Every year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, aka Unesco announces a plethora of landmarks of cultural and natural significance that get inscribed onto its list of World Heritage sites. While in the past, Italy has claimed the seat for hosting the most Heritage Sites, the Roman record has been levelled by China this year, which now tops the Unesco list with a total of 55 sites.
China’s latest addition to the Unesco list is the ruins of Liangzhu, a 5,000-year-old ancient city which is said to give evidence to the earliest urban civilisation existed in the Chinese history. Dating back to 3,300BC, the site was first discovered in the 1930s and consists of relics of 11 dams, cemetery sites, as well as a water conservancy and rice cultivation system that suggest the ancient society had started about 1,000 years earlier than previously thought by archaeologists, according to Xinhua.
As a total of 29 new landmarks have been named as the best places to see in 2019 by Unesco, you may have to make a few travel plans to see them all. But lucky enough here in Beijing, we have seven sites right at our door. So if you haven’t checked them out, read on our beginner's guide below to Beijing's Unesco World Heritage Sites and start exploring these landmarks right at your fingertips.
More about Unesco World Heritage Sites
Aimed at protecting sites 'important to the collective interests of humanity', Unesco has designated 1,121 World Heritage Sites around the globe, among which includes remarkable feats of construction (such as the Pyramid Fields and Angkor Wat), incredible natural phenomena (like the Great Barrier Reef and the Sundarbans), as well as historically vital sites from across the ages (including prehistoric rock carvings and archaeological sites to more contemporary sites such as Robben Island and Auschwitz-Birkenau).
Properties need to meet at least one of the ten selection criteria to be elected on the Unesco list – with this set of criteria ranging from 'represents a masterpiece of human creative genius and cultural significance' to 'contains the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity'.
Unesco selection criteria
(i) To represent a masterpiece of human creative genius.
(ii) To exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the. world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design.
(iii) To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilisation which is living or which has disappeared.
(iv) To be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history.
(v) To be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change.
(vi) To be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria).
(vii) To contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
(viii) To be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features.
(ix) To be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals.
(x) To contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.