UNESCO's efforts in identifying the World Heritage significance of the Silk Road

Feng, Jing (2005) UNESCO's efforts in identifying the World Heritage significance of the Silk Road. In: 15th ICOMOS General Assembly and International Symposium: ‘Monuments and sites in their setting - conserving cultural heritage in changing townscapes and landscapes’, 17 – 21 oct 2005, Xi'an, China. [Conference or Workshop Item]


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Abstract (in English)

The UNESCO World Heritage Centre is working together with the Chinese Government on a methodological approach for the preparation of a nomination to the World Heritage List for the cultural properties along the Silk Road. Although the network passed through China, Western/Central Asia and beyond, China is the only country that has placed the Silk Road on its national ‘Tentative List’ of cultural and natural properties considered worthy of nominating for World Heritage status. In August 2003 and July 2004, UNESCO sent expert missions, sponsored by the Netherlands Funds-in-Trust at the World Heritage Centre, to the Chinese section of the Silk Roads in order to research and improve understanding of ‘Cultural Routes’, with a view to its possible candidature for inscription on the World Heritage List. The missions also sought to develop a systematic approach towards the identification and nomination of the Chinese section of the Silk Road, in particular the Oasis Route, which, with the Steppe and the Maritime Routes, is one of three intercultural routes along the Silk Road, relating the story of the Silk Road in a comprehensive manner. There are an impressive number of monuments and sites along the Oasis Route, which extends over some 4,450 km from Xi’an in Shaanxi Province to Kashgar in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. However, almost the entire original road has disappeared-assuming that it ever existed, as much of it consisted of no more than tracks through the desert- and replaced by a four-lane highway. Some uncertainty remains about the best way to proceed and the missions sought to cooperate in the development of an approach and methodology for the identification and nomination of a Cultural Route. The UNESCO missions to China concluded that a cultural route could be defined in terms of space (the route ran through sites, monuments, constructions, buildings, ways and areas of influence), time (the beginning and end of its use, its frequency, intensity and variations) and cultural criteria (impact of spiritual and/or material exchanges; impact on human memory or experience, impact of the volume and nature of the exchanges). The mission recommended the establishment of a Silk Road Nomination Task Force management body to coordinate studies and the preparation of the World Heritage nomination. As a regional follow-up to and extension of the Chinese Silk Road nomination, ideas and concepts will be shared with neighbouring countries, particularly those in Central Asia, that pursue the connection of their most significant properties to the Silk Road to further develop this nomination of serial national and/or transboundary properties. Furthermore, UNESCO ensures the protection of important archaeological sites along the Silk Road of Central Asia, including sites in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. This work has been made possible thanks to the general support of the Government of Japan, which set up a special Funds-In-Trust Cooperation at UNESCO dedicated to the safeguarding of such Silk Road sites, particularly those in Central Asia and China. Four types of heritage routes are currently inscribed on the World Heritage List. These include ‘Transportation Routes’ such as the Semmering Railway (Austria), the Canal du Midi (France) and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (India); ‘Trade Routes’ such as the Frankincense Trail (Oman) and ‘Religious Routes’ such as the Routes of Santiago de Compostela (separately nominated by Spain and France). To these should be added the ‘Linear Monuments’ such as The Great Wall (China), the Defence Line of Amsterdam (Netherlands) and Hadrian’s Wall (United Kingdom). UNESCO has been studying the Silk Roads for many years. Between 1988 and 1997, it carried out a far-reaching programme of research entitled ‘Integral Study of the Silk Roads: Roads of Dialogue’, to raise awareness of the common roots of civilizations and promoting the concept of a plural World Heritage. This project has helped increase our knowledge of the key role played by different peoples in the process of dialogue between the civilizations along the Silk Road. Many aspects of this study have been integrated into the ‘East-West Intercultural Dialogue in Central Asia’ project. In 2001 UNESCO, the National Institute of Informatics of Japan and the Japanese National Commission for UNESCO, launched an innovative ‘Digital Silk Roads’ initiative to explore the possibilities of digital technologies for the preservation and maintenance of cultural artworks, masterpieces, archaeological sites and monuments in Silk Road countries. In November 2002, UNESCO held the International Symposium on the Silk Roads in Xi’an, organized on the occasion of the United Nations Year for Cultural Heritage and the 30th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention. The Xi’an Declaration was adopted, which reiterated UNESCO’s message for the promotion of understanding and the conservation of irreplaceable World Heritage elements of the ancient Silk Road.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Feng, Jing
Languages: English
Keywords: cultural route; Silk Road; World Cultural Heritage; nomination; Operational Guidelines; criteria; World Heritage Convention; historic monuments; integrity; authenticity; management
Subjects: M.WORLD HERITAGE CONVENTION > 06. Operational guidelines
H.HERITAGE TYPOLOGIES > 07. Cultural routes
H.HERITAGE TYPOLOGIES > 09. Historic buildings
Name of monument, town, site, museum: Silk Road, China
ICOMOS Special Collection: Scientific Symposium (ICOMOS General Assemblies)
ICOMOS Special Collection Volume: 2005, 15th
Depositing User: Jose Garcia
Date Deposited: 02 Dec 2010 17:01
Last Modified: 13 Jan 2011 19:15
References: 1. Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, November 1972, UNESCO

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URI: https://openarchive.icomos.org/id/eprint/428

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