World Heritage Sites of China

China being one of the biggest nations in Asia and covering 9,596,960 sq km has vide scope for tourists wanting to explore its majestic view of mountains, rivers, deserts and plains. From Beijing to the far flung corners of Xinjiang, one has verity of options to travel around. In China itself, there is some of the most advanced metropolis on the planet, like Shanghai, to mud huts and grass straw abodes in the mountainous countryside.

By of 2003, there were 29 World Heritage Sites in China, of which 21 were Cultural Heritage Sites, 4 were Natural Sites and 4 Cultural and Natural Sites. For this reason domestic tourism is also fast rising. China will make their first large-scale renovations on six world cultural heritage sites - the Ming Tombs, the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, and "Peking Man" Ruins at Zhoukoudian, which is targeted to complete before 2008. Apart from that, China has a well-to-do non-material cultural heritage, one of the richest in the world.

The world famous World Heritage list in China consists of the following:

  • Yungang Grottoes in Datong, Shanxi Province
  • Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties
  • Longmen Grottoes
  • Xidi and Hongcun Villages, Museums of Ming-Qing Architecture in Southern Anhui
  • Mount Qingcheng and the Dujiangyan Irrigation System
  • The Temple of Heaven
  • The Summer Palace
  • The Great Wall of China
  • The Old Town of Pingyao
  • Mount Wuyi
  • Mount Emei and the Leshan Giant Buddha
  • Mount Lushan
  • Taoist Buildings on Mount Wudang
  • The Confucian Temple, Cemetery and Family Mansion in Qufu
  • The Potala Palace
  • The Mausoleum of the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty and Terracotta Warriors and Horses
  • The Mogao Grottoes
  • Mount Huangshan
  • Mount Taishan
  • The Forbidden City
  • Classic Gardens in Suzhou
  • Zhoukoudian, Home of Peking Man
  • The Ancient Town of Lijiang
  • Dazu Rock Carvings
  • Scenic Wonders of Yellow Dragon Scenic Area
  • Mountain Resort and Outlying Temples, Chengde

Yungang Grottoes- Situated in the southern foot of Wuzhou Mountain, west of Datong city in Shanxi Province are found 252 caves and 51,000 statues, representing the marvelous achievement of Buddhist cave art in China in the 5th and 6th centuries.

Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties- Now known as the Imperial Palaces of the Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beijing and Shenyang, it consists of 114 buildings, constructed between 1625-26 and 1783. Inside there is an important library that testifies to the foundation of the last dynasty that ruled China, before it extended its power to the centre of the country and moved the capital to Beijing.

Longmen Grottoes- Located near Luoyang, Henan Province, the grottoes and niches contain the largest and most impressive treasure of Chinese art of the late Northern Wei and Tang Dynasties (316-907). These works were entirely devoted to Buddhist religion and they attained the high point of Chinese carvings.

Xidi and Hongcun Villages, Museums of Ming-Qing Architecture in Southern Anhui- The long-established buildings of Yixian Country, located at the foot of Mt. Huangshan, Anhul Province have long been regarded as typical examples of Anhil-style architecture. The two traditional villages of Xidi and Hongcun conserve to a remarkable extent the facade of non-urban settlements of a type that largely disappeared or was transformed during the last century.

Mount Qingcheng and the Dujiangyan Irrigation System- The two state-level attractions in China is a pearl in the water works construction of ancient China. Both are located west of Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan Province. Construction of the Dujiangyan irrigation system started in the 3rd century B.C. This arrangement still controls the waters of the Minjiang River and distributes it to the fertile farmland of the Chengdu plains.

The Temple of Heaven- Situated in the southern part of Beijing is China's largest complex of ancient sacrificial buildings. Founded in the first half of the 15th century, is a dignified complex of fine cult buildings set in gardens and enclosed by historic pine woods. Its overall layout symbolizes the relationship between earth and heaven which stands at the heart of Chinese cosmogony.

The Summer Palace- Located in northwest suburban Beijing is the largest and most complete regal garden existing in China. First built in 1750, largely destroyed in the war of 1860 and restored on its original foundations in 1886 it's a masterpiece of Chinese landscape. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a pleasant collection of outstanding aesthetic value.

The Great Wall of China- In round 220 B.C., under Qin Shi Huang, sections of earlier defense walls were joined together to form a united defense system against invasions from the north. Erection of the wall continued up to the Ming Dynasty, when the Great Wall became the world's largest military structure. Its historic and planned importance is matched only by its architectural implication.

The Old Town of Pingyao- Pingyao is a small town in central Shanxi Province whose history goes back for over 2,700 years when it was first built during the reign of King Xuan. It's an extremely well-preserved example of a traditional Han Chinese city, founded in the 14th century. Its urban structure shows the evolution of architectural styles and town planning in Imperial China for over five centuries.

Mount Wuyi- Lying in Chong'an County of the northern Fujian Province and covering an area of 60 sq km, is the most outstanding area for biodiversity conservation in south-east China and a sanctuary for a large number of ancient, relict species, many of them endemic to China. The serene beauty of the striking gorges of the Nine Bend River, with its many temples and monasteries, many now in ruins, provides the setting for the progress and spread of neo-Confucianism, which has been prominent in the cultures of East-Asia since the 11th century.

Mount Emei and the Leshan Giant Buddha- The mount rises in the south-western part of the Chengdu Plain and looks like a girl's face with a slender eyebrows, when viewed from a distance, hence the name Emei. The first Chinese Buddhist temple was built here in Sichuan Province in the 1st century A.D. and the addition of other Buddhist temple made it the holiest sites in China. The most notable is the Giant Buddha of Leshan, at a height of 71 m, carved out of a hillside in the 8th century and looking down on the union of three rivers.

Mount Lushan- Sited in Jiujiang City of Jiangxi Province is the well-known mountain known for its long history and rich cultural background. Flowing in the north, the Yangtze River and in the south the Poyang Lake, the mountain rises abruptly between these two water system. The place remained a center of cultural and education in feudal China for several hundred years.

Taoist Buildings on Mount Wudang- Set in the Hubei Province, it's not only a scenic spot but also a scared mountain to the Taoist believers. With high mountain peaks and thick forest it presents a graceful scenic beauty. The main peak, Heavenly Pillar Peak is surrounded by seventy-two peaks. It's said that Zhenwu, a God worshiped by the Taoist disciples was born in this mountain, where he meditated and achieved immortality.

The Confucian Temple, Cemetery and Family Mansion in Qufu- The temple, cemetery and family mansion of Confucius, the great thinker and philosopher, statesman, politician and educator of the 6th-5th centuries B.C. was born in Qufu in the Shandong Province. After his decease, people built the temple to worship him and constructed the Confucius Family Mansion for his ancestors. The family cemetery, by far the largest, oldest and well preserved, contains Confucius' tomb and the remains of more than 100,000 of his descendants.

The Potala Palace- In north-west Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region, is a small hill called the Red Hill. To the Tibetans it's as sacred as Mount Putuo where the God of Mercy is said to live. It has been the winter palace of the Fifth Dalai Lama since the 17th century, symbolizing Tibetan Buddhism and its central role in the traditional administration of Tibet.

Built in the same century, the Jokhang Temple Monastery is an exceptional example of earliest Buddhist architecture in Tibet. There's a golden statue of young Buddha Sakyamuni at age 12, brought to Tibet by Princess Wen Cheng from Chang'an, capital of the Tang Dynasty.

Situated in the western suburbs of Lhasa, Norbulingka Park the summer palace of Dalai Lamas, was built in the 18th century. A masterpiece of Tibetan art, the Dalai Lamas would leave the Potala Palace every spring and spend the summer in Norbulingka. The beauty and uniqueness of the architecture of these three sites, their rich ornamentation and harmonious integration in a remarkable landscape, add to their historic and religious interest.

The Mausoleum of the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty and Terracotta Warriors and Horses- Soon after declaring himself the First Emperor of Qin, he built his own mausoleum north of the Lishan Hill in Lintong, Xian, Shaanxi Province. This archaeological site, which was not discovered until 1974, has still has thousands of statues yet to be unearthed. The emperor is buried here surrounded by famous terracotta warriors, at the centre of a complex designed to mirror the urban plan of the capital, Xianyan. The small figures vary from each other, with their horses, chariots and weapons, they are masterpieces of realism and also of great historical importance.

The Mogao Grottoes- South-east of Dunhuang City, Gansu Province, a wooden-plank road zigzags along the eastern cliffs of the Mingsha Mountain, along the Silk Route, linking caves of all sizes. The 492 cells and cave sanctuaries in Mogao are renowned for their statues and wall paintings, spanning 1,000 years of Buddhist art.

Mount Huangshan- Located in southern Anhui Province it boosts of all the natural charms found on mountains in China, thus known as 'the loveliest mountain of China'. The mountain also presents rich cultural significance. Ancient streets, bridges, archways and villages all have their unique magic and appeal. The odd-shaped pines, magnificent rock structure, seas of clouds and hot springs are world famous as the Four Wonders of Huangshan.

Mount Taishan- With its main peak rising 1,545 m above sea-level, in central Shandong Province, it's been an object of an imperial cult for nearly 2,000 years. The Chinese people refer to it as the 'First Mountain Under Heaven' and 'First of the First Sacred Mountains'. Its artistic masterpiece clubbed with the perfect harmony of the natural landscape makes it a source of inspiration for Chinese artists and scholars and symbolizes ancient Chinese civilizations and beliefs.

The Forbidden City- Also the Imperial Palace in the heart of Beijing, was the palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the last two feudal periods of the Chinese history. Completed in 1911 the layout, size, color and the overall decorations including furniture's reflect the order of the rule and demonstrate the supremacy of the imperial power and the strict hierarchic system.

Classic Gardens in Suzhou- Thought to be most charming in southern China, it lies next to Taihu Lake on the Yangtze River Delta. In total there are nine gardens with several dozen still in good condition today, including the most renowned ones- the Humble Administrator's Garden, the Fisherman's Net Garden, the Lingering Garden and the Circular Hill Villa. They are generally recognized to be masterpieces of the genre. Dating from the 11th-19th century, the gardens reflect the deep metaphysical importance of natural beauty in Chinese culture in their thorough design.

Zhoukoudian, Home of Peking Man- The Dragon Bone Hill north-west of Zhoukoudian, in the Fangshan District, Beijing, was the home of the Chinese nation ancestor, the Peking Man. Till date, it has led to the discovery of the remains of Sinanthropus pekinensis, who lived in the Middle Pleistocene, together with various objects, and remains of Homo sapiens sapiens. The discovery shocked the world as it pushed back the history of mankind some 500,000 years. This excavation site is not only exceptional but also illustrates the process of evolution.

The Ancient Town of Lijiang- At the bottom of the Yulong Snow Mountain in north-western Yunnan Province is the ancient town of Lijiang. The town is screened by a mountain and facing a river, which crisscrosses with ancient streets and lanes paved with vivid color stones and lined up with houses of wood, stone and mud structure characterized by their pretty simple and practical styles. Its architecture is striking for the blending of elements from several cultures that have appeared over many centuries. Lijiang also possesses an ancient water-supply system of great complexity and ingenuity that still functions effectively today.

Dazu Rock Carvings- In Dazu County some 165km away from Chongqing, there are 40 sites of stone carving with over 50,000 statues of Buddha dating from the 9th to 13th century. They are noteworthy for their aesthetic quality, rich diversity of subject matter, both secular and religious, and the light that they shed on the daily life in China during the period, providing exceptional evidence of the harmonious blend of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.

Scenic Wonders of Yellow Dragon Scenic Area- In Songpan County, Sichuan Province one can find a rare site of limestone formation landscape. The 7.5 km long Yellow Dragon Valley is situated at the foot of main peak Xuebaoding, of the snow-capped Minshan Mountains, near the source of the Fujiang River. The water from the melting snow mixes with limestone water from the underground and flows down the mountain terraces resulting in various kind of calcareous deposits that in the sunlight reflect in gold, and from the slope below, looks just like a huge yellow dragon flying down the snow mountain hence the name.

Mountain Resort and Outlying Temples, Chengde- The Qing Dynasty's summer palace, in Hebei Province, was built between 1703 and 1792. It's a vast complex of palaces, administrative and ceremonial buildings. Temples of various architectural styles and imperial gardens mix harmoniously into a landscape of lakes, pastureland and forests. Chengde also provides an panoramic view of the south of the Great Wall.


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