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Sacred mountain joins UNESCO list

A SACRED mountain in China that has witnessed centuries of Buddhist history was added to UNESCO's World Heritage List on Friday during the 33rd session of the World Heritage Committee in Seville, Spain.

Mount Wutai in Wutai County, Xinzhou City in Shanxi Province, 230 kilometers from the provincial capital Taiyuan, was added to the World Heritage List. It is comprised of five continuous mountains with flat peaks at altitudes between 2,500 and 3,000 meters above sea level.

UNESCO said Mount Wutai was a "sacred Buddhist mountain" and "the buildings at the site present a catalogue of the way Buddhist architecture developed and influenced palace building in China over more than a millennium."

Director of the Mount Wutai Administration Bureau Liang Yousheng said he was delighted with the decision but that they now have more pressure to preserve the area.

"The success is a new burden that will spur us to better protect the mountain," Liang said. "I feel the pressure."

Buddhist temples on the mountain were built between the 1st century AD and the early 20th century.

Numerous Buddhist constructions, including 68 temples, 150 towers, 146,000 sculptures and many frescoes and tablet inscriptions, have been preserved over centuries on Mount Wutai, Liang said.

Han Jianggen, deputy secretary-general of the Wutai Mountain Buddhism Association, said: "Mount Wutai has been harmoniously combined with Buddhist culture, reflecting the ancient Chinese philosophy of harmony between people and nature."

Mater Changqing, abbot of Wuye Temple, said religious activities are still held in most of the temples although they are banned in a few in order to preserve them.

Wuye Temple is one of the most famous on the mountain and receives more than 3,000 people a day.

Experts had previously blamed the Mount Wutai Administration Bureau for "commercializing" the mountain and making it "too urbanized and too artificial," which prompted the administration to improve its protection work, he said.

But since 2006, the government has pulled down many buildings to protect the mountain's "spiritual atmosphere," Han said.


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