ISBN 7119030590Hardcover : 107 Pages / illustration / 190mm X 170mm Foreign Languages Press (2002)
As a world-renowned country with an ancient civilization, China boasts a wealth of cultural relics and historical sites, such as the ten thousand-li Great Wall, the Imperial Palace in Beijing, the Dunhuang Grottoes, and the Potala Palace in Lhasa. In particular, the Great Wall has been called one of the Wonders of the World.
It has become the common responsibility of ail mankind to preserve the natural and cultural wealth created by our ancestors. Moreover, people are becoming more aware of the importance of looking after these priceless treasures so that we can hand them down to later generations. Over the past few decades, people throughout the world have made efforts to various degrees to preserve their cultural and natural heritages. In the third century B.C., the Ramses Dynasty in Egypt established a mouseion, from which the English word "museum" is derived, in the imperial palace in Alexandria. It was a special temple for housing valuable cultural relics. The pyramids of Egypt and ancient structures of many other countries in the world have been preserved by the authorities. China boasts a collection of inscriptions on bones and tortoise shells which date from the Shang Dynasty (18th-11th centuries B.C.). In the Zhou Dynasty, "a great number of famous articles and valuables" were kept in special "collection rooms," and registered in the Records. Besides collecting valuable cultural relics, the local authorities in China throughout history made efforts to preserve special palaces, cemeteries, ancestral temples, mountains, rivers, trees, historical sites, gardens and ponds. There was also a solid folk tradition of preserving public buildings, ancestral temples and guild halls, irrigation works, mountains, rivers and trees through local rules and popular conventions. The details of such preservation measures were inscribed on tablets.
With the development of communications, information transmission and tourism, people have become more aware of the importance of protecting their cultural and natural heritages, especially from damage resulting from industrialization in the modern era. Therefore, some experts, scholars and far-sighted personages of various countries have made appeals for joint protection of the common wealth of mankind, and passed the Athens Charter, Venice Charter, Washington Charter, Lausanne Charter, the Europe and American conventions to preserve archaeological and historical heritages, and the Suggestions on the Protection of the Landscape and the Styles, Features and Characteristics of Relics of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), etc. To further strengthen the protection and management of cultural relics, and get national governments to pay more attention and extend more support to these endeavors, the Convention on the Protection of the World's Cultural and Natural Heritages was adopted at the 17th UNESCO Conference in Paris in November 1972, explicitly regulating the definition and standards of the world's cultural and natural heritage sites, and setting the guiding principle of its implementation, which is a standard international document of far-reaching influence promulgated and carried out by UNESCO throughout the world. One of its main tasks is to determine items of cultural and natural heritage of prominent significance and universal value generally accepted by the whole world, and list them in the World Heritage List as the common heritage of mankind, to promote cooperation and mutual support among people of all countries and ethnic groups, and make active contributions to the protection of this heritage.
To guarantee that all the regulations of the Heritage Convention win the support and cooperation of all countries, the World Heritage Committee (WHC), an organization of international cooperation between governments was founded in 1976, supported by 21 of the signatory states to the Convention on the Protection of the World's Cultural and Natural Heritage. The organization's headquarters is the UNESCO Center for the Protection of the World Heritage. The WHC holds a meeting every year, to mainly engage in three items of work: First, discussing and determining the projects to be proposed for inclusion in the World Heritage List and submitting them to the representative conferences of the signatory states for adoption and promulgation. Second, supervising the World Heritage Fund, and examining and approving the financial and technical support put forward by the signatory states. The fund is composed of one percent of the regular membership dues of UNESCO member states and voluntary contributions from the governments of the signatory states and other organizations and individuals. Despite its small size, the fund has played an active role in promoting the protection of some important items of cultural and natural heritage in many countries, especially the developing countries and underdeveloped regions. Third, monitoring the protection and management of the cultural and natural heritage projects listed in the World Heritage List.
To improve the quality of the work of protection, evaluation, survey and technical support, UNESCO and the WHC consult the International Council on Historical Sites (ICOMOS), International Association for the Protection of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), and the International Research Center for the Protection and Restoration of Cultural Relics (ICCROM), which assist with research and publicity work, as well as offering the services of experts.