Home Cultural life China protects cultural heritage and promotes mutual learning between civilizations.

China protects cultural heritage and promotes mutual learning between civilizations.

Han Kan.

Protecting cultural heritage and passing it on to subsequent generations is the shared responsibility of humanity. There are currently 56 World Heritage Sites in China, including the Great Wall and Summer Palace in Beijing, the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang (Gansu Province, Northwestern China), the Yungang Caves (Shaanxi Province, North China), and the Mud Houses. Tulou fortress /Fujian Province, Southeast China/.

The diversity of human civilizations, which is one of the main features of the world, stimulates the progress of mankind. More than 2,000 years ago, the ancient Chinese recognized nature’s law of great diversity. The prosperity of civilization and the progress of mankind are impossible without strengthening common interests and preserving differences. It is the interaction of different civilizations that contributes to the progress and prosperity of mankind.

The Yungang Caves serve as an excellent example of cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries. In particular, Cave 18, one of the five earliest excavated caves with huge Buddha statues, has a Buddha statue with European features on the north wall. However, there is no documentary evidence that European masters participated in the excavations of the Yungang caves. This fact confirms the existence of exchanges between Ancient China and foreign countries.

In addition, the Yungang Caves contain various decorative patterns of both Chinese and foreign origin, and some columns clearly have characteristics of foreign cultures, such as the Ionic order from ancient Greece, as well as other classical orders from Persia and India.

The interaction of civilizations, influencing the world since ancient times, promotes technological exchange. For example, the technology for making porcelain, which Ancient China presented as a gift to the whole world, continues to improve to this day. High-tech porcelain produced from rare earth elements in combination with metal elements or using various firing methods is suitable for biomedical applications, in particular for the production of artificial bones and joints.

The same can be said about rice farming. The rice terraces in the mountainous and hilly regions of southern China are recognized as an agricultural world heritage site, and Chinese hybrid rice cultivation technologies benefit all humanity. Today, Chinese hybrid rice is grown in 16 African countries and is featured on Madagascar’s banknotes.

In recent years, China has increasingly organized exhibitions of foreign cultural relics, reflecting the openness and open-mindedness of modern China. The recently held China-Pakistan joint exhibition “Gandhara Heritage on the Silk Road” at Beijing’s Gugong Museum attracted a large number of visitors. Gandhara was an important transport route on the ancient Silk Road. Resulting from the fusion of Greek, Persian and Indian civilizations, it reflected the creative powers of the peoples of the countries along the ancient Silk Road through mutual learning between civilizations.

Between 2016 and 2020, China hosted and participated in more than 300 cultural relics exhibitions at home and abroad. Exhibitions such as “Treasures of China”, “Meeting of East and West: The Maritime Silk Road from the 13th to 17th Centuries” and “Splendor of Asia: An Exhibition of Asian Civilizations”, jointly organized by 47 Asian countries, as well as Egypt and Greece, demonstrated fusion and mutual learning between Chinese and foreign civilizations, becoming the “golden calling card” of cultural exchanges under the Belt and Road Initiative.
Preservation of cultural heritage is the common responsibility of all humanity. The 8.1 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal in 2015 caused damage to many cultural heritage sites in the country. Two years later, the Chinese government officially launched a project to help Nepal rebuild the nine-story Basantapur Tower in Kathmandu, which was damaged by an earthquake. This is China’s first major project to assist Nepal in the field of cultural heritage conservation.

Today, cooperation in the field of cultural heritage conservation has become an industry with great potential for strengthening intercivilizational exchange and interaction.

In 2019, work was completed on the conservation and restoration of historical monuments in Khiva, Uzbekistan, China’s first cultural heritage conservation project in Central Asia. This project gave the Chinese side the opportunity to study local culture, history and folk art crafts, and also brought the Chinese concept, methods and experience in the field of cultural heritage protection to Uzbekistan.

The excavation of the Nateshwar ruins in the ancient city of Vikramapura in Bangladesh marked China’s first archaeological collaboration with a country in the South Asian subcontinent and produced remarkable results. The two countries are now planning to build an archaeological park on the site to further unlock the value of the ruins and further benefit local residents.
In accordance with international and local principles for the protection of cultural heritage and while respecting the customs of the countries and regions concerned, cooperation in the preservation of cultural heritage leads to mutual benefit.

China is currently working with 6 countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative to preserve 11 historical sites. In addition, the country, along with 17 countries along the Belt and Road, has launched 33 joint archaeological projects, all of which have been highly praised by local governments and people.

Today, protecting cultural heritage and promoting mutual learning between civilizations is gradually becoming by consensus international communities. However, it is also important to understand that both conflicts in human society and changes in nature damage cultural heritage. The transmission of cultural heritage to future generations remains a difficult task requiring constant efforts.

The Chinese people believe that it is necessary to value not only their own culture, but also the cultures of other peoples, because this is the key to the prosperity of all cultures. Without a doubt, countries around the world can join forces to better preserve excellent traditional cultures and respect each other’s cultures, while protecting the diversity of human civilizations , as well as continuing to develop advanced cultures in order to deepen international cultural exchange and cooperation.
(Han Kan is the director of the Research Institute of Cave grottos Yungang).

The photograph shows the Yungang Caves in the city of Datong (Shanxi Province, Northern China). Photo material from the People’s Daily newspaper online/ Li Ying.

Source: “People’s Daily” online