China’s Heritage Sites Growing in Popularity

China has 55 World Heritage Sites, and I have been to four of the top ten: the Great Wall, Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City, and the Terracotta Warriors. I have also been to the Ming and Qing Dynasties Imperial Tombs, South China Karst region along the Li River near Guilin, the West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou, the Grand Canal, and possibly a few others I did not recognize when I was looking at the list while writing this post.

In 2012, CNN.com reported, “Tourism boom threatens China’s heritage sites. … Places that were previously very remote and didn’t see a lot of (Chinese) tourists are now seeing enormous numbers arriving because they have the money to travel,” says Neville Agnew, group director of the Getty Conservation Institute, which has worked in China since 1989. “It’s an interesting phenomenon because it’s in complete contrast to the experience in Egypt, where almost all the visitors are foreigners.”

World Atlas.com also reports, “China’s Forbidden City gets more visitors (15 million) than any other UNESCO World Heritage Site.” The Great Wall had ten million.

World Atlas also said, “Although the high number of tourists visiting these UNESCO World Heritage Sites translates to high revenue for the receiving country, the cost of maintaining these sites is also significantly high.”

In 1971, the United States was central to UNESCO’s mission, and the People‘s Republic of China was isolated from the world. China had no world heritage sites and showed no evidence of public religious activity. That all changed after U.S. President Richard Nixon visited China in 1971. The Berkeley Center said, “By the 1980s, China had been recognized with its first World Heritage site and a massive religious revival was underway.”

Tragically, “Nearly half a century later, the United States (with 23 UNESCO World Heritage Sites) has withdrawn from UNESCO (because of President Donald Trump who values nothing but his power, his fame or infamy, as long as he is getting attention from the media, and money even when he has to cheat people to get it), and China eagerly seeks a greater role in the organization, which has recognized China with the second-highest number of World Heritage sites in the world.”

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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