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Top Choice 01/21/2015 World Heritage China Part 1- Mt. Qingcheng and Dujiangyan


01-21-2015 22:33 BJT

Assessment of the World Heritage Committee

Mt. Qingcheng is one of the places where Taoism originated and also a renowned Taoist mountain. The Jianfu Palace was constructed in the Tang Dynasty and is quite large in scale. The Natural Picture Gallery is a loft built in the Period of Emperor Guangxu in the Qing Dynasty. The Heavenly Master Cave is the place where tourists can see the statues of the “Heavenly Master” Zhang Daoling and his 30th generation descendent “Xujing Heavenly Master.” The present Taoist temples were built at the end of the Qing Dynasty, and they are not only large in scale and delicate in design, but also contain a lot of precious cultural relics and ancient trees.

Built in the 3rd century B.C. on the Minjiang River west of the Chengdu Plain in Sichuan Province, the Dujiangyan is a large-scale water conservancy project constructed by the working people led by Li Bing and his son. Li Bing was the governor of Shu Prefecture during the Qin Kingdom in China’s Warring States Period. Up to now, the Dujiangyan is the oldest and the only large-scale water conservancy project that features “drawing water without a dam” in the world. It has been in use for over 2,200 years and is still in use today. This project built by Li Bing can benefit people for thousands of years and is really one of the greatest water conservancy achievements of the world.

Built in the 3rd century B.C. on the Minjiang River west of the Chengdu Plain in Sichuan Province, the Dujiangyan is a large-scale water conservancy project constructed by the working people led by Li Bing and his son

Built in the 3rd century B.C. on the Minjiang River west of the Chengdu Plain in Sichuan Province, the Dujiangyan is a large-scale water conservancy project constructed by the working people led by Li Bing and his son

Chinese name: Qing Cheng Shan Yu Du Jiang Yan

English name: Mt. Qingcheng and Dujiangyan

Based on the standards C(II),(IV),(VI) for selecting cultural heritage, Mt. Qingcheng and Dujiangyan were listed in the World Heritage List in 2000.

The Dujiangyan, which is a renowned ancient water conservancy project of China, is located on the Minjiang River west of the Chengdu Plain in Sichuan Province, and is to the east of the present day Dujiangyan City. In ancient times, it was called the Du’anyan because it was in Du’an County. The Dujiangyan is at the site where the water of the Min River flows from the mountain to the Chengdu Plain. Before the Dujiangyan was built, flood disasters frequently hit the Minjiang River. In 256 B.C., the Governor of the Qin Kingdom’s Shu Prefecture Li Bing and his son absorbed the water control experiences of their predecessors, organized the local people and constructed many water conservancy projects. After the Dujiangyan was completed, the Chengdu Plain became a wide land of fertile soil and won the title of “Land of Abundance.” This project is still working today, and has become a great and renowned project in the world.

The most important part of the Dujiangyan water conservancy project is the ditch-head project, which is the key facility of the Dujiangyan’s irrigation system. The ditch-head consists of three parts of the Fish Mouth Type Dividing Dike, Bottle-Neck Channel and Feishayan Spillway. The Fish Mouth Type Dividing Dike is a dike built in the center of the Minjiang River. Looking like a big fish lying in the water, the dike divides the Minjiang River into an inner river and an outer river. The inner river is for irrigation and the outer river is for draining floods. The Bottle-Neck Channel is the inlet of the inner river and really looks like a bottle neck. Originally, it was a part of the Tiger-Head Rock of Qianshan Mountain. Based on the current of the river and landform, Li Bing organized people and cut a wedge-shaped channel in the gentler slope of the rock.

The bottom of the channel was 17 meters wide. In the dry season, the water surface of the channel was 19 meters wide, and in the flood season, it was 23 meters. The Bottle-Neck Channel is the inlet of the inner river, and it can effectively control the water inflow. Therefore, it plays an important role for the inner river being “a river freely controlled by the people.” Due to its beautiful natural landscapes, the Bottle-Neck Channel won the title of “Li Dui Lock Gorge” and is one of the “Top 10 Sceneries of Guanyang.” The Feishayan Spillway is a spillway in the middle section of the dividing dike. It can spill the floods during the flood season and also can effectively stop the sand from depositing in and around the Bottle-Neck Channel by using whirlpools caused by the water flowing through the Feishayan Spillway. The Dujiangyan water conservancy project scientifically solved the difficult problems of automatic water dividing, automatic sand draining, automatic flood draining and water drawing, and plays a very important part in irrigation and flood control. It is an amazing project in the world’s water conservancy history.

Due to the unique water conservancy technologies, the Dujiangyan water conservancy project has become a perfect co-existence of human work and nature. A German geographer named Richthofen (1833 – 1905) said in 1872 that the irrigation system of the Dujiangyan was unmatchable in the whole world. In 1986, after the secretary-general of the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID) and the experts of different countries from the International River Sediment Research Institute visited the Dujiangyan, they gave a very high appraisal to its irrigation and sand draining functions. In March of 1999, an official from the United Nations Center for Human Settlements suggested that the Dujiangyan should participate in the “Prize for Best Utilization and Conservancy of Water Resources” held in 2000. The Dujiangyan was the source of the Shu Land’s abundance. It was the irrigation function which allowed Shu Prefecture to win the title of “Land of Abundance.” Now, over 2,250 years have passed after it was completed, it is still playing an irreplaceably important role in China and irrigating over 10 million mu of land. There is no doubt that the Dujiangyan is an extremely great achievement of the world.

Mt. Qingcheng is located 15 kilometers to the southwest of Dujiangyan City in Sichuan Province, western China and is on the south side of the Dujiangyan Canal Headwork. It is part of the Qiulai Mountains and was called Mt. Zhangren in ancient times. It has a circumference of about 100 kilometers, with its main peak standing at 2,434 meters above sea level. It is a famous Taoist mountain and a key national scenic spot and also the important birthplace of Chinese Taoism hailed as a "cave paradise," "earthly fairyland" and the "deepest and quietest place under heaven." As early as the second century B.C., the Qing Dynasty had listed Mt. Qingcheng among the 18 mountains for national sacrificing activities. In 143 A.D., Zhang Daoling, the founder of Taoism, founded Taoism on Mt. Qingcheng and settled in the Tianshi Cave the following year. He established 24 parishes. Since Zhang Sheng, Zhang Daoling's great-grand son, built the Tianshi Mansion on Mt. Longhu, every Taoist master must make a pilgrimage to Mt. Qingcheng for ancestor worship.

Mt. Qingcheng is the fifth cave of 10 Taoist caves, owning the most concentrated Taoist palaces and temples in China which were established in the Jin Dynasty and became prosperous in the Tang Dynasty. All the Taoist palaces and temples were established around the Tianshi Cave, including the Jianfu Palace, Shangqing Palace, Zushi Temple, Yuanming Palace, Laojun Temple, Yuqing Palace and Chaoyang Cave. The existing temples of the Tianshi Cave were established in the late Qing Dynasty, preserving grand and refined statues of Zhang Daoling and his 30th generation descendent Zhang Xujing. Three stone carved emperors of the Tang Dynasty are enshrined in the main temple of Sanhuang Hall. Among the existing stone and wood carved inscriptions in the hall, the most famous include the inscriptions written by Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty and the former and second Chu Shi Biao written by Zhuge Liang and copied by Yue Fei.

There also are some scenic spots such as the San Dao Shi, Xi Xin Chi, Shang Tian Ti and Yi Xian Tian. The Jianfu Palace was established in the 18th Kaiyuan Year of the Tang Dynasty in 730 A.D. and the existing buildings had been reestablished in the Guangxu Year period of the Qing Dynasty in 1888 A.D. It now has a treble-hall, enshrining the Taoist figureheads and deities, and an antithetical couplet of 394 words on the column of the hall and was hailed as the "special scenery in Mt. Qingcheng." The Natural Picture Pavilion is located at the ridge of Mt. Longju and is a ten-horn pavilion with multiple eaves. It was established in Guangxu Year period of the Qing Dynasty between 1875 A.D. and 1909 A.D. These buildings have fully reflected the Taoist idea of pursuing nature. Adopting traditional symmetrical methods and based on topography and landforms, these buildings were cleverly built and the architectural decorations also reflected Taoist pursuit of good fortune, longevity and eternity.

Heritage value

According to the second item of the first article in the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage, a single or connected architectural complex that has prominent universal value in terms of architectural style, distribution and connection with the environment is considered to have world heritage, and according to the third point in the same article, human engineering, combined engineering of labor and nature or archaeological sites that has prominent universal value are said to have world cultural heritage, and Mt. Qingcheng and the Dujiangyan all fit the definition of cultural heritage perfectly. In terms of the authenticity, among the old and well-known water conservancy projects, the Narl-Hammurabi channel built on the Euphrates in ancient Babylonia and the artificial flume of Ancient Rome have already been deserted. Only the Dujiangyan was handed down, which has a history of more than 2,000 years and is the only retained great water conservancy project with the characteristics of drawing water without a dam. It takes full advantage of the local terrain with high land in the northwest and low land in the southeast, and draws water according to the special geography, water vein and hydraulic potential at the mountain pass.

At the same time, it integrates the dike, water distribution, flood discharge, sediment diversion and current control, ensures flood control, irrigation, water transportation and other functions. The construction of the Dujiangyan, which did not destroy natural resources but take full advantage of them to serve humans as the premise, and has a high degree of harmony and unity between humans, the terrain and water, is rarely seen in the world water conservancy projects and embodies the great wisdom and skills of the working people in ancient China. The Dujiangyan is the only great ecological engineering project retained today. Mt. Qingcheng, as an important source of China’s Taoism, was valued throughout history and had an important position either in society or in Taoism. The Taoist architectural complex not only reflects the characteristics of the Taoist architecture from all ages, but also maintains the styles of the southwest architecture. Therefore, Mt. Qingcheng has important historical and religious significance and architectural connotations.

In terms of completeness, the Dujiangyan is well-preserved since it was built more than 2,250 years ago and still works today. The three main parts of the Fish Mouth Type Dividing Dike, Bottle-Neck Channel and Feishayan Spillway, as well as some sub-projects, namely the Baizhang Dike and Renzi Dike, still exist today. As the development of science and technology and the expansion of the irrigated area and channels were rebuilt and reinforced with the technology of laying cobble stones with concrete, some water conservancy facilities were added since 1936. The layout of the engineering and water management strategy did not change.

Dujiangyan is still playing increasingly important role. As of 1998, the irrigated area of Dujiangyan reached 68,700 hectares. Meanwhile, it provides living and industrial water for more than 50 large and medium sized cities and more than 100 industrial and mining enterprises in Sichuan Province. It has become the best water resources utilization model in the world. Mount Qingcheng is a famous Taoist mountain in China, its Taoist architectural complex, various statues, sculptures, cultural relics and inscriptions are all well-preserved. The forest coverage rate reaches over 95 percent and the vegetation coverage rate reaches over 98 percent within the protection zones. The ancient and famous trees are also well-preserved and can be found everywhere. The natural landscape of Mt. Qingcheng is very splendid.

Therefore, Mt. Qingcheng and the Dujiangyan have unique and deep cultural heritage value and are in line with the requirements of world heritage in terms of the authenticity and completeness, and worthy of being called world cultural heritage.

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