Yunnan rice fields and Mount Fuji named World Heritage Sites

Unesco recognises the Honghe Hani rice terraces, along with Japan's Mount Fuji

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 June, 2013, 6:33am

China and Japan were celebrating last night after the UN granted World Heritage status to the terraced rice fields of Honghe Hani in Yunnan and Mount Fuji.

Unesco said the rice fields in Yuanyang county, in the southeast of the province, reflect "in an exceptional way a specific interaction with the environment mediated by integrated farming and water management systems".

"Carved out of dense forest over the past 1,300 years by Hani people … the irrigated terraces support paddy fields overlooking narrow valleys," the cultural wing of the United Nations said in documents prepared ahead of the inscription.

"In some places, you can see up to 3,000 suspended terraces on the slopes" of Ailao mountains, it said.

Tong Mingkang, deputy director of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, thanked the 21-member World Heritage Committee for inscribing the site on the list and vowed to provide the best conservation for this site. "Hani people will take today as their honey day," he said.

The addition of the rice fields takes the number of World Heritage Sites in China to 45.

Unesco said Mount Fuji, had "inspired artists and poets and been the object of pilgrimage for centuries".

The organisation, which is holding its 37th annual session in Phnom Penh, classified the site as a "cultural" heritage site, rather than a "natural" heritage site.

"The awe that Fujisan's majestic form and intermittent volcanic activity has inspired was transformed into religious practices that linked Shintoism and Buddhism, people and nature," documents prepared ahead of the meeting said.

Mount Fuji, about 100 kilometres southwest of the capital Tokyo and rising 3,776 metres, last erupted around 300 years ago. Images of its peak adorn tourism literature published at home and abroad.

Unesco documents singled out a series of wood block prints by Katsushika Hokusai, the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, saying they "had a profound impact on Western art in the 19th century and allowed the form of Fujisan to become widely known as the symbol of 'Oriental' Japan".

The listing includes the top zone of the mountain and sites spread across the slopes and at the base of the mountain including shrines, lodging houses and groups of "revered natural phenomena", including springs, a waterfall, and lava tree moulds.

"Together [they] form an exceptional testimony to the religious veneration of Fujisan, and encompass enough of its majestic form to reflect the way its beauty as depicted by artists had such a profound influence on the development of Western art," Unesco said.

Thousands of residents in towns around the mountain watched the Unesco vote live on large screens in public halls and cheered when the result was announced. Mount Fuji is the 17th Japanese site to be inscribed by Unesco.

Unesco is holding a 10-day annual meeting in Phnom Penh during which it is considering adding 31 sites to the World Heritage List.

Additional reporting by Xinhua, Associated Press