Suzhou: Preserving Harmony, Encouraging Development
Attracting millions of tourists each year, the classical gardens of Suzhou, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1997, represent an undisputed stimulus for the local economy and a conservation challenge.
The Director-General saw their popularity first hand when she visited the site where four elements – water, carved rocks, trees and pavilions – combine to form a peaceful and harmonious natural landscape dating back to the Ming Dynasty.
“We wish to become a model historic and cultural city,” explained the Vice Mayor of Suzhou, XuHui Min to Ms Bokova on 13 May. “We have become China’s ninth richest city in the country in terms of GDP but at the same time our focus is on protecting the ancient gardens and restoring the city’s old houses.”
“As China moves very quickly towards modernity, UNESCO appreciates your efforts to preserve the tradition and authenticity of the Suzhou Gardens,” said Ms Bokova. Asked for her advice, Ms Bokova said, “I would encourage you to keep a prudent and cautious approach so that you never become the victim of your success.”
The Director-General visited the World Heritage Institute of Training and Research for the Asia and the Pacific region, located in “The Couple’s Garden Retreat.” The UNESCO-affiliated institute, inaugurated in 2008, specializes in monitoring and measuring World Heritage, educational activities and training and research on traditional architecture. She commended their range of activities and encouraged them to deepen cooperation in the region by reaching out and helping other countries.”