180 million years ago,after a long geological history below the sea, and bearing a rich legacy ofmarine fossils of fish and corals, the south east Chinese continental plateemerged finally as dry land and began a new co-evolutionary history ofpaleo-geology and ecology in southeastern China with the uplifting of two largeand magnificent mountain ranges - Wuyi and Jinggang.
Today these mountainsexhibit a wealth of Outstanding Universal Values both in terms of biodiversityand also the cultural heritage that has been inspired by this delightfullandscape. In 1999 Mount Wuyi of Fujian Province was nominated and inscribed asa mixed World Heritage Site under two of the conventions cultural criteria andtwo natural criteria.
Under criterion iii)the site protects unique and exceptional testimony to past cultural traditionsin the form of Neolithic cliff boat burials and an ancient Han Dynasty city.
Under criterion vi) thesite is tangibly associated with significant ideas and beliefs containing manyrelic Song Dynasty academies of the philosopher Zhu Xi and his teachings onNeo-Confucianism.
Under criterion vii)thesite exhibits areas of exceptional aesthetic importance and scenery along the‘9 bend stream’, where red sandstone cliffs and pillars tower 400 m majesticabove the tranquil meandering river.
Under criterion x) thesite protects some of the most complete and richest examples of humidsubtropical forests with a wealth of rare, endangered and endemic speciestogether with some ‘living fossil’ tree species that date back to the MesozoicEra.
But the wonders do notend at the Fujian-Jiangxi border or at the peak of Mt Huanggang with itselevation of 2158m – the highest point of SE China. As we pass over thewatershed of the great Yangtze river basin, the wildness increases, biologicalrichness continues and we discover a broader series of additional hill rangesthat add, compliment and more completely frame the values already celebrated inMount Wuyi.
Thestate party of China is proud to present a series of additional sites to add tothe Fujian Mount Wuyi as a revised and extended property. In the Wuyi range,the property will be extended into Jiangxi province to add the steeper northslopes of the Wuyi range, adding 107km2 to the core area and 67km2 to the buffer zone.
TheseJiangxi portions of Wuyi are regarded by most Chinese zoologists as the wildestforests in SE China – more natural and less disturbed than Fujian Mount Wuyi.Indeed, many of the species listed in WH nomination document of Mount Wuyi arebetter represented or only found on the Jiangxi side of the range. This site forms the missing half of MountWuyi World Heritage property and should be added as an extension to thatproperty.
The new nomination alsoadds the middle sections of Luoxiao Mountains, centred on Mount Jinggang andextending south to include the highest peaks of the range - Nanfengmian with anelevation of 2120m. The total core area added 564km2,while the buffer zone is 380km2.
Jinggang is well known,duly protected and celebrated by most Chinese people as a site of agrarianrevolution. It was here that Mao Zedong found refuge after early defeats,unified the red army remnants, rethought his revolutionary strategy and set offon the Long March. Cultural relics of this historical period remain scatteredover the region. But there is a natural reason why Jinggang proved such asuitable place to shelter the fledgling red army. The Jinggang mountains are aunique and extraordinary natural forests and have been serving as a biologicalrefugium and species trap for millions of years.
This maze of steepridges and deep forested valleys forms an impenetrable kingdom where outlaws orpoets can escape from their troubles in the outside world or species can getlost in time whilst outside the forest changing climatehas been pushing species north or south with changing temperature or east andwest with changing aridity. All pass through Jinggang which acts like a fishtrap to retain so many species and continues to nurture them in its humid shadygorges.
Here tropical cloudleopard mixes with Russian bears; tropical dhole co-exists with European fox.Himalayan whistling thrush lives side by side with Siberian rubythroat andMalaysian barbets.
Many sites in Chinastill harbour great survivors – the living fossils or relict species that havesomehow persisted the millennia of natural selection, but Jinggang unique inprotecting so many of these relict species, not just as individual trees but asstill functioning relict communities of ancient plants still living together as they did millions of years ago.
Jinggang has been arefugium since the age of the dinosaurs; a refuge during the turbulent Ice Agesof the Pleistocene and remains now a strange moisture trap of the Quaternarywhere we discover a unique wealth of essentially tropical species surviving atsub-tropical latitudes.
Thus here we find themost spectacular and rarest butterfly - the golden Taeniopalpus, whose strange caterpillars feed on the endemicmagnolia trees. This site is also unusually rich in orchids with several rareand beautiful species growing on mossy humid branches. Even more unusual is thewealth of epiphytic liverworts. Other moisture loving groups are wellrepresented such as tree ferns and of course the amphibians, including thestrange and monstrous giant salamander that lurks in the fast flowing streamsof the nature reserve.
These subtropicalforests are especially rich as a result of their close and long connection tothe tropical forests further south. And just as Wuyi has interestingdifferences on the northern (Yangtze) side and the southern (coastal) side ofits ridge so Mount Jinggang also shows differences between it eastern (Poyangbasin) and western (Dongting basin) sides. Thus the forests and caves ofTaoyuandong are also included in the nominated property buffer zone..
The existing WorldHeritage Site Mount Wuyi and Mount Jinggang are already internationallyrecognised as Man and Biosphere Reserves and the ethnobotanical relationshipbetween these natural forests and the different ethnic communities is globallysignificant.
Mount Jinggangpreserves the largest, the most typical subtropical evergreen broad-leavedforests in the world. It also preserves the most diverse conifer forests insouthern China. An amazing total of 4252 species of higher plants are recorded– particularly rich in conifers, ancient relict species and living fossils. 214species of rare and endangered plants are protected here. These areastonishingly rich numbers; three times more than USAs most famous park ofYellowstone, richer than any entire European country and indeed richer than thewhole vastness of Canada.
The region remains aconservation hotspot and centre for species re-diffusion in the post-glacialperiod. Both Mounts Wuyi and Jinggang are recognized internationally as‘Important Bird Areas’ (IBAs). Additionally, the region is one of the WWFhighlighted “Global 200” bioregions with 563 vertebrate species recorded,including 43 species of endangered animals as listed on the IUCN Red List(2012), 73 species of animals that are listed in CITES (2011), and including 64species that are endemic to China. There are over 4200 species of insects.
It is important to seethe add-on value of extending the original Mount Wuyi property. Although manyspecies are shared and indeed widespread in South China, 1940 species in theextended nominated property are different from that of existing Mount Wuyi WorldHeritage property, including 168 species of vertebrates not recorded in MountWuyi. This is a living laboratory of ecological evolution in progress.
Fujian Mount Wuyi wasthe cradle of the Zhu Xi’s Neo-Confucianism during the Song Dynasty, while Jiangxi’sE’hu and ancient city of Baikoucheng expand this cultural chapter to cover theheadquarters for the spread Wang Yangming’s Shingaku. Today these ideas arestill relevant and we still hear the ballad of “home of Confucius and Mencius,people of Yangming” in the civil society, which shows the true feelings of theordinary people to the inheritance of Confucianism from Confucius through ZhuXi to Wang Yangming’s Shingaku.
The mountains of Wuyiand Jinggang have nurtured a unique human civilization. In the Neolithic about4000-5000 years ago, this region already had human settlements, our ancestorslived a life of rice making, fishing, hunting and gathering, and it graduallybecame the important rice cultural zone and the “granary” of China. Between thecultivated lands and native forests we also find the cultural buffer where theraising of bamboo and tea originated.
Our Neolithic ancestorshave left their boat coffins in caves and on cliff ledges of Wuyishan. Did theytoo make simple rafts of bamboo to glide quietly down the pretty rivers. Didthey see the turtles carved by nature in the rocks of ‘9 bend stream’. Did theyalso wonder at the sea of clouds or the mass of azalea blooms in Jinggang’scrags. Did they recognize the lovely maiden washing her hair in the FairyWaterfall? We cannot know. But we are sure that they knew they lived somewherevery special and that they loved their forest homes as much as admiringvisitors do today.
So there we have it.The cock Cabot’s tragopan signals to his mate and battles with a rival just asits own ancestors did thousands of years ago and ancient trees offer refuge totoday’s wildlife guests. A unique spot on our planet – a rare mix of biologicaland cultural history – the mountain forests of Wuyi and Jinggang.