» China: Kulangsu Celebrates World Heritage Nomination with Director-General
04.09.2017 - ODG

China: Kulangsu Celebrates World Heritage Nomination with Director-General


Celebrating an exceptional example of cultural fusion, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova presented the certificate of inscription of « Kulangsu : A Historic International Settlement » on the World Heritage List to the Mayor of Xiamen, Mr Zhuang Jiahan, on 4 September, 2017.

The site, inscribed in July 2017 on the World Heritage List, is a tiny island of 13,000 inhabitants, located on the estuary of the Chiu-lung River, facing the city of Xiamen, Fujian Province, China.

After becoming an international settlement in 1903, the island grew into a vibrant center for Sino-foreign exchanges, reflected today in an extraordinary diversity of architectural styles and a fusion of  influences, known as the Amoy Deco Style, a synthesis of early 20th century Modernist and Art Deco.

«This island may be tiny in size, but it is great by the values and spirit it carries, » said the Director-General, before an enthused audience gathered in the Huang Family Villa complex, that exemplifies the fusion of Chinese, Southeast Asian and art deco styles. «This Island gives us hope that the coexistence of architectural styles can inspire us and lead us to the peaceful coexistence of cultures. It offers physical proof of intercultural richness, and we need this message more than ever today. »

In a message published upon the site’s inscription and posted at the entrance to an exhibition on the history of Kulangsu, President Xi Jinping said that «the aim of the inscription is to better protect and utilize the heritage property. Based on its own success, Xiamen should learn from international practices and establish a long-term well rounded mechanism to preserve the cultural heritage handed down from our ancestors and pass the legacy on to the future generations. »   

Xiamen Mayor Zhuang Jihan referred to these words, noting that «we have adopted measures and politices for the sustainable protection of our cultural heritage. We will fulfill our promise made at the Conference for international practices to protect  our heritage like our own life. »

Entirely pedestrian, Kulangsu has preserved the authenticity of its historic buildings and courtyards, together with its natural landscape, with shaded gardens and a lush tropical variety of trees, plants and flowers, to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding universal value.

Ms Bokova toured some of the Island’s emblematic edifices, including mansions turned into museums, music schools, art galleries, bookstores and coffee parlours, some of which have remained in the same family for several generations. She also visited the Kulangsu Gallery of Foreign Artefacts, the only branch of the Palace Museum outside Beijing, which houses a collection of precious official gifts given over the centuries to Chinese emperors.

The historic settlement where East meets West was a magnet for fertile cultural exchanges, reflected in the rich musical heritage of the Island, which houses a museum dedicated to a unique collection of pianos dating back from the 18th century, as well as one on organs, along with a concert hall and music school. Women from the community gathered to celebrate the inscription with the Director-General, dancing together to local compositions played outdoors on piano and guitar.

«The beauty of the natural landcape and the heritage and cultural wealth has made Kulangsu a common treasure cherished by mankind, » said Education Vice-Minister and Chair of the National Commission of the People’s Republic to China Mr Tian Xuejun. « This inscription will be a shining nameword for Kulangsu to be known by the nation and the world. »

Already a popular tourist destination, the World Heritage label could add further pressure to the site, which authorities plan to address by restricting the number of visitors to the island to 35,000 visitors a day.

The ceremony took place as the 9th BRICS summit got underway in the city of Xiamen.

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