When it comes to World Heritage Sites, China is tied with Italy for first place. Each country has 55 World Heritage Sites. China has 14 natural and 37 cultural sites vs Italy’s five natural and 50 cultural.
A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area, selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance, which is legally protected by international treaties. The sites are judged to be important for the collective and preservative interests of humanity.
To be selected, a World Heritage Site must be an already-classified landmark, unique in some respect as a geographically and historically identifiable place having special cultural or physical significance (such as an ancient ruin or historical structure, building, city, complex, desert, forest, island, lake, monument, mountain, or wilderness area). It may signify a remarkable accomplishment of humanity, and serve as evidence of our intellectual history on the planet.
The sites are intended for practical conservation for posterity, which otherwise would be subject to risk from human or animal trespassing, unmonitored/uncontrolled/unrestricted access, or threat from local administrative negligence. Sites are demarcated by UNESCO as protected zones. The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Program administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 “states parties” that are elected by their General Assembly.
The reason Italy and China are tied for 1st place is because Italy was home to the Roman Empire (27 BC to 1453 AD) and China to the Han (206 BC – 280 AD), Tang (618 – 907 AD), and Qing (1368 – 1644 AD) Dynasties.
National Interest.org says, “Contrary to the common perception of China being historically isolated and weak, many Chinese dynasties were very powerful and have had a profound impact on global history. … The Han Dynasty ruled China for a solid four centuries, from 206 B.C.E. to 220 C.E. Although the preceding Qin Dynasty unified China, it was the Han Dynasty that kept it together and developed the institutions that characterized most of Chinese history since. …
“After the Han Dynasty collapsed due to civil war, China entered a period of disunity until being reunited by the Sui Dynasty, which was subsequently succeeded by the Tang Dynasty, which ruled China from 618-907 C.E. The Tang Dynasty was one of China’s most cosmopolitan and urbane dynasties, opening China up to a period of foreign influences. The Tang Dynasty was also likely China’s largest and most powerful dynasty in history and is considered the golden age of imperial China.”
The Qing Dynasty was China’s last and one of its greatest from 1644 to 1911. The National Interest explains why, “The Qing were the first Chinese state to effectively control regions like Tibet, Xinjiang, Manchuria, and Mongolia, peripheral regions that were inhabited by people that had always harassed China.”