Co-hosted by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) and the Henan provincial government, China's 2017 Cultural and Natural Heritage Day kicked off Saturday in Luoyang in Central China's Henan Province.
Focusing on the preservation of cultural heritage across the country, the day, formerly known as Cultural Heritage Day, is marked on the second Saturday of June with a series of events held nationwide to raise public awareness about tangible and intangible culture.
The number of Chinese tangible and intangible cultural heritages listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List reached a total of 50, the second highest number in the world, after Shennongjia in Central China's Hubei Province was added to the list in 2016.
If Kulangsu in East China's Fujian Province and the Hoh Xil Natural Reserve in Northwest China's Qinghai Province, this year's World Heritage candidates from China, make their way onto the list in July, China will have more items on the World Heritage List than any other country.
'Belt and Road' events
This year's theme is "Cultural Heritage and the Belt and Road Initiative." As part of the events, two forums, the Cultural Heritage and Belt and Road Forum and the Forum on Preservation of Belt and Road Major Sites, were held in Luoyang Saturday. Hundreds of state and provincial cultural officials and experts, officials from foreign embassies as well as representatives from international organizations including UNESCO and the World Bank attended the forums.
SACH director Liu Yuzhu delivered the keynote speech at the Cultural Heritage and Belt and Road Forum in which he reviewed China's overseas cooperation in the field over the past 12 years, including the addition of the Chang'an-Tianshan Silk Road Corridor shared by China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan to the World Heritage List in 2014, cross-border archaeological excavations together with 15 countries including Mongolia, Uzbekistan and Iran as well as yet-to-be revealed archaeological excavation projects with Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Efforts to work with Belt and Road countries on heritage preservation will continue to be a focus in the coming future, Liu said.
The Belt and Road initiative "sends a strong message" to enhance dialogue and cooperation between countries and "is an equally valuable platform for world heritage," said Marielza Oliveira, director of the UNESCO Beijing Office, at the forum.
However, with urbanization now taking place at an incredibly rapid rate in China, the country faces grave challenges when it comes to protecting its heritage, she noted.
Experts from cultural and archaeological institutions around the country also shared their views on cultural heritage protection at Saturday's forums.
Apart from academic discussions, several B&R-related exhibitions debuted at the Luoyang Museum Saturday. Featuring a number of first-class relics unearthed from the city's major archaeological sites, some of which date back to as early as the Xia Dynasty (C.2070-C.1600BC), the exhibition showcases the city's unique role as a major transportation hub and cultural center along the ancient Silk Road.
Leading by example
As one of the country's most important historical cities that once served as imperial capital for a total of 13 dynasties, Luoyang is home to three sites included as a part of the Chang'an-Tianshan Silk Road Corridor.
The application of the corridor to enter the World Heritage List was initiated by China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. China's first trans-boundary world heritage, it is also the first stretch of the Silk Road to be included on the list. The UNESCO website describes it as "one of the earliest and most important routes connecting the Far East with Central Asia."
The Han Dynasty (206BC-AD220) Hangu Pass in suburban Xin'an county in the eastern part of Luoyang, is one of the three sites.
Excavations started in 2012 have unearthed a number of important relics such as weapons and the ruins of city walls and a primitive road system that show the 3,000-square-meter pass was a major defensive site along the Silk Road more than 2,000 years ago.
As a new world-class heritage site, the pass is sure to serve as a good model of cultural heritage protection and development for other localities in China.
According to a staff member working at the site, in order to better protect the excavated areas, including a former training ground for soldiers, the excavation team reburied some discoveries after studies were completed instead of leaving them exposed to natural forces.
According to the site's managers, they are thinking about building an archaeological theme park at the location over the next two years to help attract more visitors.