Cambodia played a leading role earlier this year when two historical sites in China were given special status by UNESCO during a meeting in Phnom Penh.
On June 16-27 this year, Cambodia hosted the 37th World Heritage Committee meeting and during that meeting World Heritage status was given to two famous places in China – the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces and Xinjiang Tianshan.
Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who was chairman of the meeting, said after the two sites were listed: ‘‘On behalf of the entire committee, I would like to extend congratulations to China for the inscription of the beautiful site of the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces on the World Heritage List.’’
According to notes taken at the 37th World Heritage Committee meeting, ‘‘the cultural landscape of the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces in China covers 16,603-hectares in Southern Yunnan. It is marked by spectacular terraces that cascade down the slopes of the towering Ailao Mountains to the banks of the Hong River.
‘‘Over the past 1,300 years, the Hani people have developed a complex system of channels to bring water from the forested mountaintops to the terraces.
‘‘They have also created an integrated farming system that involves buffalos, cattle, ducks, fish and eel and supports the production of red rice, the area’s primary crop. The inhabitants worship the sun, moon, mountains, rivers, forests and other natural phenomena including fire.
‘‘They live in 82 villages situated between the mountaintop forests and the terraces. The villages feature traditional thatched ‘mushroom’ houses.
‘‘The resilient land management system of the rice terraces demonstrates extraordinary harmony between people and their environment, both visually and ecologically, based on exceptional and long-standing social and religious structures.
‘‘Xinjiang Tianshan covers a total area of 606,833 hectares. They are part of the Tianshan mountain system of Central Asia.
“The area contains a scenically beautiful series of areas, including spectacular snow-capped mountains and glacier-capped peaks, undisturbed forests and meadows, clear rivers and lakes and red bed canyons.
‘‘It is home to 15,953 glaciers and the endangered snow leopard. About 66 per cent of the world’s 2,500 remaining snow leopards live in Xinjiang.
‘‘These landscapes contrast with the vast adjacent desert landscapes, creating a striking visual contrast between hot and cold environments, dry and wet, desolate and luxuriant.
‘‘The landforms and ecosystems of the site have been preserved since the Pliocene epoch and present an outstanding example of ongoing biological and ecological evolutionary processes.
“The site also extends into the Taklimakan Desert, one of the world’s largest and highest deserts, known for its large dune forms and great dust storms.
‘‘Xinjiang Tianshan is moreover an important habitat for endemic and relic flora species, some rare and endangered.’’