Five Years of Liangzhu in the World Heritage: A Journey to Ancient Chinese Civilization

A unique charm of civilization emanates from Liangzhu, according to the Management Committee of the Liangzhu Archaeological Administrative District in Hangzhou. On July 6, the small heat of the twenty-four solar terms began in China, ushering in scorching heat. For Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province in eastern China, this day also marks the start of a series of activities to commemorate the fifth ‘Hangzhou Liangzhu Day’ and the fifth anniversary of the inclusion of the Liangzhu archaeological site on the World Heritage List.

Organized by the Management Committee of the Liangzhu Archaeological Administrative District in Hangzhou, these activities, including intercultural dialogues and exhibitions, are intended to showcase Liangzhu culture and introduce it to the world, establishing it as a globally significant cultural heritage. Liangzhu means ‘beautiful land in the water.’ The ancient city of Liangzhu was an early urban civilization during the Neolithic period in the lower Yangtze River region.

In its extensive archaeological site, a large number of remains such as river channels, charred rice, jade objects, and burials have provided evidence of a complex water management system, developed rice production, unified cultural beliefs, and differentiated social classes. These findings reveal the material civilization and spiritual world of an ancient civilization dating back 5,300 to 4,300 years ago, a unique testimony to the over five thousand years of civilization that China holds.

On July 6, 2019, during the 43rd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee held in Baku, Azerbaijan, the Liangzhu archaeological site was approved for inclusion in the World Heritage List. It became the 55th World Heritage site in China and filled the existing gap in the World Heritage List regarding Neolithic urban archaeological sites in East Asia.

As a declared World Heritage site, Liangzhu must periodically submit heritage assessment reports to UNESCO. Heritage monitoring is a crucial aspect of these reports. The Liangzhu archaeological site, benefiting from Hangzhou’s advanced digital technology, faces the challenge of monitoring a wide variety of areas within its vast area with limited manpower by using digital technology.

The Management Committee of the Liangzhu Archaeological Administrative District in Hangzhou, responsible for the excavation, protection, research, and utilization of cultural relics, has developed a set of digital applications aimed at establishing an intelligent governance system for these invaluable ruins. In the monitoring room of the site’s monitoring and management center, staff members only need to click the mouse to observe real-time images from different parts of the site, thus achieving effective and timely monitoring of cultural relics.

Preserving the Liangzhu archaeological site is not just about preservation but also about giving it vitality. With the help of technologies like 5G, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR), people can not only witness scenes from the ancestors of Liangzhu but also ‘travel back in time’ to 5,000 years ago and engage in activities such as hunting, fishing, and participating in rituals with the ancient inhabitants.

Furthermore, the most characteristic elements of Liangzhu culture have been incorporated into a variety of cultural and creative products. From blind box dolls inspired by Liangzhu’s ancestors to jewelry accessories inspired by unearthed jade objects, Liangzhu-themed products have gained popularity among tourists. Currently, over 700 Liangzhu-themed products have been developed, forming a rich portfolio of cultural products derived from Liangzhu.

‘The Liangzhu archaeological site has established a comprehensive exhibition system consisting of the Liangzhu Museum and three archaeological parks,’ states a committee management official. As of 2019, the site has welcomed over 9 million visitors, highlighting its importance and popularity among tourists. In addition to promoting Liangzhu culture nationally through cultural tourism development, Hangzhou also strives to promote this culture internationally and enhance the international influence of Chinese civilization through various means.

In the autumn of 2023, Hangzhou hosted the 19th Asian Games. Liangzhu cultural elements were integrated into every aspect of the Games, from torch designs, mascot, and medals, to the construction of venues, delivery and relay of the Asian Games flame, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies. Through these creative combinations, the world has been able to appreciate a unique oriental romanticism. In late 2023, the first Liangzhu Forum was held in Hangzhou. Over 300 Chinese and foreign guests gathered at the Liangzhu archaeological site, where they could acquire new knowledge about Chinese civilization.

In 2020, the legislative body of Hangzhou passed a law to establish July 6 as ‘Hangzhou Liangzhu Day.’ To commemorate this special day, the Liangzhu archaeological site has engaged in various exchanges with other World Heritage sites, such as Stonehenge in London, the Acropolis of Athens, and this year will communicate with the ancient city of Toledo in Spain. Through these exchanges, they will study possible innovations and the future of heritage conservation.

Currently, Hangzhou is developing the Liangzhu Cultural Corridor, which aims to connect the nearly 5,000-year-old Liangzhu culture, the ancient canal culture of over 2,000 years, the Jing Shan culture dating back over 1,000 years, and modern digital culture. The goal is to transform the Liangzhu Archaeological Site Park into a cultural pilgrimage destination and a cultural tourism destination that brings together a wealth of nuances, innovative achievements, and unique charm.

Source: MiMub in Spanish

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