A World Heritage Site is a place or location designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having specific cultural or physical value. As per the current list of 2022, 1154 sites are listed in the World Heritage sites of UNESCO. Out of which 56 sites are home to China. The ancient culture and history of China are a treasure people hold close to their hearts; from natural marvels to historic sites, ethnic music to Chinese festivals, all are evidence of China’s cultural wealth.

With 38 cultural heritage sites, where a cultural heritage site displays important interchange of human values beyond a long span of time or a masterpiece of human creation; 14 natural heritage sites, where a natural site must depict significant epochs in earth history in order to qualify as World Heritage Sites. This can be in the form of rocks, fossils, and the effect of the land and other natural features like mountains; and 4 mixed heritage sites these unique locations fall under the category of both cultural and natural heritage sites. With these beautiful marvels of nature and culture passed down over centuries, China ranks second in the list of the most heritage sites in a country.  The article highlights some of the important mounts of China that are important to China’s legacy both culturally and aesthetically; they show off both the rich culture of China and its natural splendor.

1. Mount Emei

China a country known for its Buddism culture and beliefs started the journey of Buddism which further spread east from the exceptional and holy Mount Emei (Emeishan). This region with exceptional beauty is a cultural landscape of the highest magnitude, especially in the spiritual and traditional architecture of China. Mount Emei is the home to the first Buddist Temple that was built in the 1st century CE. 

This area is also known for having the tallest carved Buddha, with 71 m height, the Gaint Buddha of Leshan which was built in the 8th century and is placed in a way that overlooks the merging of three rivers. As the site falls into the both cultural and natural heritage category the natural features are equally phenomenal. Ranging from subtropical evergreen forests to subalpine pine forests, the place displays a wide variety of vegetation that is spread all over a vast area of 1540 ha. The natural aspects of the site have been beautifully integrated with the temples of Mount Emei and the magnanimous Buddha statue. 

10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China - Sheet1
©Unesco Website (https://whc.unesco.org/en/documents/126093)

Author: Aneta Ribarska

2. Mount Huangshan

Unlike Mount Emei, Mount Huangshan is predominantly known for its natural features. The scenic splendor of this mount has inspired artists, painters, and writers for centuries. A lot of Chinese art and culture showcases these great granite peaks emerging from the sea of clouds, becoming a place of cultural value by showcasing the interaction of man and nature in this highly scenic setting. the complicated geological history of this stunning region has created natural stone pillar formations, bizarrely shaped rocks, waterfalls, caverns, lakes, and hot springs. 

10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China - Sheet2
©Unesco Website (https://whc.unesco.org/en/documents/110984 )

Author: Giovanni Boccardi

3. Mount Taishan 

One of the five sacred mountains in ancient China, Mount Taishan’s environment is a singular work of beauty. Even before 219 BCE, the mountain was a significant component of the religious worship of mountains. It is impossible to overstate the significance of the events that Mount Taishan is directly and physically linked to throughout human history. The advent of Confucianism, China’s unity, and the development of writing and literature are a few of them. Mount Taishan, a massive granite mass covered in lush vegetation that towers above the surrounding plateau, was developed through difficult geological and biological processes over the course of roughly 3 billion years of natural development. This imposing mountain is a magnificent example of how a stunning natural setting can be dominated by the cultural legacies of thousands of years of human use.

10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China - Sheet3
©Unesco Website (https://whc.unesco.org/en/documents/109743 )

Author: Martin Gray

4. Mount Wuyi

Mount Wuyi a lot like Mount Huangshan is known for its stunning scenery, A place that has existed for more than a thousand years ago, Mount Wuyi has several outstanding archaeological sites, including the Han City, which dates back to the first century BCE, temples and places associated with the birth of Neo-Confucianism in the 11th century CE. The mount consists of four protected sites, all holding great cultural and historical significance in China. Mount Wuyi is of enormous importance for biodiversity conservation, the property acts as a refuge for an important number of ancient, relict plant species, many of them endemic to China.

10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China - Sheet4
©Unesco Website (https://whc.unesco.org/en/documents/126388  )

Author : Ko Hon Chiu Vincent

5. Mount Wutai

China is home to a number of Buddhist mountains, Mount Wutai with its fifty-three monasteries and beautiful mountain landscape is one of the major Buddhist mountains in China. In terms of how the mountain came to be a sacred Buddhist location, endowed with temples that reflected ideas from Nepal and Mongolia and which then influenced Buddhism across China, expresses a good reflection of the coming together of ideas. The harmonious coexistence of the natural world and Buddhist culture, as well as Chinese philosophical ideas on the coexistence of man and nature, is excellently exemplified by Mount Wutai.

10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China - Sheet5
©Unesco Website (https://whc.unesco.org/en/documents/114451   )

Author: Liu Hao

6. Magao Caves 

Magao Caves the world’s largest and longest-running treasure house of Buddhist art holds the great achievements of Buddhist art from the 4th century onwards. Culturally these caves hold great significance in Chinese art history with more than 2,000 painted sculptures as well as over 45,000 square meters of murals, the whole area is divided into 492 caverns that are built on five levels and holds many classics Chinese art. The complex of caves at Mogao marks a singular creative feat.

10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China - Sheet6
©Unesco Website (https://whc.unesco.org/en/documents/122938 )

Author: Liu Hao

7. Mount Sanqingshan National Park

In a relatively limited area, Mount Sanqingshan National Park exhibits a singular collection of wooded, beautifully sculpted granite pillars and summits. The combination of Mount Sanqingshan’s granite characteristics with the mountain’s greenery and weather patterns, which provide an ever-changing and captivating panorama, is another source of the mountain’s stunning features. Visitors may utilize the park’s suspended pedestrian walkways, which provide them access to its breathtaking views and peaceful ambiance.

10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China - Sheet7
©Unesco Website (https://whc.unesco.org/en/documents/127078)

Author : Ko Hon Chiu Vincent

8. Historic Monuments of Dengfeng in “The Centre of Heaven and Earth”

Mount Songshan, a mount which is famously known to hold the historic monuments of Dongfeng and also the central scared mountain of China. These temples, which were built throughout the span of nine dynasties, are reflections of many interpretations of the location of the center of the earth and heavens as well as the significance of the mountain as a place of worship. The place exhibits ancient architectural treasures of Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian cultural significance, as well as a rich collection of historical sculpture, murals, and other cultural artifacts, creating a traditional cultural landscape that is distinctive in China and the rest of the globe.

10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China - Sheet8
© Unesco Website (https://whc.unesco.org/en/documents/126624 )

Author : Ko Hon Chiu Vincent

9. Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries – Wolong, Mt Siguniang, and Jiajin Mountains

The Sanctuary on Wolong, Mt Siguniang, and Jiajin Mountains, provide shelter to 30% of the world’s pandas. This sanctuary is recognized for its conservation efforts and is also the main source of giant pandas for developing the species’ captive breeding stock. Along with the giant panda, the property is home to a large variety of rare and endangered plant and animal species, including 109 species of mammals and other famous mammal species such as the red panda, snow leopard, and clouded leopard.

10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in China - Sheet9
©Unesco Website (https://whc.unesco.org/en/documents/126342)

Author : Ko Hon Chiu Vincent

10. Ancient Building Complex in the Wudang Mountains

Known for its extensive collection of historic temples, palaces, and Taoist structures dating back to the seventh century, the Wudang Mountains exhibit the pinnacle of Chinese art and architecture. With the picturesque backdrop of the Wudang Mountains, the buildings on the mountain are samples of great art and technology. These buildings are evidence of Chinese history and Ming Politics. 

©Unesco Website (https://whc.unesco.org/en/documents/126093   )

Author : Ko Hon Chiu Vincent


Rethinking The Future (RTF) is a Global Platform for Architecture and Design. RTF through more than 100 countries around the world provides an interactive platform of highest standard acknowledging the projects among creative and influential industry professionals.