Asian sites get protected in latest UNESCO list

The Tusi Sites of southwest China
The Tusi Sites of southwest China

A series of historic and cultural sites in Asia have been protected by UNESCO, following the latest round of additions to the global World Heritage list.

Five sites in China, Japan, Mongolia, Singapore and South Korea were inscribed on the UNESCO list during the 39th session of the World Heritage Committee in Germany.

In China, the Tusi Sites of Hunan, Hubei and Guizhou provinces were selected due to their importance in tracing a group of ethnic minorities who lived separately across a range of mountainous regions, but adopted a form of central government.

“The sites of Laosicheng, Tangya and Hailongtun Fortress that make up the site bear exceptional testimony to this form of governance, which derived from the Chinese civilization of the Yuan and Ming periods,” UNESCO said.

South Korea also won UNESCO recognition for its Baekje Historic Areas, which comprise eight archaeological sites that feature fortresses, royal tombs and other ancient buildings, and in Mongolia, the Great Burkhan Khaldun Mountain was recognised for its beauty and cultural significance. The site is believed to be the birthplace and burial site of Genghis Khan.

The sites Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution have also been listed, with 11 properties said to “bear testimony to the rapid industrialisation of the country from the middle of the 19th Century to the early 20th Century”.

Great Burkhan Khaldun Mountain
Great Burkhan Khaldun Mountain, Mongolia

But perhaps the most significant inclusion was that of the Botanic Gardens in Singapore. Founded by the British in 1859, the Botanical Gardens have now become Singapore’s first UNESCO World Heritage site.

In making its judgement, UNESCO said the gardens had been an “important centre for science, research and plant conservation… in Southeast Asia since 1875.” It becomes only the third botanic gardens on the UNESCO list, following Orto botanico di Padova in Italy and the UK’s Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

In contrast to Singapore, China now has the second highest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world, with 48. Italy (51) has the most. Following the latest round of inscriptions, Japan now has 19 UNESCO World Heritage sites, South Korea 12 and Mongolia four.

UNESCO recognition not only ensures the preservation of historic sites, but also provides a potential tourism boost for the areas.

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