make joint efforts with the relevant countries for the Silk Road to be listed as a World Heritage site as soon as possible," he said
Starting in Xi'an, the Silk Road ran all the way to the Netherlands, via South and Central Asia. With an overall length of more than 10,000 kilometers, the road has some 4,000 kilometers in China.
Founded during the Western Han Dynasty (BC 206 - 24 AD), the Silk Road was an important bridge linking East and the West for economic and cultural exchange.
China's paper-making and printing technology, as well as gunpowder and other innovations, passed to the West, while Western mathematics, medicine and astronomy made their way Eastward.
"With such historical and cultural importance, the ancient road deserves to be on the World Heritage List," Shan said.
The application to list the ancient Silk Road as a World Heritage site will need the cooperation of more than 10 countries, Shan said.
Jing Feng, an official with UNESCO's World Heritage Center, said the World Heritage Committee encourages international cooperation. Five countries in Central Asia have already expressed their support for the inclusion of the Silk Road on the list, he said.
However, according to Jing, organizing the logistics of the application could take a long time.
Although China, with 31 listed sites, is familiar with the heritage application, Jing said, countries in Central Asia lack such experience.
He suggested the countries concerned establish a "Silk Road" application group to research and coordinate the application.
(China Daily October 20, 2005)