Situated within the Wuling Mountain Range and covering an area of 40,300 hectares, Fanjingshan (Fanjing Mountain) in southwest China's Guizhou Province was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List on July 2. The addition of the site has brought China's total number of World Natural Heritage Sites to 13, the most of any single country in the world.
Fanjing Mountain, located in Tongren City in the eastern part of the province, is the fourth world natural heritage site in Guizhou and the only natural site proposed by China to the UNESCO 42nd World Heritage Committee for 2018. Guizhou now boasts the largest number of world natural heritage sites in China. Fanjing Mountain is the first site in the province to apply for world natural heritage site status as an independent site rather than submitting a group application as was the case with the other three.
The World Heritage List currently numbers 1,092 sites in 167 countries. According to UNESCO's website, to be included on the list sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one of the 10 selection criteria explained in the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention. China now has 53 world heritage sites.
Fanjing Mountain went through a rigorous process to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In an assessment report of nominations released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in April, the union referred Fanjing Mountain's nomination back to China, suggesting the country answer questions such as how to distinguish the overlapping functions of different government departments at the site; how to ensure the relocation of residents living within the boundaries of the nominated property is conducted on a voluntary basis; and how to manage the increase in tourists following its possible inscription.
"We explained to IUCN our new policies which place mountains, rivers, forests, farmland, lakes and grassland under the management of the Ministry of Natural Resources, our plan to control the number of tourists to the mountain, as well as our policy regarding the voluntary relocation of local residents, and they were satisfied," said Liu Yuan, an official with the National Park Administration.
The mountain, located in a mid-subtropical zone, has a humid climate affected by the East Asian monsoon and diverse weather systems at different altitudes from 500 to 2,570 meters above sea level. These, combined with the mountain's isolation, contribute to the biodiversity of the site.
The mountain, which has been dubbed "the gene database of China," is home to 4,395 plant species and 2,767 animal species, including endemic species such as the Fanjing Mountain fir tree and the Guizhou snub-nosed monkey, and endangered species such as the Chinese giant salamander, the forest musk deer and Reeve's pheasant. The selected property also contains 64 plant and 38 animal species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. There are only about 750 Guizhou snub-nosed monkeys left and all are found on Fanjing Mountain.
As an ecological island on a metamorphic dome emerging from a vast ocean of karst hills, Fanjing Mountain has a number of rare rock formations that took shape over 1-1.4 billion years ago, such as the mushroom stone. The upper part of the 10-meter-high stone is larger than the lower part and appears to be unstable but has in fact stood firm for over 1 billion years.
Another mesmeric sight is the Red Clouds Golden Summit, which is separated into two peaks each 100 meters to the top, with a Buddhist temple on each peak and a bridge connecting the two. Cloud and fog often surround the summit, creating beautiful scenery.
Fanjing Mountain literally means Buddha's Pure Land. It is also one of the five sacred Buddhist mountains in China, alongside Wutai Mountain in Shanxi Province, Putuo Mountain in Zhejiang Province, Emei Mountain in Sichuan Province and Jiuhua Mountain in Anhui Province. Buddhism spread to the mountain during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and thrived during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), when many temples were built and rebuilt. The top of the mountain is shaped like a 10,000-meter-long Buddha lying down. Local residents have regarded the mountain as a Buddha and have paid tribute to it for over 1,000 years.
Following the inscription of Fanjing Mountain, the Guizhou Provincial Government approved an overall plan for the region from 2018 to 2030, which prohibits any construction project that would damage the integrity of the area and caps the daily tourist number at 23,480.
"We will continue to improve infrastructure as well as the management and protection of Fanjing Mountain pursuant to the resolution of the World Heritage committee and the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage," promised Song Xiaolu, head of the Guizhou delegation to the World Heritage Committee meeting.
Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo
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