Displays at the Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province Photo: Courtesy of the Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City

 

Displays at the Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province Photo: Courtesy of the Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City

On Saturday, news from the 43rd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, got people in China cheering in excitement. 

The Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, was listed as a World Heritage Site, bringing the number of such sites in China to 55, tied with Italy for the highest number in the world. 

Welcoming the public

The Liangzhu ruins, which opened to the public on Sunday, is located between the villages of Liangzhu and Pingyao in the northwestern part of Hangzhou. Spread across an area of 3.66 square kilometers, the park provides shuttle bus services so visitors can travel to the many different sites. 

First established around 3,000 BC, the ancient city of Liangzhu Ancient was enclosed by walls 6,000 meters in length. The walls formed a rectangle with rounded corners, with the northeastern and southwestern corners encompassing the natural hills of Zhishan and Fengshan respectively.

The city was a grand capital city with a palace area, inner and outer city and a peripheral water conservation system. The palace area in the center of the inner city was 39 hectares in size, while the inner city covered an area of 280 hectares and the outer city 351 hectares. The water system impacted an area of around 100 square kilometers. 

The Fanshan Cemetery is located in the northwest section of the inner city. A high-grade cemetery about two hectares in size, it was built on top of a high terrace.

At present, 11 tombs have been discovered in the cemetery. Roughly 1,200 burial items have been unearthed, including jades, pottery wares, ivory carvings and lacquerwares. The relics are now kept in the Liangzhu Museum, about six kilometers away from the ruins. 

Passion for history

Although it was raining on the third day of the park’s opening, the weather couldn’t keep visitors away. 

“Tourists can book tickets seven days in advance,” said Yu Yifan, deputy manager of the park’s marketing department, explaining that the park has set up a ticketing system on WeChat.   

“However, tickets are limited to 3,000 a day.”

Yu also noted that all spots have already been booked to July 15, adding that while tickets are free until August 1, after that they will cost 80 yuan ($11.66). 

Michelle Shearer, a visitor from Australia working in Hangzhou, told the Global Times that she booked a ticket on WeChat as soon as she heard the news it had become a World Heritage Site. 

“It is really a good place for people to learn about history and culture,” she said.

Some netizens wondered whether the park knew the results of the application before setting the date of the opening. 

“The opening date was decided a while ago,” said Yu. 

“No matter if the result of the application was good or bad, we were going to open on Sunday.” 

“If we had lost, we might have held a more humble opening ceremony,” Yu joked. 

“However, I was pretty sure that we were going to succeed because Liangzhu was the first name on the World Heritage Tentative List,” Yu noted.

Important evidence

The successful inclusion of the Archaeological Ruins of Liangzhu City on the World Heritage List helps fill in a blank when it comes to East Asian Neolithic city sites on the list. The city itself offers unique evidence of China’s 5,000 years of history. 

“This is the first time that a Chinese prehistoric archaeological site has been selected as a World Heritage Site,” said Chen Xingcan, deputy president of the Institute of Archaeology CASS.

“It shows the origin and development of ancient cultures in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River.”

“Besides Liangzhu culture, representative culture relics from cultures such as the Yangshao and Dawenkou cultures all provide evidence of the country’s long history,” noted Chen.

While the listing has attracted the public’s attention and raised awareness about China’s historical sites, Chen noted that these areas need protection instead of promotion.

“I’m worry that related institutes place more importance on the World Heritage applications than they do actually protecting these sites,” Chen said. 

“I think only World Heritage Sites such as the Forbidden City, Terracotta Army and the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) Tombs actually turn a profit from tourism, the rest of the World Heritages Sites are running at a loss.” 

“We cannot relax after getting the title of World Heritage Site, protection is a long-lasting means to allow us to explore their value.”
Newspaper headline: New Addition